Once again in 2016, SeattleClubhouse is bringing you a fresh report each Monday highlighting the best and worst performances in the minor leagues from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal with this weekly piece is to keep you up to date on your favorite M's prospects while also shining a little brighter light on some of the lesser known standouts in the system, spreading the coverage around and highlighting those whose performance most deserve it.
The rebuilding in Seattle under the new front office has a clear focus on player development in the minor leagues, and while the talent in the system isn't where it has been in the past, the farm remains a very important piece of the puzzle for the Mariners, and the full-season affiliates have jumped out to a fast start. There is still quite a bit to be learned on some of the fast-rising prospects in the organization, and as with any change in player development philosophy and personnel, unexpected players could rise up. Hopefully our weekly Three Up, Three Down installments help with that learning for our readers while highlighting the special performances each week, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who have not exhausted their MLB rookie status.
This week's look gives you the best and worst on the field from the fifth full week of game action from the M's minor leaguers (May 15th through May 22nd). Here we go with this week’s Three Up, Three Down.
Art Warren - RHP, Clinton LumberKings: 1 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.29 WHIP, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, .087 oAVG
Warren has been the best starter in the M's system so far in 2016, leading all organization SPs in ERA (1.12) and tying for the high in Wins (5). After logging just seven total innings in his debut in the AZL last year, the big right-hander has gone five or more in six of his eight starts in 2016, spinning seven innings of shutout ball to tie his career long outing this past week.
Seattle's 23rd round selection in last June's draft, Warren checked in at number 48 on our latest Top-50 list, and I also earmarked him as the pitcher to watch for Clinton prior to the season. The frame, velocity and breaking ball are all there for Art, and his command and control are proving to be very good so far here in 2016, meaning both of those placements look good.
Guillermo Heredia - OF, Jackson Generals: .435/.594/.565 (10-for-23), 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 9 BB, 0 SO, 1-2 SB
Heredia has been one of the more potent bats in Jackson's lineup all season, and this past week he continued to hit while turning in the more impressive feat of drawing nine walks against no strikeouts in his 32 PA week. The 25 year old right-handed hitter has no gone 40 plate appearances since his last strikeout and has leveled his strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season with 17 of each.
Guillermo is hitting .390/.438/.537 in 48 trips against left-handed pitching and the natural center fielder has multiple starts in both outfield corners for the Generals, showing to be a strong defender in all spots. That versatility and the hitting -- especially against left-handed pitching -- could make him a natural as a 4th outfielder for Seattle not too far down the road.
Conner Hale - 3B, Clinton LumberKings: .500/.500/.773 (11-for-22), 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 6 SO
Hale appeared on the other side of the ledger here a week ago, but he turned in perhaps his best week as a pro in the past seven days for Clinton, getting a hit in half of his at bats and picking up four multi-hit games. In fact, after having just six multi-hit efforts through the first 71 games of his minor league career, Conner has six in the past eight for Clinton. During that time he's also hit his first three career MiLB homers. The corner infielder has also yet to make an error in 148 chances in 2016.
Seattle's 9th round pick out of LSU a year ago, Hale doesn't have any plus tools, but he's getting the barrel to the ball right now and finding success in a way he hadn't done before this stretch, perhaps suggesting that he's figured something out about himself as a hitter.
Leon Landry - OF, Jackson Generals: .115/.172/.154 (3-for-26), 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 6 SO
Landry, one of three good defensive center fielders on Jackson's roster (with Heredia and Ian Miller), had more than 200 PA with a .700+ OPS for Triple-A Tacoma last year, but he found himself back in Double-A for a fourth time to open 2015. After a hot start that saw him at .297/.362/.414 at the 30 game mark, he's slumped the past 10 days, and this past week was a real struggle for the 26 year old, as the line above shows.
The left-handed hitter is just 9-for-45 against left-handed pitching this year and he's seen just two games defensively in center (although one of his starts in left did result in the catch below, proving he can still go and get it), but the torrid start he got off to with the bat needs to return for him to head closer to Seattle.
Luis Liberato - OF, Clinton LumberKings: .150/.190/.250 (3-for-20), 2 2B, 1 BB, 6 SO
Back in Clinton to open 2016, which is where he opened 2015 before being sent to Everett when their season started, Liberato had a 15-day stint on the disabled list interrupt his year toward the end of April, and it has been a tough go since coming back. After a hot start for Clinton before the injury (.279/.380/.349), Liberato is now just 7-for-48 since returning from the injury, with 16 strikeouts in those 54 PAs.
The left-handed hitting outfielder spent most of his time in the heart of the order for Everett in 2015 when he was fourth on the club in RBI and fifth in total bases, but he's mostly been in the 9, 1 or 2 hole for Clinton and his .275 SLG and .066 ISO are probably a big reason why.
Kyle Wilcox - RHP, Clinton LumberKings: 1 G, 0-1, 22.50 ERA, 6.00 WHIP, 2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 2 SO, .600 oAVG
Wilcox has a big arm and solid secondary stuff, but his control is erratic at best, and he hasn't been at his best much so far in 2016 for Clinton. His start this last week was his worst of the season, as Kyle allowed 12 of the 16 batters he faced to reach safely. The right-hander is now tied (with teammate Lukas Schiraldi) for the highest walk total in the system, issuing 33 free passes in his 33 innings of work on the year.
As I said in my profile of Wilcox in our Top-50 breakdown, he could be a fast-track guy as a reliever with his fastball-power breaking ball combo, and the time for him to make the move out of the rotation for the M's may be coming sooner rather than later based on the command results.
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