2015 Everett Aquasox Preview
The past several years, I’ve had to deal with a minor conundrum. On one hand, I liked having an extra minor league affiliate in Pulaski because yay baseball but it also provided one more thing to stare at, one more team that I probably wouldn’t preview, and an environment and park factors that I didn’t quite know what to do with. Booo baseball. Then in the offseason, the Yankees snapped up Pulaski and we went back to having effectively two short-season summer affiliates plus two abroad (now both in the Dominican because Venezuela is not safe right now).
The boon of this for fans in this region is that, since there are fewer places for top prospects to go, the Everett team looks like it could be pretty darned talented this year. This will likely place the team in contrast to last year’s last-place squad. Scout/manager Rob Mummau will also be taking over again as manager, so anyone who was anticipating seeing Dave Valle outside of the broadcast booth is not in luck this year.
The areas of intrigue for me are primarily the outfield, which has something interesting at every position, and the rotation which is unusually structured and has at least three pitchers I’m already interested in. The backstops, eh, they’ll probably handle the pitching staff, and the infield’s hitting will likely be limited to the corners if it gets it there. The bullpen, which contained thirteen men on first roster release, is a place one could get lost in and I’m not quite sure what to think of it outside of a few members. Overall, this team should have a good amount of power and enough going on in the rotation to keep them in games. Looks like a competitive squad to me. And with the accelerated signing process and the college-heavy draft, I would expect that this is mostly the team we have, barring some contributors who are filling in elsewhere at the moment. Let’s get to it.
Rotation: LHP Taylor Byrd, LHP Luiz Gohara, LHP Anthony Misiewicz, RHP Andrew Moore, LHP Lane Ratliff, RHP Jose Santiago
For a few years now, the Mariners have tried various methods to try to reduce the number of innings spent by college pitchers coming into their first pro season. For a while, the rotations were somewhat nebulous, as the Aquasox opted to use career college relievers or swingmen to start while expected members of the rotation worked long relief and went back to starting the next season. That lasted a few years, then went back to a somewhat normal standard, and now the Aquasox appear to be trying out a six-man rotation that is mostly left-handed.
Gohara is the headliner despite a poor season last year. If you’ve effectively blocked it out of your memory at this point, he pitched 37.1 innings over eleven starts, had a 37/24 K/BB, and gave up six dingers and more than a hit per inning. Bad. He lacked his command and release point most of the season. By contrast, the late Victor Sanchez was in Everett his first season, Clinton next, and finally Jackson, putting up more or less respectable numbers at each stage. Gohara’s stuff was just fine, and sitting in the low-90s and touching 96 or so, no one should be worrying about that aspect of his profile, he just happened to be showing his age and occasionally flashing his potential. He’s good. Still the best pitcher we have in the low minors. Eager to see some results out of him.
Next in level of relative excitement would probably be Moore. Now, Moore didn’t really look like much to me at first blush because all of the scouting reports seemed to indicate somewhat pedestrian stuff and elite level command, which sounds like a back-end starter if all goes right. On that subject, I’m not terribly worried about him as he seems to be a hard-working, competitive type who can make the most of his abilities. However, there started to be rumblings coming out of the postdraft that the scouting reports that had him high-80s and slightly above were off-base and perhaps he could be hitting 92-3 with more regularity now. Having that kind of bump in velocity has a way of making everything else look better and compensate for certain deficiencies in the curve and change-up, which aren’t supposed to be anything too special.
After Moore, probably Ratliff? Ratliff is a younger JuCo guy who was 19 last season and got all of six appearances in between Pulaski and Peoria before being shut down with an elbow strain that lasted most of the summer. Ratliff is projectable (6’3″, 185 lbs) and posted some pretty good numbers in his JC, but beyond that he’s sort of an unknown and not a guy that I can even provide you much in the way of a scouting report beyond being in the upper-80s and hitting the low-90s sometimes, which is good for a left-hander. He needs work on his secondary offerings, but the physical ability appears to be there. The “unknown” aspect, and “What’s he going to do?” may contribute to some less-than-warranted intrigue on my part.
