Previewing the ’09 Aquasox

Jay Yencich · June 19, 2009 at 12:50 pm · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

The Aquasox will be opening up their season on Saturday in Vancouver (7:05 pm start time), so now is as good a time as any to preview the third local team, should anyone be curious enough to venture up to Everett Memorial this summer. The roster as constructed right now is especially not-reflective of who will be taking the field for the majority of the season. Not only are there just two ’09 draftees that have signed at this point, but a recent change in passport/visa rules for entering the U.S. has left the Aquasox with a limited roster, as not everyone has their papers squared away just yet. There are two pitchers listed as in the rotation, RHs Chris Kirkland and Taylor Stanton, that aren’t going to be with the team on the first roadtrip for this very reason. The players who you see on the team at this moment are the ones that are capable of going to Canada and back without issues, but there’s going to be a noticeable turnover come Tuesday.

Nevertheless, here is more information on the group than you ought to require.

LHP Kyle Brown, 6’2″, 210, 1/2/86
RHP Luke Burnett, 6’8″, 260, 12/10/86
RHP Daniel Cooper, 6’3″, 205,11/6/86 (21st Round, 2009)
LHP Nick Czyz, 6’2″, 215, 4/10/87
LHP Eddy Hernandez, 6’3″, 170, 8/4/83
RHP Taylor Lewis, 6’4″, 205, 6/2/88
LHP Brandon Pullen, 6’4″, 220, 12/7/85
RHP Brad Reid, 6’1″,190, 1/18/88 (of Federal Way)
LHP Jose Rios, 5’10”, 180, 3/2/90
RHP Phillip Roy, 6’4″, 185, 7/29/87
RHP Christian Stahely, 6’4″, 205, 9/28/85

Rotation: Lewis, Czyz, Burnett, Kirkland, Stanton

Notice a theme in the rotation? It’s okay if you don’t, but each one of the five is from the 2008 draft. The group is headlined by 14th-rounder Luke Burnett, a probable first-round pick last season who had shoulder issues that kept him from pitching after April. He has a live fastball in the mid-90s, touching 97 on a good day, and the makings of a plus bender. The coaching staff seems to be more fond of Lewis, who has a little less giddyap on his fastball, but was talented enough to be picked earlier than the 19th-round, when the M’s selected him. Czyz, the only lefty in the rotation, was another signability concern in the 35th-round, as a strong senior season could have improved his stock. He possesses some good stuff, low-90s heater, slider, but he’s had some trouble putting hitters away in his career and took a step back as a junior. If you end up liking him, you can become a fan of his on Facebook. No, I’m serious. Rounding out the group is Kirkland (36th), once one of the top prep catchers in the country though he couldn’t hit a lick, and Stanton (26th), who is a former multisport athlete who is now concentrating on pitching.

In the bullpen, there are a few lefties worth taking note of. Rios could make a play for the rotation by the end of the year. One of their few Mexican signings of recent years, they’ve been careful with him, but he got some time starting last year and dominated, and displays quality stuff for a southpaw. Hernandez is a converted outfielder who couldn’t hit after leaving the Arizona League, Pullen was a situational reliever for Strasburg’s Aztecs team, and Brown has good stuff but lacks command. For right-handers, there’s local kid Brad Reid, via Bellevue CC, who saw his velocity improve during his time in college, Roy, who has some command weaknesses and can’t get out of Everett, and Staehely, who has suffered from some of the same. Cooper, the one ’09 pick on the pitching staff, is a late-bloomer who pitched in the ‘pen for USC this year.

Juan Fuentes, R/R, 6’1″,170, 1/28/86
Guy Welsh, R/R, 6’3”, 226, 5/15/1985

Fuentes, a former mid-dollar signing out of Venezuela, had a slow start to his career after Tommy John surgery in his second year. Don’t judge him too much on age, because his experience is still somewhat limited. He hit .337/.407/.462 for Pulaski last year with almost as many walks as strikeouts, but an early season promotion to Clinton this year saw him in over his head. Welsh is a corner infielder who has a similar eye at the plate, but doesn’t hit quite enough, so they’ve experimented with him behind the plate, starting in instructs last fall.

1B Gerardo Avila, L/L, 6’2″, 185, 7/15/86
SS Fred Bello, R/R, 5’11, 175, 10/6/87
IF Deybis Benitez, R/R, 6’2″, 170,4/23/87
IF Ben Billingsley, L/R, 5’11”, 185, 10/27/86
IF Hawkins Gebbers, R/R, 6’2″, 200, 7/29/86 (of Brewster, 33rd Round 2009)
IF Anthony Phillips, S/R, 5’9″, 160, 4/11/90

