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Farm Notes – 4.20.06

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 20, 2006

Aruban God of Walks?To prove that the Seattle Mariners farm system isn't completely void of young arms that could make an impact at the big-league level, I decided to go panning for numbers.

Not that any of the pitchers south of Tacoma are blue-chip material, but I did find some pretty encouraging, if not promising numbers to mention.

Here's what I discovered – (stats thru games of 4.19.06)

Wisconsin RHP Jason Snyder has produced a 16-3 K/BB ratio in his three starts and 15 2/3 innings of work. In year's past, Snyder's control has been a concern.

Left-handed reliever Harold Williams has pitched in five games for the Rattlers covering 6 2/3 innings. Williams has already struck out 14 batters. I sense a loogy coming on…

Inland Empire right-handers Stephen Kahn and Mark Lowe have put on a clinic. Kahn, the team's closer and saves leader, has fanned 17 batters, to just one walk, in only 7 2/3 innings of work. Operating with a 91-94 mph fastball and a big hook, Kahn has been nothing shy of dominating thus far in 2006. Those 17 K's rank him fourth best in the circuit.

Lowe began the year in the bullpen and due to injury he may get a full-time shot at starting again. But the 2004 5th round draft pick has performed well enough to earn the promotion on his own. The 22-year-old has allowed just three hits in 12 innings, including five no-hit frames last week in which he fanned eight. He's sporting a nice 18-4 K/BB ratio, too.

Wisconsin southpaw Justin Thomas has a nice 13-2 K/BB ratio in his three outings and his 1.00 ERA is the league's best for pitchers with at least three games started.

There were also a couple of surprise numbers from a few bats that deserve mention…

Casey Craig, 21, is hitting .353 (7th in the league) with a .450 OBP (5th in the league) for a 1.038 OPS (4th in the league. See? With regular play, Craig produces.

The over-aggressive, never-patient Wladimir Balentien may have learned something over the past two seasons. He does have 16 K's, but he doesn't lead the league. Angels' super prospect Brandon Wood's 18 takes that cake.

But Balentien ranks second in the Texas League in… make sure you are sitting down for this… WALKS. Yeah, seriously. The Aruban-born Balentien has nine walks and sits behind only Oakland A's catching prospect Kurt Suzuki, who amazingly has 10 walks against ZERO strikeouts in 52 plate appearances.  

I can see it now… The Aruban God of Walks. 

Sixty-Sixers outfielder Josh Womack, a former second rounder, has posted some gaudy numbers thus far in 2006. The 22-year-old leads the California League in average (.444), OBP (.559) and OPS (1.225). He's also fourth in slugging at .667.

Weird, huh?

Also… 

LHP Thomas Oldham was placed on the DL on 4/13 with an undisclosed injury. I'm trying to get a hold of him to find out what the deal is. He's well conditioned, so this is probably a minor injury.

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18 Responses to “Farm Notes – 4.20.06”

  1. J said

    And Vega, who has a sub-1.00 WHIP in two starts, takes the mound tonight. I know he has to struggle at some point, since he’s not striking out a ton of guys or inducing groundballs at his usual rate, but it helps pass the time until the next Felix start.

  2. Jerry said

    You forgot to mention Shin Soo Choo, who is absouletly destroying the ball in Tacoma: .372/.449/.581 with 6/7 BB/K. He could be the first position player promoted this year. Adam Jones isn’t doing to shabby either. It will be interesting to see how his power numbers are. He would be a pretty sweet LFer in 2007. An OF of Jones, Reed and Ichiro would be amazing.

    It will be really interesting to see how Balentien does. I had sorta written him off, but if he keeps drawing walks, his stock will skyrocket. People have been saying that Balentien needed to dramatically alter his approach at the plate if he was ever going to rise above AA. Although it is early, it seems like he has done that. His power numbers aren’t that amazing, but I suspect that he will start driving the ball more. Really, this is the perfect way for him to make the adjustments he need to make: work on drawing walks and making pitchers work, then get back to hitting the snot out of the ball later. His power numbers thus far aren’t bad. But if he keeps drawing walks and working counts, his raw power will become that much more usable.