The rest provides less enthusiasm on the grounds of lower draft standing or general confusion as to what the offerings might be. Byrd was drafted just after Ratliff, though he was a senior at the time of selection and is probably around for his veteran presence. The curveball gets compliments and the fastball is good enough, so it’s really a matter of him throwing strikes. He didn’t do that especially well in Pulaski as he had a 25/15 K/BB in 37.2 innings and gave up a fair number of runs despite being a good groundballer.
Santiago is the foreign import coming to us by way of the Dominican. For those reasons, it’s difficult to sort out what he may or may not be, except to point out that he’s 21 now, signed before the 2013 season, and is something of a late bloomer. After debuting on the DSL team, he got a late-season promotion to Peoria last year where he had nine appearances and ran a 45/20 K/BB through 45.0 innings and, unusually for the level, had a .190 average against. My guess is that some amount of stuff is likely there and just developed late, and you can still wind up with interesting returns from those types.
Last is Misiewicz, whose name I have Ctrl + C’ed so that I don’t have to deal with it. Misiewicz played for the Michigan State Spartans and is a native to the state, so cold weather kid all through. He attracted the notice of some HS scouts back when he was eligible, but otherwise wasn’t scouted heavily. Looking at his line from the last season. 3.80 ERA, 58/31 K/BB in 68.2 innings. He was a skosh better all around the year prior, but was relieving most of the time whereas this year he was a swingman. In any case, whatever the stuff, I would expect that he’s something of a project at the moment and the wild pitches, hit batters, and poor command would seem to corroborate with that. Analysis! (mimes sinking a two-pointer)
Bullpen: RHP Jefferson Arias, LHP Joselito Cano, LHP Matt Clancy, RHP Darin Gillies, LHP Spencer Hermann, LHP Logan James, LHP Joe Pistorese, RHP Troy Scott, LHP Dylan Silva, RHP Lance Thonvold, RHP Colin Tornberg, RHP Art Warren, RHP Kyle Wilcox
SAY FRIENDS, YOU LIKE LEFT-HANDED PITCHING?
Something about roster sizes always catches me off guard. Supposedly, I’m looking at a thirteen-man bullpen here after a six-man rotation. I imagine not all of these arms are going to be healthy, but there’s a point at which my mind looks at the accumulation of all these names and just goes “NO.”
If you’re looking for the next Carson Smith or Dom Leone, Wilcox is probably your dude. He doesn’t have Smith’s slider or Leone’s early control and repertoire, but he does have a fastball that’s hit 98 in brief stints and that’s enough to get you noticed. He’s got a good change and a good breaking ball, but neither are great and the breaking ball lacks definition at times. What I could see happening with him is he’s kept in the bullpen this year to toy around with things and then starts for a while next year for the sake of getting innings. Depending on how they decide to utilize him, he seems like a fast-track type and could easily be the first member of this class to hit the majors.
Gillies joins Wilcox and Moore as the top ten pitcher picks from this year that have made this roster, though Gillies was a bargain signing and not much may be expected of him. He was a swingman for the ASU Sun Devils for four years and could pitch in various roles as need dictates. Probably the most versatile arm among the bullpenners.
Silva, who was picked just after Gillies, is a stocky southpaw and can be used in high-leverage situations or to sop up a few innings, but he’s basically considered a bullpen arm. The velocity is good, falling at the higher end of the low-90s spectrum and he’s got a good slider. I suppose the floor for him as a major leaguer would be something akin to a LOOGY but before that happens, he’s really going to need to fix his control numbers because his BB/9 was at its lowest as a sophomore at 5.32.
You know, heck, let’s just blaze through these southpaws. Clancy is out of St. John’s where I feel like we’ve drafted guys before. He was a reliever throughout there and had some early command issues which seem to have resolved themselves this year as both his walks and hits per inning came down considerably.
