2019 West Virginia Power Preview

Jay Yencich · April 3, 2019 at 6:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

This was not an offseason move that I was anticipating. Sure, I had been goading the Mariners for years to buy a Cal League franchise and stop with all this High Desert nonsense, but the quirks of the Midwestern League, with its routine early-season snow-outs, had become the price of doing business for me. Moreover, I liked the Midwest League, and had been friends with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers broadcaster since back when they were an affiliate. Now we’re operating a full-season affiliate in a part of the country unfamiliar to me outside of our brief dalliance as the parent club of the Pulaski franchise in the Appalachian League. Now I have to commit to memory a whole new set of park factors.

The West Virginia Power will be among the more exciting teams in a system that can now use that adjective without a smirking irony. Even without Stowers, the outfield is poised to be a star attraction the likes of which we haven’t had in a while. The rotation has some high potential in spots and is competent overall. For catching, we might have the second-best starter on the farm, or one of the more interesting ones. Bullpen could be good, but has a few question marks. The infield looks to be defensively solid and offensively hit or miss. Overall, the look is that of a competitive team with a few fun top prospects.

RHP Clay Chandler, RHP Elias Espino, RHP Logan Gilbert, RHP Ryne Inman, LHP Oliver Jaskie

We might have a better idea of how our pitching depth stacked up if not for Gilbert getting mono last year. Even so, he threw 250.2 innings in college, a rather high total, so it was probably in his best interests to get mono. Frankly, I feel I missed out on an important adolescent rite of passage by not getting mono, even though we passed around open two-liter soda bottles and took swigs. Gilbert’s acquisition, if successful, may prove to be a testament to scouting and staying on your guy. Many backed off of him in 2017 after his velocity was more low-90s than the mid-90s it had shown over the summer. Now, backfield reports indicate he’s back to that premium velocity and seemingly ready to go, Cactus League jitters aside. Gilbert could stand to improve his change-up a bit, but otherwise projects out to be a front of the rotation starter if healthy, and not afflicted with mono.

We had thought Jaskie to be at least the staff ace in Clinton last year, but as it turned out, the hangover he experienced in his first summer carried over to his second pro season. With the disclaimer that it’s not at all flattering, I’ll note for his minor league career to date he has a 6.67 ERA in 106.2 innings, a .310 average against, a 110/62 K/BB, and fifteen wild pitches. Jaskie himself took some time off after midseason and was inactive from July 17th on. I’m not sure where that leaves him other than the hopes that he’s in a better place now, so the old scouting line of him is prototypical southpaw (low-90s, plus change, developing breaking ball) plus some added funk to the delivery. As with Gilbert, the time off could work in his favor.

How many different names can the name “Ryan” be spelled? I present to you a Ryne. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to claim that 2018 was his most successful year to date with twenty-five starts, a BB% of 9, and a K-Rate of 24%. He was even named a league all-star for the first time in his career, though he was on the DL around the time of the game and did not pitch. The Mariners have taken his development quite slow, though last year was the first in which he was an age appropriate for the level, so I’m not sure what they’re after beyond overall refinement.

A similar case could be made for Chandler being elsewhere. It would be easy to point to him making nineteen overall starts out of twenty-seven appearances and suggest that they’re building him up, but he started his final two seasons at Southeastern Missouri State and his batting line allowed as a starter (.239/.286/.409) was even better than what he did in relief. If I’m focusing in and coming up with reasons, then he did have a dinger problem you may not want to test in the Cal League at more than one per nine and his strikeouts at 6.67 per nine aren’t anything special. I’d say “I hope they told him what they want out of them” but all players are supposed to get that now, hooray.

I don’t know if it’s injuries or what, but Espino’s up here as a final presumable starter. He’s a summer league veteran but did not sign until he was twenty and has been part of a trend of scouting hurlers who have been slower to develop physically. To make sense of DSL and AZL stat lines has the feeling of divination, so I won’t bother with that other than to note that he’s been moved somewhat aggressively and was one of the org’s roaming spot starters as used last season. The command and the Ks don’t look like much to be excited about, but he does keep the ball in the yard. Roenis Elias Espino.

