Minor League Preview: Seattle Mariners

This is the post no one has been waiting for. The system I dread writing about more than any other. It’s the wasteland of Dipotopia. Desolate and destitute, dark most days, and it always smells like fresh cat urine. To put it mildly the Seattle Mariners system is putrid. We’re talking a handful of interesting players, and then several waves of system depth types. Two of the more exciting, and not to mention major league ready prospects, were shipped away over the last year and a half in Luiz Gohara and Tyler O’Neill, netting humbling returns. While the most recent draft yielded an uninspiring class for the most part. It did have it’s bright spots, consisting of a pair of talents in Evan White and Sam Carlson. They also netted a couple of intriguing arms in Seth Elledge and Wyatt Mills. The Mariners did make a serious run at Shohei Ohtani, but fell short in the end. Their International period was hardly a failure however, landing one of the top power bats in the class in the Dominican Republic’s Julio Rodriguez. There’s also been a cloud of bad luck following a once promising 2016 draft class, primarily Kyle Lewis, and the saga of his knee injury and subsequent recovery attempts. There’s also the feel-good story of the Arizona Fall League in Eric Filia, that morphed into the reality check of the winter following a PED suspension. So that’s what we’re working with today. Allow me to get through this misery so I can begin the next Minor league Update. It’s the Seattle Mariners Top Prospects! (puke emoji)

Minor MLB Transactions: 5/19/18

The latest minor moves from around baseball:

  • The Yankees have brought back right-hander David Hale on a minor league contract, according to a team announcement. Hale, who will report to Triple-A, has now signed three separate minors deals with the club since January. He saw action with the Yankees under each of his previous two accords and combined for five innings of two-run ball. Between inking those pacts, the Twins claimed Hale off waivers from New York on April 26. Hale made just one appearance as a Twin, with whom he threw three frames of four-run ball, before they designated him for assignment. The Yankees have also designated Hale this season (twice, in fact), the latest occurrence coming earlier this week. The 30-year-old then elected free agency, where he sat on the market for a day before returning to the Yanks. Hale owns a 4.58 ERA during his 186 2/3-inning major league tenure.
  • Brewers righty Josh Pennington has retired, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. The 22-year-old made the decision after suffering a shoulder injury, per Rosiak. Pennington, a 29th-round pick of the Red Sox in 2014, joined the Brewers in December 2016 as part of a trade that featured more prominent names in Travis Shaw, Tyler Thornburg and Mauricio Dubon. He opened 2018 at the Single-A level, concluding his career with a pair of scoreless innings.
  • More from Rosiak, who reports that the Brewers have released infielder Javier Betancourt. He also came to the Brewers in a trade – a 2015 swap in which they sent reliever Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit. Betancourt was a promising prospect at the time, but he struggled to produce from 2016-17 as a member of the Brewers’ Double-A affiliate, with whom he hit .233/.286/.344 in 744 plate appearances. The 23-year-old then suffered a gunshot wound to the arm in his native Venezuela last November, but fortunately, he avoided any life-threatening injuries.

Nationals To Promote Juan Soto

The Nationals will promote outfield prospect Juan Soto, Byron Kerr of MASNsports.com tweets. Soto will join the Nats on Sunday, Kerr adds. Given that Washington’s 40-man roster is at capacity, it’ll need to make a corresponding move to create a spot for Soto.

The 19-year-old Soto is one of the game’s most exciting prospects and will immediately become the majors’ youngest player, though his promotion comes under unfortunate circumstances for the Nationals. The club has been dealing with a spate of injuries in the outfield, where Adam Eaton and Brian Goodwin have missed most of this season, and Howie Kendrick will sit out the rest of it after suffering a ruptured Achilles on Saturday. Moreover, the Nats lost minor leaguer/40-man option Rafael Bautista to a season-ending knee injury earlier this week.

Now, thanks in part to the hits the Nats’ depth has taken, Soto is set to join a Bryce Harper-fronted outfield alignment whose other 25-man choices at the moment include Michael A. Taylor, Matt Adams, Moises Sierra and Andrew Stevenson. It has been a meteoric rise for the Dominican-born Soto, who signed with the Nationals as a 16-year-old in 2015. Soto was among the most highly regarded players available in that year’s international class, and the $1.5MM he received represented the biggest bonus the Nats had given to a Latin American teenager at the time.

Since immigrating to the United States, the lefty-swinging Soto has paid back the Nats by running roughshod over minor league pitching. Dating back to his minors in 2016, he owns a tremendous .361/.433/.608 batting line across 508 plate appearances. Soto has racked up 178 of those trips this year among the Single-A, High-A and Double-A levels, though only 31 came with the latter affiliate prior to his promotion. He was hardly overmatched during that small sample of work, however, evidenced by his .296/.387/.556 slash.

Judging by his history, Soto will emerge as an offensive centerpiece in Washington either this season or down the line. He’s also a capable corner outfielder, notes MLB.com, which ranks him as the game’s 15th-best prospect. While Soto has spent the majority of his pro career in right field, Harper figures to man that spot in D.C. at least through this season. As such, Soto seems likely to line up in left for the Nats, who have gotten off to a respectable start (24-20) but could use a boost if they’re going to overcome the Braves and Phillies en route to a third straight NL East crown.

Frazier productive in return to Yanks’ lineup

It has been a long road back to the Yankees for Clint Frazier. But nearly three months after sustaining an early Spring Training concussion, Frazier looked at the lineup card on Saturday and saw his name in the No. 7 slot as the designated hitter.