Hermann is one of three pitchers on this staff with two first names. Remember that Cliff Lee commercial with Figgins? Good times. Hermann was actually a 36th round pick last year and bounced between various levels, eventually getting two spot starts in High Desert where he was an arm that absorbed some innings. The command numbers look positive outside of those two starts where the Mavericks couldn’t get away with not having a starting pitcher, but given he was a late pick out of a small school, it’s hard to know what’s there.
James is the other southpaw with two first names and continues an organizational effort to pursue as many Logans as possible. He’s an undersized (read as: sub-6 foot) guy who comes out of the program at Stanford which means that the Mariners had peripherally kept tabs on him as they drafted Austin Wilson a couple years back and Drew Jackson this year. They likely see something worthwhile despite the fact that his K/BBs have been somewhere between 1.3 and 1.4 for his career and the added Ks this season came with a lot more walks. He made some spot starts for the Cardinal, but doesn’t seem like the most efficient pitcher out there.
Pistorese was at Wazzu for four years and was part of a battery we drafted out of there. He’s originally of Kalispell, which isn’t Washington but still a pretty cool place. Pistorese was pretty much a career starter for the Cougs and posted low walk rates, but somewhat pedestrian strikeout numbers, which never exceeded six per nine. On the other hand, he was tested within the Pac-12 and may get an uptick in stuff from working relief for a while and is one of probably a dozen guys who you could probably start one part of a doubleheader should it come to it.
People are probably looking at the Cano name and thinking, well, I don’t know. Divish tweeted over spring training that Joselito is Robinson’s younger brother and there’s something to that, in that Robinson’s father is also Joselito and one thinks, why not? The only thing that bugs me out about it is that this Cano, while signed as a Dominican free agent, was born in Puerto Rico, and the timing doesn’t seem to sync up with it being a winter league occurrence. Anyway, he was released by the Rays last year and then signed by us following three years in the Rays’ summer league. He’s had some good Ks but the command comes and goes.
Right-handers now? Groan. Arias gets a gold star for having an “r” in his name unlike his counterpart in Clinton . He was another late-bloom, late-sign who had awful command in the DSL and not-so-bad-command-but-still-sub-2.0-K/BB in Peoria last year. He also hit eleven batters in 50.1 innings, and with eleven appearances, why that’s a batter per start. And he balked six times somehow? Perhaps he was late to pitching and played futbol before that or some such.
Troy Scott was a California JuCo guy drafted in the 18th round two years ago and fits that billing of two first names. He’s not made much of an impact thus far, having only made it briefly to full-season ball this year when he gave up a lot of hits and an unpleasant number of walks and four wild pitches and two hit batters in just 21.1 innings. I would presume that he has some amount of stuff because he’s a bigger guy and guys who have run lines like his haven’t always been long for the minors. Specifically, the command ratios can be okay at times, but gosh does he ever give up hits.
Thonvold went to high school and college in Minnesota and relieved four years for the Golden Gophers with some subpar command numbers. In HS, his FP topped around 86, but in college one presumes he got a bit better. Perfect Game had him as one of their top 1000 nationally when he was a prep, but it doesn’t really look like, from his college career, that he developed the way people thought he might. On a more positive note, he was a two-way guy in HS and could have more room for development now and he pitched in both the Northwoods and Cape Cod Leagues over the previous two summers, which not just anyone does and his command in those two stops was better.
Tornberg pitched for Texas-Arlington and is a Texas guy through and through. He spent his first two years at a JuCo, so he wasn’t especially on anyone’s radar until these last two seasons. He didn’t get drafted as a junior because he had a 12/11 K/BB in 12.1 IP. He did get drafted as a senior with a 20/9 K/BB and twenty-eight hits allowed in 22.2 innings. In spite of that, he did save eight games, so he’s got that going for him.
