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.
Rolling into the MLB All-Star Break, here is what we have for this week’s Three Up, Three Down.
Kyle Lewis - OF, Everett AquaSox: .423/.516/.962 (11-for-26), 1 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 5 BB, 2 SO
Seattle's first pick (11th overall) in the June Draft has wasted no time in establishing himself as one of the top players in the system and in the Northwest League, and this past week's efforts -- which included three hits and the walk-off single in yesterday's heavily-attended Felix Hernandez rehab start in Everett -- saw Lewis lead the system in HR and RBI while continuing to walk more than he struck out. And those plate discipline numbers are a very encouraging sign, especially considering the pre-draft hesitation expressed over the swing-and-miss tendencies and level of competition questions.
He was rewarded with his first Player of the Week Award, taking home the honors for the Northwest League. With the results he's been putting up lately, I wouldn't be surprised to see Lewis moved up within the next month.
Tyler Marlette - C, Bakersfield Blaze: .607/.613/.929 (17-for-28), 6 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 4 SO
Lewis had an outstanding week, but Marlette picked up six more hits and one more total base with his efforts this past week, earning himself Player of the Week honors in the California League by picking up three hits four times and two hits in two more contests to post a scorching 1.541 OPS for the week. The 23 year old is seeing time in that league for a third straight season, and his tendency to be streaky at the plate has shown to be a blessing and a curse, but Marlette is on an amazing hot streak right now.
It would be nice to see the 23 year old challenged with a promotion before the 2016 season is up, but catcher promotions are tied to the organization's positional strength perhaps more than any other spot. We'll see how it shakes out for Marlette.
Pablo Lopez - RHP, Clinton LumberKings: 2 G, 2-0, 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 14 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 11 SO, .149 oAVG
Lopez, pitching as a full-time starter again after missing 2014 with Tommy John and working in just 12 games for the AZL M's a season ago, has been fantastic all season for Clinton, spinning two more gems this past week to run his record to 5-0 for the LumberKings while lowering his ERA on the year to 1.76, among the best marks in the Midwest League by a starter. He hasn't given up more than two runs in any start and has gone at least six innings in all but one.
Lopez has plus command and pitches beyond his years with a standard arsenal. We didn't include him in the Top-50 or "just missed" guys before the season, but he is definitely on that radar now.
Ian Miller - OF, Jackson Generals: .053/.053/.053 (1-for-19), 2 RBI, 4 SO, 2-2 SB
Miller, one of the fastest players and best outfield defenders in the system, has basically been playing every day in center for Jackson since Guillermo Heredia was promoted, but this past week was a tough go for the 2013 14th rounder. His 1-for-19 dropped his average to a season low .227, and he didn't draw a walk, either, lowering his OBP to .304. For a player with his profile that will never offer pop (.321 SLG in 1,274 MiLB PA to date), that is concerning. It isn't a huge sample size, but Miller has a .420 OPS since the break.
Miller's speed, defense and contact-oriented approach will generate his value, but there won't be a ton of value unless a high average can accompany the package offensive package.
Chris Torres - SS, AZL Mariners: .190/.261/.190 (4-for-21), 1 RBI, 2 BB, 6 SO 1-1 SB
Torres just missed the top-10 for me before the season, and he is still a very exciting prospect for the M's. But the 18 year old is clearly still in the infancy of his baseball career, struggling at the plate and in the field in the AZL for Seattle. The switch-hitter has shown a willingness to be patient in his plate appearances, but so far this season it has led to a higher strikeout rate (and lower walk rate) than we saw from him last year in the DSL. Six strikeouts this past week are just one example of that.
Torres is a plus defender at a premium defensive position that came to Seattle at a big discount on the International Market. Look for him to bounce back and to steadily climb the system in the years ahead.
Kyle Wilcox - RHP, Clinton LumberKings: 3 G, 1-0, 10.80 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 5 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO
Wilcox's tenure in the rotation with Clinton came to an end a couple of weeks ago, but his transition to full-time bullpen arm -- where I have thought he fits best since seeing him in Everett -- hasn't been the smoothest. He had a couple more rough outings this past week, giving up three runs in back-to-back appearances despite not having his typical troubles with control. The M's sixth round pick from a season ago has a 19.2% walk rate on the season, which has gone down slightly to 15.8% out of the bullpen. But opposing batter's slash line against him in relief is a troubling .345/.446/.436.
Wilcox's raw stuff is as good as any arm in the minor league system for Seattle right now, but command remains his hurdle to clear to turn that talent into a legitimate prospect with a chance to climb.
That does it for this week's recap of the ups and downs in Seattle's system. Check back in next Monday as we give you another installment of Three Up, Three Down.
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