There’s some potential here, but not a whole lot that’s exciting. Bello could be the best ‘spect, a 20th-round pick out of California, though he’s originally a native of the Dominican Republic. He has solid tools all-around and a contact-driven approach, but needs further refinement. Benitez, an ’07 Frog who can hit a double now and then, is likely to be on third, and if not him, then Billingsley, a big left-handed hitter who looks like he should hit better than he actually does and has some defensive limitations. Phillips, who languished around the Mendoza-line, is interesting primarily for his country of origin, South Africa, though some like his D. Hawkins Gebbers, whose name alone could steal thirty bases and perform a perfect suicide squeeze, is a possible DP partner for Bello. How gritty is he? Battling an awful cough that had him miss the beginning of a game back in February, he was summoned from his dorm room, where he had been sleeping, to take the infield as a defensive replacement in the tenth. In his first plate appearance of the day, he hit a home run over the left-field fence for a walk-off victory. He hit a team-leading .344/.427/.651 for Biola this year. The non-literal sleeper on the roster is Avila. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, but he can’t ever seem to stay healthy, losing time to a right ankle sprain and a torn left ACL over the years. He hit .292/.330/.490 in the Venezuelan Winter League for the ’07-’08 season and was named the league’s rookie of the year, despite very limited experience in the high minors.

RF Wellington Dotel, R/R, 6’1″,180, 10/2/85
CF Ryan Royster, L/L, 6’1″, 180, 10/13/85
RF Kalian Sams, R/R, 6’3″, 220, 8/25/86
CF Mario Yepez, S/R, 6’1″, 160, 6/15/88

Royster is the highest drafted player currently on the roster as a 13th-round pick last year. He’s a five-tooler who has been a little slow to develop after being a two-sport player in high school, but he’s shown signs of coming into his own over the years. Sams is probably the best athlete on the roster, a less-talented incarnation of Halman with a greater penchant for the strikeout, if you can wrap your mind around that. A recent promotion from the Venezuelan Summer League, Yepez is the other centerfielder on the roster, and oddly, the second-youngest position player at twenty. Like Benitez, he’s more of a doubles hitter, but he can handle the bat decently. Rounding out the group is another gifted physical athlete in Dotel. A former Dominican Summer League player, he busted onto the scene late and completely wrecked the league, but has struggled in his time in the U.S. and was busted at one point for performance-enhancing substances, the last Mariners player to suffer such a fate in recent years, which makes his late arrival all the more curious.

As an added note for those who missed it in the round-ups earlier, the pitching coach is farmhand Rich Dorman, who is rehabbing his arm this season, though he insists that he’ll be back and playing soon enough.


23 Responses to “Previewing the ’09 Aquasox”

  1. marc w on June 19th, 2009 1:22 pm

    Interesting that they’re trying Czyz as a starter; he was a closer for KU last year, right?
    I thought he might move quickly as a college senior with closing experience. Any idea why they made the move and how Czyz is taking to it? Wasn’t he relieving last year for the frogs and/or Pulaski?

  2. Matt the Dragon on June 19th, 2009 1:29 pm

    Nope, Czyz has been a starter all along.

    Paul Smith was the Jayhawks’ closer last year.

  3. Jay Yencich on June 19th, 2009 1:30 pm

    You might be thinking of someone else, marc. Czyz logged thirteen starts last year with KU and had ten of fourteen appearances as starts with the Pulaski squad last season. He was pretty good too and finished the season strongly.

  4. Matt the Dragon on June 19th, 2009 1:34 pm

    His older brother Don was KU’s closer in ’05 and ’06 and now pitches in the Marlins’ system. I guess that’s who you’re thinking of.

  5. marc w on June 19th, 2009 1:36 pm

    Yeah, I was confusing him with his brother, the REAL ex-closer for the Jayhawks, Don Czyz.

  6. marc w on June 19th, 2009 1:36 pm

    And late. What an awesome couple of comments, marc w.

  7. Gump on June 19th, 2009 1:44 pm

    I live in Spokane which the Indians play Everett. Are there any prospects I might be able to see over here once the draft pics get signed?

  8. calim on June 19th, 2009 1:47 pm

    Who are the ’09 draft picks who have signed? When that info is updated, is it available anywhere?

  9. Jay Yencich on June 19th, 2009 1:47 pm

    Depending on how soon they come in, I think Ackley, Poythress, Seager, Blanford, Hansen, and Coleman are good bets to see time in Everett, going off the top of my head.

  10. Jay Yencich on June 19th, 2009 1:49 pm

    Who are the ‘09 draft picks who have signed? When that info is updated, is it available anywhere?

    It’s trickling in. In addition to Gebbers and Cooper, Baseball America has 39th-round pick OF Greg Waddell from Florida International as having signed, and I heard something about 50th-round pick 3B Ryan Sharpley joining with a deal that would allow him to still play football.

    Nothing exciting yet.

  11. Mid80sRighty on June 19th, 2009 1:51 pm

    Any idea/thoughts on who else from the ’09 draft class will end up in Everett? Also, is Raben hurt?

    I look forward to seeing the M’s farmhands make their annual stop here in the Tri-Cities in a couple of weeks. Hopefully more of the ’09 draftees will be signed by that time.

