2021 Everett Aquasox Preview

Jay Yencich · May 4, 2021 at 1:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

In the newly configured six-team high-A West League, will the Aquasox ever lose a game? This is both a joking question and a serious quandary. The minor leagues are generally about learning and dealing with adversity. It’s hard to imagine runs scoring often against this pitching staff. Maybe the short porch in right at Everett Memorial will inflate some totals. Maybe the ‘pen is too wild. Maybe the offense won’t keep pace regularly, though it would surprise me. I suppose there aren’t many plus defenders on the roster. Still, there’s only so big a spread of talent this year, in this league, and to stack the deck like this seems merciless. The other five teams better hope for some in-season promotions to double-A or these long, six-game series will feel like entire months are passing them by.

Below, in addition to profiles, fortunately and unfortunately timed surgeries, apt college mascots, more bloodline picks and local connections, and references to antiquated job titles.

RHP Matt Brash, RHP Emerson Hancock, RHP George Kirby, RHP Levi Stoudt, RHP Juan Then, LHP Brandon Williamson
I’m going here based on the Pat Dillon tweet which I assume already has struck fear in the hearts of hitters. I’ll also go over the names in the same order.

Brash is the least likely starter in the long-run, though he did start at Niagara and is a low-mileage Canadian arm. The Mariners picked him up as a PTBNL in the Taylor Williams deal, which sent an unsuspecting hometown pitcher to our hated rivals in San Diego. He tops out at 95-96 mph and has a slider that’s potentially plus, so the question is what he’ll do or has done to round out his arsenal. As demonstrated by the Modesto staff, four pitches may be the new standard these days unless you’re Dinelson Lamet, and there may indeed be drawbacks to being Dinelson Lamet.

Stoudt had been a pop-up guy in instructs after being drafted in 2019 and immediately going down with Tommy John surgery. Nice year to have off, though. He’s been in the same general range as Brash with his heater, but topped out a little higher last fall. Stoudty has what’s regarded as the best change-up in the system, though it’s a split change, and is deployed against lefties and righties alike. Aside from the fact that his next start as a pro will be his first, developing a breaking ball is the next step for him. He seems to have committed to a slider, but that combined with a split could put an awful lot of stress on an elbow.

The Mariners are fond of drafting guys who slipped in their year and Hancock fits that profile, having been a rumored candidate for 1-1 after his sophomore campaign at Georgia. He sits a bit higher with his fastball than the first two, and it’s got some weight to it as well. Hancock’s main secondary offering is a potential plus slider and his change-up isn’t far behind either. He has plus command and plus control, so his ceiling is as up there as anyone in the system, it’s just a question of where some other guys are at whereas Hancock has a very high floor.

Which brings us to Kirby and… yikes. Kirby was formerly regarded as a high-floor guy whose command and control were without rival. The next walk he allows as a pro would be his first. While he was more in the Brash / Stoudt range as an amateur, he worked on his conditioning over the last year+ and has wound up averaging in the mid-90s and topping out near triple-digits at the alt site. That’s frightening if it can be sustained. His slider is already a plus offering and the curve is enough to shift the Y-axis on hitters, so really it’s about confidence in the change-up and seeing how he manages a full season of work.

Williamson fits as the system’s best left-handed starting prospect, though the depth there is not incredible (as if the present major league rotation lacks options). His velocity is rare from a southpaw, in the 95-97 mph range, and his high-spin curveball may already be the best of its ilk in the system. Like Hancock, the change is advanced but somewhat underutilized, though they’re encouraging him to be more the power pitcher his arsenal suggests. The injury bug has also picked the unconventional target of his hips and he’s had surgery on both sides, so health may be a question mark. He also has the least impressive control on the staff.

Finally, Then… no that’s his name, and the media guide lists the pronunciation as closer to “Ten.” He boomeranged to the Yankees system and thankfully back, as he’s now a top ten prospect and the youngest member of the staff. He’s smaller than Kirby, but did some similar conditioning work and wound up in the same velocity range, just without that elite control. He only had two other pitches between a slider and a change-up, both of which clock around 90 mph, but both are good offerings in their own right so he may not need a fourth. If that doesn’t work out, he profiles as a power reliever.

RHP Jarod Bayless, RHP Isaiah Campbell, RHP David Ellingson, RHP Tim Elliott, RHP Kyle Hill, RHP Evan Johnson, RHP Martin Reeves, RHP Bernie Martinez, RHP Brendan McGuigan, LHP Ben Onyshko, RHP Bryan Pall, RHP Fred Villareal

This is mainly a “first series” roster and I expect some of these guys to switch into the starter role later. Campbell would be near the top of the list as a bigger dude with Friday night experience at Arkansas. He’s pitched off a 92-95 mph fastball and possesses less eye-popping secondaries than the other guys. Right now, the slider is the superior breaker, with greater lateral movement, and like Stoudt, he throws a split for his change-up. Campbell was a military brat growing up and is unsurprisingly both competitive and disciplined.