Outside of having a name, Arthur Frank Warren, that seems like it might’ve been given to someone who was born sixty years prior, what can be said about him? Warren started out at the University of Cincinnati and transferred to Ashland (go Eagles) for his last two seasons. He redshirted last year and was an IF/P in high school when he hit 84 on the gun. Probably throws a little harder now. Had command issues both this year and in 2013.
Catchers: P.J. Jones, Arturo Nieto, Johan Quevedo
That’s right, there are so many pitchers on this roster that they need to carry three catchers! Shut up, it makes sense. Jones was Pistorese’s batterymate at Wazzu and got on base at a decent clip, improving his eye numbers each season and having a nearly .400 OBP this year to go with his .258 average. He has some doubles power but he’s not a guy who’s going to help much in the slugging department. It’s hard to speak too much about his batting numbers so I would expect that he’s pretty competent at handling a pitching staff and defense or else he wouldn’t be drafted.
Usually one of Nieto or Quevado would fill a major roster need by having a Spanish-speaking catcher on staff, but from the looks of it the Aquasox have only four Latin American pitchers and the need there would seem diminished. Nieto got three years in the summer leagues and stood out there for his ability to get on base. That may seem a blip given the general proficiency of pitchers down there, but he continued it in the AZL last season. His CS rates for his career have averaged out to 51% , but he was passing a few balls while in the summer leagues. He can also spot at first if needed.
Quevedo spent his first three years in the VSL before coming stateside last year. He doesn’t have the defensive profile of Nieto, as he passes fewer balls and only catches guys at a 38% rate for his career, but then he looks as if he was getting them nearly half the time last season in the AZL. He’s more of a slugger than the rest of the guys behind the plate, more of a batter, and could conceivably spot at first sometimes although I don’t know how great that need might be.
Infielders: 3B Yordi Calderon, MIF Jordan Cowan, SS Rafael Fernandez, IF Conner Hale, SS Drew Jackson, 1B Ryan Uhl
Homestretch! Okay, so, I don’t know, not the highest billing on the roster, but I guess Ryan Uhl is interesting to me as a guy who in D-II ball slugged over 1.000. Because NCAA regular numbers aren’t dumb enough to look at, you gotta head over to D-II ball to see how wacky things can really get. Uhl was a finalist for D-II’s Tino Martinez Award but didn’t get it. He can pitch a little too, but odds are he won’t be needed to do that and they’ll be happy with him hitting balls really far and getting the relay on double plays. He’s out of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is not the only Pennsylvania university suffering from an identity crisis.
Calderon was a bonus baby back in the day and everyone’s expected big things of him. He had a .343/.448/.590 line in the VSL as a 19-year-old but that hasn’t translated to the states, no sir. Last year for Pulaski in 222 plate appearances, he hit .184/.298/.265, which I suppose is good from the on-base standpoint but he struck out in a third of his at-bats and… well, I guess there’s always his 11-for-12 stolen base numbers? He can play infield or outfield corners and might stand to get some time out there with not many nominal outfielders on the roster.
Jackson is a Stanford guy, as mentioned, and is supposed to be supremely athletic but was used more as a defensive replacement his first two years at Stanford. His batting line as a junior was a respectable .320/.396/.388 when previously his OPS had never exceeded .570 in college, but Stanford is sort of a mystery even when you’re playing full-time on account of the Stanford Swing. He’s not a waterbug out there at short but he has supposedly one hell of an arm and could pitch if it came to it. We have a good track record with our top ten shortstops though.
Another candidate for short would be Fernandez, who has played all around the infield through his career and has even played a good amount of center and right field in the summer leagues. One more potential outfielder in the mix. Like Quevedo, he was a three-year VSL guy, and like Nieto, he’s actually pretty good at getting on base and showed off that stuff even stateside last year when he drew five more walks than Ks. This is good because he doesn’t have a lot of power and anything that can be added to the profile is a boon.
