M's Minor League Notebook: Garciaparra On Track

Take a look around the M's farm system and all kinds of positives are happening for the organization. Two catchers are performing well offensively, a quadrant of left-handers are opening eyes in the lower minors and Chris Snelling left quite an impression on the Pacific Coast League. First thing's first - former first rounder Michael Garciaparra is tearing the cover off the baseball.

When the Mariners lost Alex Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers prior to the 2001 season, the draft pick compensation regulations forced the M's to take a sandwich first round pick, instead of the Rangers first round selection - because the rules state that no team shall forfeit a pick in the top half of the draft.

Texas was drafting fifth the following June, but the Mariners wouldn't make a choice until No. 36 overall.

The Rangers took mashing corner infielder from Georgia Tech and the M's took an athletic middle infielder from Don Brosco High School in La Habra Heights, California.

Since that draft in June, 2001, Mark Teixeira has hit 95 home runs for the Texas Rangers, while driving in 290 and making the 2005 All-Star Game.

Michael Garciaparra has battled the injury bug and compiled a career .242 average in the low minors.

But don't forget about the 22-year-old just yet. Garciaparra returned from spring knee surgery to put up solid numbers at the plate this season and has pushed them over the top with a recent hot streak.

"Just don't tell me my average," said Garciaparra. "I don't want to know."

Not wanting to rest on any statistical accomplishments or jinx a hot streak, the Inland Empire 66ers second baseman is piecing together a more than solid campaign in the California League.

"Just tell me, is my OBP good?" Garciaparra asked.

When he was told that his on-base percentage was solid - and quite possibly the most impressive stat he's put up this season, the Southern California native responded very simply - but to the point.

"Good, hopefully I can keep it up," he said. "I know it sounds cliche, but I've just been trying as hard as I can to get better at every part of this game. I understand how this game works. And how it doesn't work sometimes. Very tough game."

Garciaparra is very serious about the game of baseball, but it doesn't keep him from jumping at the chance to walk through a door left wide open - for the fun of it.

When Garciaparra informed that his recent performance would probably vault him back onto the prospect list where he belonged all along, and making yours truly look smart, he replied with a bang.

"I hope I can keep it up," said Garciaparra. "I try not to care too much about those lists, but hey if I can make you look smart, that's an accomplishment in itself."

Garciaparra is determined to be a success on the baseball field and cites more than just the love of the game as motivation to make a career of it.

"I don't really like going to bed early and I love sleeping in," said Garciaparra. "So I really hope this baseball thing works out."

Well, Mike, if you keep repeating your performance of the past 10 games, you won't have anything to worry about.

Garciaparra is 23 for his last 50 for a .460 average, and is hitting .302 for the season.

2005 Draft is an Early Success on Mound

While many have heard of the high expectations of first round pick Jeff Clement, it's the second portion of the top of the draft that usually make a draft a success - especially in the pitching department.

Fourth-round pick Justin Thomas, fifth rounder Stepehn Kahn, seventh rounder Robert Rohrbaugh and eighth rounder David Asher were all assigned to the Everett AquaSox and all are experiencing high levels of success.

Kahn allowed three runs in his first appearance but has gone six straight scoreless innings since, picking up six saves in the process. Kahn's low-90s fastball and power curveball could be used in the rotation or in the bullpen. For now, the right-hander from Loyola Marymount will stay in the pen and be the Frogs' fireman.

Thomas is also working in relief after making six starts, and is prospering just the same. The Youngstown State product features a fastball that sits 88-90 and a plus change that he uses as an out pitch. Thomas boasts a 3.59 ERA in 12 games and has walked just 12 men in 42.2 innings. Look for the 21-year-old to jump into the rotation with the Inland Empire 66ers next spring.

Rohrbaugh got off to a bit of a rough start, which is to be expected of college pitcher being stretched out through the month of July and August for the first time in their careers.

Rohrbaugh, a Clemson product, is 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 44 innings. His finest outing came Friday night when the southpaw went seen shutout innings versus Eugene, striking out six and allowing just two hits. Rohrbaugh has walked just 11 batters all season.

Sixers Bats, Southpaw Lead Second Half Charge

The Inland Empire 66ers may be a longshot to make up five games and squeeze into the California League playoffs in the final month of the season. But their offense sure isn't going to be the reason they are at home in September.

In the past 11 games, the Sixers have hit .378 as a team, with a collective .433 on-base percentage and a combined .644 slugging percentage. They've hit 26 home runs and scored 102 times. If they had four more...

... Ryan Feierabends, they'd be in first place already.

The 19-year-old has been stellar over his past eight starts, allowing three runs or less in each of them, and striking out 47 in 49.2 innings. The southpaw is 7-6 with a 3.75 ERA in 24 starts. His 103-47 strikeouts-to-walks ratio has improved from 56-31 since May 24.

Snelling Leaves Mark

Chris Snelling may not be on the Rainiers roster any longer, but the mark he left can be felt for miles - especially for opposing left-handed pitchers. The left-handed hitting Snelling finished his Triple-A season with 11 hits in his final 17 at-bats verus southpaw hurlers, raising his season average versus lefties to a smoldering .397.

That's not all. Snelling hit .362 leading off an inning, .410 with runners on base, .500 with the bases loaded, including a game-tying grand slam on June 15 that sent the game into extra innings. Snelling also hit .418 with runners in scoring position and .414 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

If that wasn't enough, the 23-year-old hit .407 after the sixth inning, .422 versus the four best teams in the PCL and hit game-tying or winning doubles or home runs versus the leagues top two closers - on three separate occasions.

Help on the Way

The Rainiers have dropped seven in a row and 10 of their last 12 and sit two games back of Salt Lake for the division lead. The offense has sputtered since the big-league roster shakeup, but the pitching has been horrific as well, surrendering 44 runs ina four-game set in Oaklahoma City this week.

But never fear, Bucky's here, er he will be as early as Saturday. Jacobsen is rehabbing a twice-operated on knee and hit .571 in six games with Inland Empire.

Right-hander Rafael Soriano could also be joining the Rainiers sometimes next week. The M's have yet to decide whether the 25-year-old should report to Double-A San Antonio or to Tacoma.
Jason A Churchill is the Executive Editor at InsidethePark.com and can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsideThePark.com

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