Another member of the presently-overlooked 2019 draft class, Elliott could also see turns in the rotation. He overlapped with Hancock at Georgia, but didn’t latch-on as a full-time starter until his junior year. His fastball is in the same echelon as that of Brash and he’s further ahead with his change-up than either his slider or his curveball, the latter of which could ultimately be ditched. There wasn’t buzz on him in the development league in the same way as others on the list, but he could sneak in there.

A fringier starting candidate would be Johnson who started at Creighton in his senior year. The Mariners used him in a similar capacity after signing him as a NDFA, likely because he hadn’t logged too many college innings overall. Command issues have followed him throughout his career and render the .215 average against across three levels less impressive.

Onyshko holds a few distinctions, being the ‘pen’s only lefty, a former college teammate of Logan Gilbert, and the other Canadian on the pitching staff. Parsing some states from his tenure with the Power, he ran an 82/24 K/BB in 70.0 innings and had a .277 average against. He had better than three-and-a-half grounders per fly, so the average could come down in front of the right infield, though probably not this particular group.

Pall lost the first couple of years of his career to TJ, rehabbed enough to finally debut in 2019, and then had to deal with another lost season last year. Some folks get it laid on thick. He was used by West Virginia in high-leverage situations often enough to net six saves, good for second on the squad. His K and average against numbers are admirable but like a few arms here, he has moments of wildness.

Hill was a cost-saver in the tenth round, signing for $10k after four years at Baylor where he pitched mostly out of the ‘pen. I have less to go off of with him than I do with most second-day draftees, but he got hit around quite a bit and his opposing average eclipsed .300 over fourteen appearances. Looking at his history, I could see him as an attempt at a multi-inning guy, but maybe not a starter.

We’re hitting the point where I’m going to combine a few profiles by draft status, starting with Martin and Villarreal, both college arms drafted in the 20s back when the draft went that far. Martin comes to us via New Orleans and has the command to be used in higher-leverage situations, outside of a weird blip his last time in Everett. I do not know if said situations will involve supervising a landowner’s estate. Village Fred may or may not know something about that. He pitched three years mostly in the bullpen for Houston. His profile looks to be more in line with a pitch-to-contact type, so it’s imperative for him to get his walks down from his last turn as an Aquasock.

The late-rounders are represented by Bayless (33rd, 2019) and Ellingson (34th, 2016). Ellingson is the second-oldest player on the roster—ten days younger than the presumptive center fielder—and spent the last full-season sopping up nearly sixty innings between A-ball levels. He’s been a great value so far for his draft slot, but his walks and Ks are right on the threshold where I wonder how he’d do in double-A. Bayless meanwhile has been working on analytics and mechanics stuff to out-perform his status as nearly the thousandth player selected his year. While Kirby deservedly got the fanfare, Bayless also wrecked hitters with a 33/1 K/BB in 23.2 frames of work. I’m intrigued but want more data.

There are also a couple of domestic NDFAs in Martinez and McGuigan. Martinez saw every level except Tacoma in 2019, though he only broke double-digits in Peoria where he had a K/BB ratio identical to Bayless in almost the same number of innings. He likewise is a guy I’m interested in getting more and better data on. McGuigan, I do have some info on as I know he throws low-to-mid-90s that’s real spinny—apt in that he was a Richmond Spider—and his curve has considerable drop to it. Both are way more interesting than your average NDFAs.

Carter Bins, David Sheaffer

Bins is the second-best catching prospect we have, signing as an 11th rounder out of Fresno State even though he should have easily been a day two selection. He could further prove to cross-checkers just how big a mistake that was if he straightens out his mechanics in both throwing and swing efficiency. As it stands, he’s a smart defender, trades swing and miss for some pop (he tied for the team lead in dingers, despite ranking seventh in plate appearances), and can walk a bit. Even without those extra steps to push him along, he’s a useful backup.

Sheaffer, not to be confused with Scheffler, the Modesto backstop, fills in predominantly behind the plate but can also spot at the corners like his father, Danny, before him, and has pitched a few garbage innings as well. Surely this would be of tremendous interest to the current front office, with their fondness for versatile catchers, but it’s only cool if you can hit too and we’re waiting on more data there. He had just under a hundred PAs apiece in the Cal and Sally Leagues in 2019 and hit .247/.302/.442 at the higher level and .314/.368/.465 at the lower.