  12. Mid80sRighty on June 19th, 2009 1:52 pm

    Apparently I wasn’t quick enough with my question…others beat me to it.

  13. Gump on June 19th, 2009 1:56 pm

    If Ackley starts with that team I am so going to that game when they come over to Spokane wearing my mariners gear!!!

  14. Mid80sRighty on June 19th, 2009 1:57 pm

    If Ackley starts with that team I am so going to that game when they come over to Spokane wearing my mariners gear!!!

    I agree…let’s hope he signs quick!

  15. Gump on June 19th, 2009 2:06 pm

    I watched Ackley hit those 5 hits in the CWS. He looks like he has an amazing swing!

  16. Jay Yencich on June 19th, 2009 2:07 pm

    The Tarheels just got knocked out of the College World Series, so it could happen.

    re: Raben, he had microfracture surgery in his knee some time ago and has been rehabbing it since. He’ll likely be out for most if not all of the season.

  17. coasty141 on June 19th, 2009 3:23 pm

    “with a greater penchant for the strikeout, if you can wrap your mind around that”

    I spit up some of my diet pepsi when I read that. Thanks for your hard work Jay.

  18. irishmariner on June 20th, 2009 3:28 am

    A Google search confirms the following are signed

    10 Vinnie Catricala 3B Hawaii
    19 Eric Thomas RHP Bethune-Cookman
    20 Jon Hesketh LHP New Mexico
    21 Daniel Cooper RHP Southern California
    24 Carlton Tanabe C Pearl City (Hawaii) HS
    25 Brandon Josselyn RHP Yale
    29 Brandon Haveman OF Purdue
    33 Hawkins Gebbers 2B Biola
    39 Greg Waddell OF Florida International
    40 Jorden Merry RHP Washington
    44 Mark Angelo OF East Stroudsburg (Pa.)
    50 Ryan Sharpley 3B Notre Dame

    37 Chris Kessinger RHP Nebraska-Omaha also appears to have agreed terms but the article does not explicitly state that he has actually signed.

  19. Lonnie on June 20th, 2009 8:24 am

    I really can’t see Ackley on the Everett roster this year. If his skill set and performance is as good as advertised, Ackley would not be very well served by starting out so low in the organization. Look for him to go to Clinton or High Desert to start things out.


  20. Jay Yencich on June 20th, 2009 10:18 am

    I can see Ackley being in Everett, but I can’t see him staying in Everett. If it happens at all, it’s going to be one of those things where he’s shaking the rust off for a few games and letting the hometown crowd get a glimpse of what’s to come.

  21. Jay Yencich on June 20th, 2009 10:26 am

    Thanks for the Google search, irishm. Hadn’t had the time to do it myself.

    Catricala might be up playing the hot corner for Everett in short order then, but I think Hansen’s more likely to stay there once he signed. The way the roster is constructed right now, I wouldn’t say that any position is really locked down. I think the front part of the rotation is probably good, Fuentes will get his reps in, and Bello/Royster/Yepez all might be safe, but everything else is fluid. That’s a euphemistic way of saying that there aren’t a lot of big-time prospects 🙁

  22. Oolon on June 20th, 2009 10:25 pm

    We were at the game on Thursday night against the Everett Merchants. It was very entertaining.

    Kalian Sams looks much much bigger than a couple years ago when he played in Everett. He hit a monsterous shot to the deepest part of the park in left center (almost in orbit!) and it ended up hitting high off the wall for a triple. Amazing.

    Welington Dotel hit two home runs – the one to right was hammered.

    Ryan Royster made an excellent throw to the plate to save a run. And a couple innings later made a 16 bouncer to the plate from short left to allow a run…

    Anthony Phillips surprisingly hit a home run.

    Had the usual oddities of early season in Everett – loaded the bases with no outs and failed to score, Gebbers turned the wrong way at first and was tagged out, a couple balls hit off the short centerfield wall and runners held to singles (and a couple thrown out at second).

    For the Everett Merchants, the manager, Harold Pyatte, was worth the price of admission – great fun to watch. At one point he called time out to chat with the batter coming up to the plate with a man on first. We sit right behind the Everett dugout on the third base side and I thought he asked the guy if he had ever bunted. When the conversation was over and the manager was back coaching third he smiled and looked into the Everett dugout, “I asked him about bunting and he said it’s been 5 years since his last one…” The batter, Josh Short, hit a double to right (one of his 4 hits in 5 at bats – he apparently was a former Florida Marlin farmhand).

    We’ll see who’s still with the team on Wednesday when we’ll be at the game.

  23. CSG on June 24th, 2009 2:51 am

    Kalian Sams hit two absolute bombs tonight, especially the second, which cleared the netting in left center. He also took a couple terrible routes in center, which I don’t think he can play. He looks enormous, not fat or overweight, just a very muscular, large human being. He had two rough looking strike outs, but man does the ball jump off his bat.

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