RHP Dayeison Arias, RHP Nolan Hoffman, LHP Steven Moyers, LHP Ben Onyshko, RHP Bryan Pall, RHP Devin Sweet, RHP Jamal Wade

Did you like Wyatt Mills a few years back? The Mariners like drafting their sidewinder pitchers, and Hoffman is the latest high-profile member of that group. He slings it up there in the low-90s and gets enough sink on it to have drawn three grounders for every fly last season. The submarine angle gives hitters something to consider, but the month-to-month splits have had his BABIP and OPS against fluctuate wildly. I don’t know if that’s a “stuff” thing or a mechanical thing, but it’s noted that his secondary offerings could use work and that he’s mainly playing off his fastball to date.

I’d mark down Arias as highly intriguing, in part because I feel I know so little about him. He didn’t sign a pro contract until he was twenty, which is odd unto itself, but you look at the numbers and see K/9s in double digits and strikeout-to-walk ratios of four+ and think, well, all right, late bloomer. Not that anyone on the staff had many saves, but Arias was not first in line to close for the Aquasox even if he’d earned that distinction in the DSL. The sampling makes me not want to make too much of the splits, but for fun, let’s note that with the bases empty, he had a .691 OPS against last season and with runners on, it wilted to .394.

Onyshko presently gets the distinction of being “Logan Gilbert’s teammate who also got drafted,” though hopefully there’s more to it than that. Whereas Gilbert was Florida through and through, Onyshko was born in Canada and went to high school at Vauxhall Academy in Alberta. Even with good fundamentals, the concern there has always been level of competition and how it all translates. Onyshko got four years in at Stetson, but the book on him has always been “good Ks, rather wild.” It wasn’t until his senior year what he got his BB/9 under five, let alone four. Similar fits played out during his time in Everett. I don’t know what all is there, whether the Ks are from stuff or being “effectively wild.” The good news is that he held LHB to a sub-.500 OPS.

Moyers is the elder statesman left-hander on the roster and of no relation to the fella who had a kilometers radar gun. Moyers is one of a few NDFAs in the bullpen and came in after four years at Rhode Island. While he started there, as a pro he’s filled more of a middle relief and spot start role. While it’s a new setting for him, he’s looking at his third-straight year of being assigned to a Class-A affiliate. There isn’t much to say of his splits that’s out of the ordinary, so the only real issue seems to be that he simply doesn’t strike out enough batters.

I THINK Jamal Wade got a brief spring training shout out? In any case, his older brother, LaMonte, is an outfielder in the Twins system. Jamal’s trajectory has been different in that in high school he was scouted as a third baseman and outfielder and only started pitching his junior year. The circumstances are different what with Wade’s growing up in Maryland and coming to the mound late, but otherwise there’s a similar line to him as you would get with Onyshko, perhaps more extreme. There are more Ks, more walks, and more wild pitches. In any case, I have a weird soft spot for late developing pitchers, and I’ll be following both.

Pall was a well-regarded prep prospect in Illinois (Carl Sandburg High School, *swoon*) and got himself into a good program in Michigan. Ordinarily, you’d expect that type of player to intern a bit as a relief pitcher and then take on bigger roles, but instead Pall threw just a couple of innings his junior year before needing Tommy John surgery. The Mariners were already there and scouting Jaskie, so they figured “why not?” and offered to let him rehab with us. I don’t know what his stuff looks like now, but he was hitting the low 90s in high school and reportedly had a super spinny slider.

I suppose I can be forgiven a “who dis?” reaction with Sweet because he was both a NDFA and pitched fewer than ten innings at three different levels. What I can tell you is that he played for North Carolina Central for four years (D-I, surprisingly) and that he was a starter for almost his whole tenure there despite being under six foot. His K/9 was above eight for three out of his four years, but he didn’t get the BB/9 under three until his senior season. What scouting data I have on him is quite limited, but I do know that he was also a catcher and infielder in his high school days and that he’s a switch-hitter, which, as a pitcher, is deeply important to me.