SS Patrick Frick, 3B/1B Tyler Keenan, 2B/UT Kaden Polcovich, IF Michael Salvatore, 3B/1B Austin Shenton

Polcovich is the top prospect on the infield, assuming he stays there: Spring training box scores put him in center now and then despite him being only 5’8” or so. How long his speed might make that viable is debatable, though his flyball tracking ability might outpace his infield footwork. His best position, however, is Hitter, as he’s got plus bat control and on-base ability to go with some doubles power. The optimistic projections have him as a bat-first utility guy who might be able to provide average defense at an up-the-middle position.

After him, Shenton’s a solid pick. Much like Scheffler and Tingelstad before him (in these previews, at least), he had the PNW -> Southeast routing going from Bellingham, to Bellevue Community College, to Florida International. As an alt site selection, he’s been able to summer here for parts of three years now since turning pro. By all accounts, he’s a smart and selective hitter (albeit, prone to getting plunked and thus injured) who works to maximize his abilities, which is good because his defensive position isn’t totally certain and he’d hope to be average at best. He’s played at the corners, in the outfield at times, and has even seen a few reps at second.

I want to be higher on Keenan and his massive, left-handed slugging potential, yet he’s a bat-first corner guy who showed up to the alt site out of shape. I don’t want to minimize the pandemic affect on his psyche, or anyone else’s for that matter, but it’s not a good impression for your draft year. His range is already a bit limited although he makes the most of the rest of his defensive tools. The good news is that he’s patient and can punish a bad pitch, so there aren’t questions as to whether his bat would be sufficient to hold down first.

I genuinely don’t know who starts at short for the Aquasox. Salvatore played the position exclusively for the Power his draft year, yet the thought is he might be lacking the range to truly do well there. Curiously, though he had an OPS approaching 1.000 for Florida State in his senior year, South Atlantic League pitchers got after him and held him to a .174/.235/.228 line.

The other option is Frick, who got more money as a 14th round pick due to the voodoo economics that go into draft pools these days. Frick was a utility infielder the last time the Aquasox took the field and has been a nice OBP, drawing forty-one walks in sixty games. However, the forty Ks make me wonder if he’s just exploiting bad pitching, and he hasn’t shown more than doubles power in his collegiate or pro career.

LF Zach DeLoach, UT Connor Hoover, CF Jack Larsen, RF Julio Rodriguez, 2B/UT Joseph Rosa

No big, just the Cover Boy for Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook in the outfield. Julio is plainly a lot of fun and a candidate for the face of the franchise in the future. The ball really jumps off his bat and he grades out a rare 70 in power, with enough bat control to hit as many as thirty home runs. He also made a point of stealing bases in camp as speed is sometimes listed as his lone below-average tool. Those that are less high on him point to a clumsy Dominican Winter League showing, but it’s hard for me to read too much into that given that he was still recovering from a hairline wrist fracture and I know that between the vociferous fandom and the veteran guile of those playing, winter ball is no joke.

DeLoach is not a bad complement in the opposite corner. I’ve had to come around on him as the draft strategies of the Bavasi and Zduriencik years scared me away from pop-up guys. To his credit, DeLoach worked hard at the alt-site to prove that it wasn’t all a figment of Cape Cod action and a few good weeks in the SEC. His understanding of the strike zone provides a good foundation and allowed him to hold his own despite limited competitive exposure. The defensive abilities all but lock him into left field in a park as spacious as T-Mobile, but his left-handed power might also position him to capitalize on the dimensions offensively.
I’ve penciled in Larsen as the center mainly because he has more experience there than the others. In truth, he’s seen more time at each of the corners as a pro and his stolen base numbers have never been anything special. He’s done well for himself to stick around as a NDFA with an offensive profile that aims for more walks and power than average. That being said, he struck out about 30% of the time in his past two pro seasons and he’s the oldest player on the roster having turned 26 in January.

Additional candidates include two former infielders, both lefty batters, now listed in the outfield, Rosa and Hoover. Rosa saw his best offensive season in Everett when he hit .296/.374/.531. Unfortunately for all involved, that was back in 2017. He’s seen all of five innings in right as a pro and has spent considerably more time at third and shortstop. He’s friends with Julio too now after they both played for Escogido this past winter, so that’s cool. Hoover had the—distinction?—of seeing all six domestic levels in 2019, four of them for fewer than twenty at-bats. He has more pop than you might expect as well as thirty-two more innings logged as an outfielder. Of the two, Rosa has more triples but Hoover is the better basestealer. What that means for either of them out there on the grass is purely speculative.


One Response to “2021 Everett Aquasox Preview”

  1. Stevemotivateir on May 4th, 2021 1:40 pm

    It’s hard to envision this team not dominating. I’m a bit curious what kind of pressure this puts on players in Arkansas and Tacoma.

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