Cowan is an infielder who was born in Covington, went to high school in Kent, and has pitched four appearances in the minor leagues because the situation somehow necessitated it. So that’s cool. He was an interesting get for a 37th rounder, and yet we haven’t seen a great deal from him yet. He’s in a similar camp to Fernandez in that he has good walks but not a lot of stolen bases or power which makes you think that things may rely more heavily on his getting on-base. He had eight sac hits last year for the ‘Sox and two more in brief appearances for Jackson so one can presume he plays the game the right way by some standards.
Hale is an LSU guy and was helping them out in the collegiate postseason this year, so he’s a future, not current addition. He transferred to the Tigers from Manatee-Sarasota in Florida and has batted pretty decently over the course of his career, as his line through college was .337/.375/.458 and that’s not inflated too much by the JuCo time. My guess is that his overall profile would be something like a bat-first utility infielder, except that I don’t know where he’ll get the majority of his starts now as a pro considering. Second base could be a spot for him in this lineup, but then they might want that for Fernandez.
Outfielders: CF Braden Bishop, RF Alex Jackson, CF Luis Liberato, RF Corey Simpson, LF Logan Taylor
So, plainly, this is where you’re going to find the vast majority of the hitting talent. I joked about Alex Jackson basically being The Second Coming except his reception in the Midwest League was more akin to the reception of The Stone Roses’ album, Second Coming which everyone seems to hate on because it wasn’t the self-titled, but I actually rather like it in parts, I just can’t stand “Ten Storey Love Song.” Yes, I’m talking about a Madchester band as a lead-in to talking about the system’s top prospect basically as a troll effort. Alex Jackson is still pretty good and you don’t really have to worry about his earlier efforts in the MWL because 1) he was a teenager in the MWL and 2) he was playing through a left shoulder injury, which you really shouldn’t be doing as a baseball player because you’re being paid to perform and you can’t perform with a bad shoulder. He’s young. He’ll be fine. Go see him. Hopefully he’ll do some exciting things and avoid hurting himself while playing baseball.
Bishop is probably the second-best hitter on the roster on ceiling and the second offensive prospect to keep your eye on. He’s bumped Cousino as the top defensive OF in the organization and is probably going to appear on some top ten prospect lists by the end of the season, I would expect. In order for him to be anointed as the CF of the future, he’ll need to hit the ball more consistently and with more authority, and perhaps, find a means of getting on base without getting plunked. He’s all right, he just doesn’t have much in the way of power and goes through hot and cold stretches.
When he’s not in center, Liberato’s a candidate. He was one of the first prospects signed under our new international scouting leadership and is regarded as a batter with a good understanding of the strikezone but not much power at present. Instinctual defender, doesn’t really have great speed but a good arm. At worst, I guess I would say he’s probably a tweener in that his speed may not be enough for center and his power might not be sufficient for right. He also kind of bombed in the AZL last year and spent the spring bouncing from stop to stop as an emergency replacement guy.
Simpson’s position and ceiling are less ambiguous. Basically, he’s supposed to hit the tar out of the ball and do it at a corner. He was a catcher in HS and has a plus throwing arm and power, but he never really got it going over his hundred-odd games last season, hitting for more power in Everett (nine dingers!) but not really having much in the way of an average and striking out in a quarter of his at-bats. It’s a bit of a distant cry from the more positive .244/.33/.489 line he had in Arizona, but the ball carries there and it’s not the best conditions under which to judge a hitter. Simpson is raw, probably more raw than expected, and thus far has looked like a poorer man’s Tank O’Neill. He still has the kind of raw power that would make a team disinclined to give up on him too soon.
Logan Taylor, in addition to being the second Logan and yet another guy with two first names, is also the name of a pitcher in the Mets org. This Logan Taylor was an Aggie, which you may remember from our fight over the 12th man moniker, and this year hit .333/.391/.526 for the squad while playing most of his time in left field. While the power has finally come around for him, defensively, it’s hard to know where he could end up. Doesn’t really have the wheels for middle infield, doesn’t have a great arm but it’s good enough. Third base and left field seem like slots but they’re going to have to make sure he’s comfortable and can keep the bat going.