Central Notes: Cardinals, Brewers, Bucs, Royals

Greg Holland’s short tenure with the Cardinals took another disastrous turn Saturday when the once-dominant reliever got the loss against the Phillies, who scored twice on him in 2/3 of an inning. Holland, whom the Cards guaranteed $14MM after he went through spring training unemployed, has now pitched to a sky-high 7.30 ERA with astoundingly poor strikeout and walk rates (6.57 K/9, 10.22 BB/9) across 12 1/3 innings this season. Nevertheless, there’s no indication the the Cardinals will ask him to head to the minors to work through his issues, Joe Trezza of MLB.com tweets. Even if the Redbirds were interested in demoting Holland, they’d need the 32-year-old’s consent to do so. It doesn’t appear they’d receive it, though, as Holland “flatly denounced the idea” of going down, Trezza writes.

  • In better news for the Cardinals, ace Carlos Martinez received “encouraging” results on the right shoulder MRI he underwent this week, according to president John Mozeliak (Twitter link via Rob Rains of STLSportsPage). Martinez is on track to begin a throwing program Monday and return to the Cards’ rotation within one or two weeks, Rains adds. The fireballer has been out since May 8, before which he notched a 1.62 ERA/3.38 FIP across 50 innings.
  • Although the Royals own the majors’ second-worst record (14-31) and look like sellers in the making, they’re not yet focused on trades, general manager Dayton Moore tells Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. “It all depends on where we’re at when that time comes,” Moore said. “Honestly, we’ve never been a team that has traded many guys off the 25-man roster. We’ll see where we are. There’s no reason to make advance decisions on that.” For now, the Moore-led Royals are more concerned about June’s draft, in which they own five of the first 58 picks, Flanagan points out. Once the draft’s in the rearview mirror, the Royals may have at least a few potential trade chips in contract-year veterans Mike Moustakas, Kelvin Herrera, Jon Jay, Lucas Duda and Alcides Escobar; speculatively, though, quality returns may be hard to come by in most of those cases.
  • The Pirates plan to activate second baseman Josh Harrison from the disabled list Sunday, manager Clint Hurdle told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other reporters Saturday. Harrison has been out since mid-April with a fractured left hand, and fellow second base options Sean Rodriguez, Max Moroff and Adam Frazier haven’t been particularly productive in his absence. The club optioned Moroff to Triple-A on Saturday.
  • As is the case with Martinez, the outlook for Brewers righty Jimmy Nelson is also positive. Nelson, who’s working back from the right shoulder surgery he underwent last September, got good news after his visit with Dr. Neal ElAttrache this week, per Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He’s now at the beginning of a 10-day rest period, Rosiak reports.

Yanks crank out 5 homers in win over Royals

Gleyber Torres belted a go-ahead three-run homer and the Yankees went deep five times overall for a series-evening win over the Royals. Gary Sanchez homered twice in a four-hit game, while Aaron Hicks became the first Yankee to hit multiple inside-the-park homers in a season since Mickey Mantle had three in 1958. Danny Duffy labored in a short start for Kansas City.

NL West Notes: Dodgers, Sandoval, Padres, Buchholz

With the Dodgers trying to stay under the $197MM competitive-balance tax threshold and unsure if they’ll contend this year, they’re not in position to act aggressively on the trade market, says FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link). Given that the athletic Cody Bellinger may be a better fit in center field than at first base, Rosenthal notes that Los Angeles looks like a fit on paper for White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. However, Abreu is making $13MM – a salary which would be problematic for the tax-minded Dodgers, whose payroll is just above $186MM – and Rosenthal points out that the club may be more focused on bolstering its pitching if it does look to upgrade its roster via trade. The Dodgers’ staff might have taken yet another costly hit Saturday when left-hander Rich Hill exited his start after throwing a mere two pitches, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times was among those to report. Hill’s longstanding blister issues may have led to his departure, McCullough suggests.

Here’s more from the NL West:

  • The Giants are considering using big-bodied corner infielder Pablo Sandoval at second base, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle relays. Sandoval has been taking grounders recently at the keystone with guidance from infield coach Ron Wotus, who said that the longtime third baseman “looks good. He has quick feet and good hands. So far, so good.” San Francisco’s in position to ponder this experiment because second basemen Joe Panik and Alen Hanson are on the disabled list. Moreover, Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez haven’t been particularly effective at the plate, while the 31-year-old Sandoval has hit a solid .270/.329/.429 in 70 PAs. That represents Sandoval’s best production in several years, though it’s obviously too soon to determine whether the Panda’s truly turning back into a useful hitter.
  • Padres reliever Kirby Yates has emerged as one of the best waiver pickups in recent memory, thanks in part to the development of a splitter, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com writes. Yates, whom San Diego claimed from the Angels in April 2017, has posted a 3.06 ERA with 13.6 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 70 2/3 innings as a Padre. The club can take some credit for Yates’ breakout, as it has encouraged the 31-year-old to use his splitter – a pitch he has tossed 32 percent of the time this season en route to dominant results, Cassavell details. “The Angels didn’t want me to get away from the slider,” Yates told Cassavell. “I wasn’t necessarily going to get away from the slider, but I was trying to add a third pitch. When I got here, it was, ’We like your split, we want you to throw it more.’
  • Veteran right-hander Clay Buchholz’s minors pact with the Diamondbacks comes with a prorated $1.6MM major league salary, Zach Buchanan of The Athletic tweets. Buchholz will begin earning that sum Sunday when he makes a start against the Mets. It’ll be the 33-year-old’s first MLB appearance since April 11, 2017.

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