InsideThePark.com's Position Player of the Month
Jesus Guzman, 3B, Inland Empire Sixty-Sixers
As the season winds down, teams still in the playoff hunt need consistent players to carry them through the stretch drive. If you had told anyone at the start of the season that one of those players would be a kid who had never played ball in the U.S. before, you'd probably be met with a few curious expressions. But sure enough, Jesus Guzman has come out of nowhere to become one of the cogs that keeps the offense running.
Two things have become the hallmarks of Guzman's offense over the course of the season: doubles and walks. August was no exception, as he hit nine two-baggers, leading the system for the month. That's not all, though. He also leads the all Mariners minor leaguers in doubles for the season, despite the fact that he didn't play for most of April.
As for the walks, he worked his way into 11 free passes, third most in the system over the month, giving him a .390 on-base percentage to go along with his .330 average. There were only three games in the month where he failed to reach base entirely.
But what set Guzman apart from everyone else in August was his ability to come through in the clutch. He drove in 28 runs, seven more than anyone else on the team, and was second in runs scored with 19. Whenever there's a high-scoring game, you can expect Guzman to be in the thick of it. In the 10-3 win over Rancho Cucamonga on August 3, he was involved in five of the runs coming to the plate. Two days later in a 14-9 victory, he did it again. Similar to his ability to get on base, there were only three games where he wasn't involved in the scoring.
It's been a long journey from playing in front of a handful of people in suburban Venezuela to crowds of more than a thousand in ballparks throughout California, but the 20-year-old switch-hitter is no stranger to playoff runs. After all, he helped lead his team to a championship game last season.
Guzman was signed in late 2000 and made his debut for the Aguirre Mariners team in the Venezuelan Summer League the following year. Though he was solid in the 2002 season, he truly broke out in 2003, when he led the team in all major offensive categories except triples and RBIs, and was later named the team MVP by the Seattle Mariners. He is primarily a third baseman, but has the skills to play second or shortstop as well.
Tacoma Rainiers first baseman A.J. Zapp has done his best to keep the team in contention, so far as offense goes. The 26-year-old led the system in home runs with seven, was tied for second in doubles with seven, and came in second in RBI with 25. But what sets the left-handed batter apart from everyone else is his raw power. On August 16, he hit a grand slam to cap the scoring in a 9-6 win over Edmonton. Just after the month ended, he hit a 505-foot blast to center field that left the stadium entirely.
Inland Empire right fielder Carlos Arroyo seems to have been mimicking another right fielder in the Mariners' system, that being Ichiro Suzuki. In 28 games on the month, the 23-year-old had 43 hits in 116 at-bats, good for a .371 batting average. He had two or more hits in well over half of his games. What has been most impressive about Arroyo in recent months has been his sudden display of power. With six home runs, including three in the month, he has already surpassed his career totals coming into the year.
Inland Empire center fielder Gary Harris was another big factor in the Sixty Sixers' offense for the month and continues to utilize his plus speed while batting in the leadoff spot. Again, Harris led the organization in triples and runs scored with two and 22 respectively. In addition, the 24-year-old's nine stolen bases were just two behind Missions outfielder Shin-Soo Choo for the month. It's hard to tell how many of Harris' 38 hits stayed in the infield, but he did go for the entire month without grounding into a double play.
InsideThePark.com's Pitcher of the Month
Jason Snyder, RHP, Everett Aquasox
Draft-and-follow players aren't necessarily the guys you expect to start carrying a team immediately, but since Jason Snyder was promoted to Everett, he's not only been the best pitcher on the team, he's been one of the best in the entire system.
Posting a 1.53 ERA for the month and averaging about six innings per start, the 21-year-old hasn't been giving opponents many opportunities to score, holding opponents to a .206 average and walking just nine. Factor out his one loss on the month, and that ERA drops to 0.72, the walks are cut in half, and he doesn't give up more than one run in any of his starts.
Unfortunately, a number of his better starts ended up turning into no-decisions. On August 17, he held Salem-Keizer to two hits and three walks while striking out four over six innings. The next time around on the 23, he went seven innings, scattered six hits, and rung up six more batters. Which is not to detract from his lone win on the month, where he went six innings and allowed just one run on four hits while striking four.
With an aggressive approach on the mound and a selection of pitches that seems to deepen as the game goes on, Snyder has what it takes to stay at the front of a minor league rotation. He seems to look forward to being challenged as much as he challenges the hitters he faces. But as a self-described groundball pitcher, he is quick to give credit to the fielders around him regarding this month's success, despite the fact that you can find him behind home plate half an hour before the game starts, waiting to chart opposing batters.
Jason Snyder was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 17th round (506th overall) of the 2003 draft out of Dixie State College in Utah, and was signed just before the start of this year's draft. Prior to his promotion, he had 2.88 ERA and a 1-0 record in six appearances with Peoria. He features a low-90s fastball, a change-up, a sinker and a plus curveball that moves more like a slider.
San Antonio Missions right-hander Rich Dorman has been near impossible to hit of late, posting a .196 opposing batting average for the month to go with his three wins and 2.60 ERA, both tops on the team. The fact that the 25-year-old would be striking out well over 11 batters per inning if he pitched a complete game can't hurt either. Although he did pitch one complete game on the month, a seven-inning 4-2 victory over Wichita on the 17th when he held them to an earned run on six hits and two walks while punching out nine batters.
San Antonio Missions right-hander Felix Hernandez seems to have figured out Double-A a bit quicker than some might have thought. The 18-year-old phenom has been held to a strict pitch count, but that hasn't seemed to hold him back from averaging over six innings and nearly seven strikeouts per start, and he went through the entire month without giving up a home run. Kid K also has the distinction of being the other Mission pitcher to throw a seven-inning complete game on the month, though his was a shut out, as he scattered three hits and two walks while striking out seven on the 26.
Inland Empire left-hander Bobby Livingston is putting other so-called control pitchers to shame with his three walks against twenty strikeouts in August. Not to mention his 2.04 ERA and 34.2 innings pitched, which both place as him as second among qualifying pitchers for the month. The 22-year-old remains the most economical starter when it comes to pitch counts, averaging just under seven innings per start and needing only 109 pitches to three-hit San Jose and strike out six on the 28.
M's Minor League Players of the Month - August
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