Jake Anchia, Manny Pazos, Onil Pena

Hey look guys, we drafted a catcher in the first ten rounds and didn’t immediately trade him for whatever. We’re still talking up Anchia’s college claims to fame in part because there were only 57 plate appearances to go off as a pro and 79.0 defensive innings behind the plate. Also because he slugged over .700 his draft year. Also because he broke JD Martinez’ career home run record at Nova Southeastern. Also because he was ranked by BA as the top defensive catcher in D-II ball whereas his pop times were regarded as more middle-of-the-road as a prep prospect. I don’t feel confident enough in the pro sample size to make projections, but the college track record certainly says “be interested” and a good season could easily mark his debut in league and system top prospect lists despite limited fanfare the day of drafting. Scouting is so weird, you guys. Let’s also see how much of his OBP ends up with him getting plunked.

Last year, I got to rave about Pazos’ defensive versatility in Everett wasn’t that neat you guys he played everywhere but first and center. Well, last year he took in four games at second for Modesto and caught the rest of the time. He did catch a third of the runners trying on him, and that’s not bad at all, but I’d also figure that Anchia will be getting the majority of the reps and they may in turn use the limited infield depth to play Pazos in multiple places. He only hit .223/.270/.318 last year, which is why he’s being dropped a level, but we also have more catchers than we did last year and our earlier depth at the position was appalling.

Pena returns to intermediate-A, without having spent the whole season there, but with the added pressure of his bat needing to carry him since he hasn’t caught a game in two years now. Thus, don’t really know why he’s being listed as a catcher. He had a .270/.369/.465 line in Everett two years ago but then hit .209/.307/.299 in Clinton last year. I enjoy rooting for the summer league veteran big dudes who can hit a bit but need to move down the defensive spectrum. Even so, Pena’s got some work ahead of him if I’m going to be writing about him next year.

IF Bobby Honeyman, SS Cesar Izturis Jr., SS Ryne Ogren, 2B Joseph Rosa

Honeyman is easily the offensive performer who most excites me on the infield, though I chose poorly in writing about him after I’d written about previous offensive stars in Everett. He hit .346/.383/.474 for the Aquasox last year and about as much as you can quibble with that is to note that he could walk a little more and a 50% stolen base efficiency won’t cut it. One area where I’ve trained to be vigilant is in discussing LHB who played half their games in Everett Memorial, soon to be Funko Field. He still hit for good average in all venues, but Honeyman’s slugging was .573 at home and .361 elsewhere, which suggests that we may not have caught lightning with a 29th round pick.

(Count Von Count voice) “Two Rynes! Ho Ho HO!” Ogren was picked up last year in the twelfth round from Elon after he had two consecutive years of a .900+ OPS and three of .800+. He also walked more than twice as many times as he struck out as a junior. The C the Z aspect was likely appealing to the organization, but he’s better known for having rather strong defensive tools which played out with the Aquasox using him all around the infield. His grooming may continue in the utility role because, whereas a bunch of these guys raked in the NWL, Ogren only OPS’d .700.

Izturis has the boon of a familiar name although I can’t say that I saw him winding up here to start the season, so permit me to wonder about injuries. The good news for him is that in 2018, he played more shortstop than he had previously. The not-so-hot is that he batted .269/.331/.305 his first year in the DSL and managed .245/.304/.298 in the AZL last year. It’s not typical for this player development team to push dudes without reason, but you’re inclined to wonder when the performance doesn’t support it. I’d put decent odds on him being the starting shortstop for the Aquasox in a couple of months.

If it’s a new league but the same level, does it count as repeating? In any case, Rosa is back. The media guide line on him is uncharacteristically glib, with an “Appeared in 114 games with Clinton.” Perhaps a .217/.299/.285 line would do that. Yet his fielding percentage improved markedly, .041 points, so that’s cool? Without any clear injury nor distinct highs in his offensive splits, it’s hard to know what to say other than he had a .905 OPS with the Aquasox in 2017 and that sort of performance will buy you a few years of chances.

