Seattle Mariners Minor League Roundup: 4/26

Catch up with the M's minor league affiliates in the first of a weekly roundup by Jason A. Churchill. Wisconsin is flying high and Inland has been scuffling, while both Tacoma and San Antonio have shown inconsistencies thus far.

Tacoma Rainiers
8-10, 3.5 GB, Pacific Coast League, Pacific Division

Sleeping Bats?: The Rainiers entered the week with a team batting average of just .249, second to last in the league. Tacoma also ranks last in slugging at .358 and third to last in runs with 70. The bats are clearly napping in the Northwest, but don't blame 3B Justin Leone, OF Chris Snelling and C Ryan Christianson. Leone is hitting a steady .279/.411/.488 with two home runs and a solid 13/11 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, while Snelling is tearing the cover off the ball at a .448 clip. Christianson is 8-for-8 since returning from the suspended list, including a home run and two walks. Christianson has yet to make any kind of out at the plate.

The Rainiers did pound out 21 runs and 21 hits at Colorado Springs on April 25, five of those hits from Christianson and three from Snelling.

Leadoff man Jamal Strong is scuffling with the bat, hitting just .222 with one stolen base. Strong is still fighting to get back to 100% with his right knee that endured surgery last summer. The speedy Strong is still working his way back into full-time duty, playing two or three games and then taking a game off.

Rainiers Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 25 PA) : C. Snelling, .448; J. Leone, .279
Home Runs: J. Leone, A. Rifkin, 3
RBI: A. Rifkin, 14; M. Morse, 13
Steals: D. Delucchi, 3; Four tied at 2
Doubles: A. Nunez, M. Morse, 4
Starters ERA (Min. 3 GS) : F. Hernandez, 1.64; C. Baek, 2.75
Bullpen ERA (Min. 5 IP) : C. Buglovsky, 2.79; J. Thomas, 3.60
Innings: J. Campillo, 26.1; F. Hernandez, 22.0
Strikeouts: J. Campillo, 25; F. Hernandez, 23
Wins: C. Baek, F. Hernandez, 2
Saves: J. Heaverlo, G. Sherrill, 1

San Antonio Missions
10-8, 2 GB, Texas League, West Division

Veterans Leading Missions Offense: Nate Espy, Jesse Hoorelbeke, Jon Nelson and T.J. Bohn all have two things in common. Yes, they are the offensive leaders for the Missions early on this season - Nelson (17) and Hoorelbeke (12) lead the team in driving in runs, Espy (.436) and Bohn (.439) lead the team in on-base percentage and the foursome own 10 of the 15 homers hit by the Missions through April 24. But they all share one more common link – they are all experienced players, more advanced in years than the rest of the roster. Hoorelbeke and Espy are both 27 years old with more than three full seasons of professional baseball experience. Bohn and Nelson are both 25 and have college experience as well.

Missions Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 25 PA) : T. Bohn, .344; J. Hoorelbeke, .317
Home Runs: J. Hoorelbeke, J. Nelson, J. Bubela, N. Espy, 3
RBI: J. Nelson, 17; J. Hoorelbeke 12
Steals: T. Bohn, 6; Y. Betancourt, 4
Doubles: T. Bohn, 7; Three tied with 4
Starters ERA (Min. 3 GS) : J. Sandoval, 2.08; T. Oldham, 3.24
Bullpen ERA (Min. 5 IP) : J. Harris, 0.77; E. Fruto, 1.64
Innings: T. Oldham, 25; B. Livingston, 23.1
Strikeouts: B. Livingston, 17; J. Sandoval, 14
Wins: J. Harris, 3; Two tied with 2
Saves: S. Green, 4

Inland Empire 66ers
6-12, 5 GB, California League South Division

Top Prospects Showing Up: The 66ers boast of two of the top 10 prospects in the M's system – SS Adam Jones and OF Wladimir Balentien. Combined, Jones and Balentien have hit more home runs, 10, then the rest of the roster combined, nine. Balentien is tied for the league lead in long balls (7) while Jones is tied for the league lead in triples with three. Balentien is hitting .310 with 10 RBI to anchor the 66ers lineup.

Utility man Matt Rogelstad remains the league leader in hitting, even after a 3-16 streak dropped his average to .412 through April 25.

Middle infielder Michael Garciaparra will miss at least a month after having surgery to repair tears in his knee. The injury was originally thought to be somewhat less serious until doctors opened up the knee and found the severity to exceed the original prognosis. Garciaparra was hitting .300 with a .432 on-base percentage before the surgery.

66ers Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 25 PA) : M. Rogelstad, .412; W. Balentien, .310
Home Runs: W. Balentien, 7; A. Jones, 3
RBI: M. Rogelstad, 13; W. Balentien, 10
Steals: Four tied with 2
Doubles: M. Rogelstad, M. Nesbit, 3
Starters ERA (Min. 3 GS) : R. Feierabend, 2.87; M. Moorhead, 3.75
Bullpen ERA (Min. 5 IP) : G. Wear, 1.13; C. Key, 2.19
Innings: M. Moorhead, 24; J. Mackintosh, 19.2
Strikeouts: R. Feierabend, 17; M. Moorhead, 16
Wins: S. Nottingham, C. Key, 2
Saves: M. Martinez, 1

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
13-5, 1st Place (tied), Midwest League, Western Division

From Least to Beast: Much has been said about the turnaround of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers this season, in comparison to the 2004 club that finished 57-82, last in the league.

This season, the Rattlers are off to a fast start, thanks to a revamped lineup and a brand new starting rotation.

Matt Tuiasosopo (.400), Josh Womack (.328, 14-game hitting streak), Yung-Chi Chen (.338), Rob Johnson (.320), Brian Schweiger (.316), and Oswaldo Navarro (.308) are leading the way offensively. Entering play on April 25, Wisconsin led the league in batting average at .287, ranked second in on-base percentage at .350 and second in slugging at .392. The Rattlers have recorded 29 steals, tops in the league, led by Chen and Navarro with five apiece and four each by Womack and Brent Johnson.

The pitching has been consistent to this point, led by Jason Snyder (3-1, 2.55), Mark Lowe (2-1, 4.03) and Aaron Jensen (1-1, 3.50). But the bullpen has been stifling through the first 18 games of the year, boasting of four relievers with ERA's under 1.00 and two others with marks under 4.00. Right-handers Craig James (0.00) and Cibney Bello (0.79) as well as left-handers Eric O'Flaherty (0.00) and Kendall Bergdall (0.96) have made the late innings a place where opposing teams' rallies go to die – an abrupt death.

Timber Rattlers Leaders
Batting Average (Min. 25 PA) : M. Tuiasosopo, .400; Y. Chen, .338
Home Runs: M. Tuiasosopo, 2; Five tied with 1
RBI: Y. Chen, 16; M. Tuiasosopo, 12
Steals: Y. Chen, O. Navarro, 5
Doubles: J. womack, R. Johnson, 5
Starters ERA (Min. 3 GS) : J. Snyder, 2.55; A. Jensen, 3.50
Bullpen ERA (Min. 5 IP) : E. O'Flaherty, C. James, 0.00
Innings: J. Snyder, 24.2; M. Lowe, 22.1
Strikeouts: J. Snyder, M. Lowe 15
Wins: J. Snyder, 3; Four tied with 2
Saves: E. O'Flaherty, 3

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