CF Jarred Kelenic, RF Charlie McConnell, LF Ryan Ramiz, UT Cesar Trejo, RF Julio Rodriguez

I’m not sure where to start with our two aspiring Gen Z social media darlings, but you can find an article on the developing bromance from the Times a few weeks ago. The article is quirkily written at moments—much is made of Julio Rodriguez quotes which are endearing, but less eloquently rendered outside of his native tongue—yet it represents what one could have hoped for out of the pairing. Two uniquely talented and driven players are now sharing the same clubhouse and encouraging each other to succeed. I suppose there was a minor risk of egos coming to clash, and Mariners’ fandom has acclimated me to such contingencies, but both are known to be quite gregarious and so it seems to be a productive partnership for the moment.

Acquiring Kelenic was a shocker because you wouldn’t have expected him to be available as the 6th overall pick, even if the trend is to get as close as you can get to trading picks without actually doing it. He was regarded as the top HS player in the draft and a guy who could be elite, despite growing up in a cold weather environment, if everything broke right. What we have in Kelenic is a five-tool player whose stardom may rest on just a couple of those tools. He’s regarded as the best average hitter in the system, gets good reads on balls in the outfield, and has the kind of arm that could play in right if need be. The variables are speed and power. While above-average now, Kelenic’s wheels could get some wear over time and it’s not clear whether he would remain your best option in center on instincts and arm strength alone. Power is the last tool to really come in and Kelenic is supposedly still learning how to use his man strength so to speak. You can imagine yourself a little punnet square of “power / less power” on one axis and “speed / less speed” on another, and how those factors line up will give you your result of superstar, very good, or just good.

For those of us accustomed to other orgs signing top international prospects (or the doldrums circa 2010), JRod also provides a breath of fresh air as being the guy we have and everyone else now wants. The distribution of his tools skews more towards the loud, in-game power and raw arm strength (including finger wag at runners trying to stretch singles into doubles), so of the group of young outfielders we presently have, there’s more anticipation of him being a middle-of-the-order right fielder than a top of the order center fielder. It’s all quite exciting, assuming that he works enough of an average to make it all viable, but the off-field stuff has captured my imagination, oddly enough. JRod comes from a smaller, isolated town in the Dominican. He was somewhat of a late bloomer. He spends seemingly most of his time in the batting cages, if Instagram and Twitter are to be believed. He says in interviews that he daydreams of his name being announced in the heart of the batting order for the Seattle Mariners. And he introduces himself to everyone and will even drag less confident teammates into interviews. I don’t think the ever-mystified “make-up” of a player is much more than a catalyst, but the top two guys here have it in excess in addition to excellent tools. This could be the start of something interesting.

Every time I look up Cesar Trejo’s biography, I keep wanting him to be Danny Trejo’s son and it keeps not happening. Surely, I can be forgiven this modest wish. Whereas the star of Machete was born in LA to parents of Mexican heritage, Cesar was born in Venezuela and had his formative years in North Carolina, culminating in a college stint at UNC-Greensboro where he hit well all three years. If I’m remembering draft day correctly, he played shortstop in college but was called out as a center fielder. Can he do both? If so, he’d quickly become one of the more interesting utility prospects in the system, but I remain a bit curious as to why a guy with a good track record of health and hitting as well as versatility at premium positions lasted until the 17th round.

McConnell played mostly the corners for the Aquasox last summer with a splash of center. He hit .347/.425/.470 in his junior year at Northeastern and ended up getting $25k over slot. While he’s listed in the outfield, as a prep he was more of a strong-armed second baseman and shortstop, but the speed was regarded as enough that he might be better off with more space to roam. Amazing when they do that before players reach the major leagues. He did not do the typical left-handers thing in Everett but neither did he hit very well overall outside of a high average.

Likewise, Ramiz was a corner guy and a senior draftee out of Seton Hall. If you like guys with limited power who routinely run on-base percentages that are higher than their slugging, Ramiz is absolutely your dude. However, he is not especially speedy either and had forty-six stolen bases and fourteen times caught which seem like low totals for a guy with this specific offensive profile. Worse yet, he has those lefty home splits in Everett and doesn’t seem to fare well against his fellow southpaws. He seems like a #9 hitter to me.


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