    He is one to watch now.

    Between Choo, Balentien, LaHair, Craig, and Jones, the M’s have some interesting young hitters.

    Hopefully, Saunders, Valbuena, Cabrera, Tui and Clement can add to that list. Fortunately, all of these guys who are hurt or a little shakey have big upside, and should rebound.

    I hate to get too excited about early season stats, but things are looking pretty good for the M’s position player prospects.

  3. I didn’t forget, but he’s not leading the league in some ridiculous category – unexpectedly.

    Choo deserves his own post all by himself, anyways.

    I purposely left Choo out for that reason.

    And no, Choo won’t be the first position player promoted, unless there are TWO injuries to outfielders/DH’s.

    Snelling is close to returning to the field and he’s just weeks of minor league ABs from being back on the 25-man.

    LaHair has been good this year, but the questions about him are his inconsistent power. yeah, he hit 25 last year and drove in 110, but it was the Cal League and he wasn’t 20 or 21.

    Craig should be starting in left for San Antonio this year – and would be if he hadn’t been jerked around last year.

    Balentien still needs less whiffs and better ABs altogether.

  4. Re: Vega

    He’s using a sinker this year, on top of the two-seam fastball. He’s bound to show some inconsistencies.

  5. dnc said

    How is the Aruban God of Walks hitting? Is he still hitting for power AND being selective, or has the newfound selectivity killed his aggressiveness?

  6. He’s not being all that more selective at what he does swing at… but he’s going deeper into counts, if that makes any sense.

    He’s still swing at and hitting balls out of the zone, it’s just not swing and miss at the first pitch heater up and in and then watch a shange for a called strike and a flail at a breaking balls down and away as he protects.

    He has shortened his swing a little bit but he needs to keep going.

    He’s hitting ..298 with a .489 slugging – 2 homers, 2 doubles.

  7. dnc said

    So I’m assuming he has a .380 or better OBP to go with a .489 slugging?

    If he can keep that up, we’re talking about a kid who could skyrocket up prospect charts.

  8. dnc said

    Alright, just looked it up. He’s hitting .298/.421(!)/.489, for a .910 OPS. He actually has 2 dingers and 3 doubles (hit one last night), to go with 17 K’s and 10 walks (must have picked up one of each last night).

    Seriously, if Wlad can even post a .350 OBP we could be talking mega prospect.

  9. Willmore said

    If he keeps it up, Wlad can be McGwire. But he’s not. Wlad is developing too slowly to amount to something great and there are enough potential .240/.290/.440 prospects out there for us not to need him.

    Then again, you never know, might as well hope for the best.

  10. johnB said

    That is what they said about Chris Shelton, and David Ortiz. You just never know when the next power hitter is going to bloom.

  11. Wlad is only 21, Willmore, he’s not developing slowly.

    There aren’t many 21 year olds in AA.

  12. WAB said

    If Wlad continued at his current pace (just for discussion here), where would you peg is ETA? Two years from now?

    Thanks for this awesome site Jason. I check it daily to get the scoop, and you do a great job.

  13. His current pace THIS year? Or his developmental pace overall?

    Cuz I gotta tell ya, it’s way too early to even speculate that he can hang on to a .421 OBP and a .489 SLG all year.

  14. WAB said

    How ’bout his developmental pace…

    Is he a legit part of the future plans? I know everyone can work their way into the team’s plans, but is he highly thought of in the FO?

    Thanks

  15. marc w. said

    Yeah, what *is* the deal with Casey Craig? The team went from incredibly high on him to seemingly having it in for him. Did he run over Howard Lincoln’s dog or something?
    I remember reports of attitude problems, but how long is he going to be in the doghouse?

    I’m a huge Wlad fan – even in his disappointing 2005, he put up a .900 (ok, .891) OPS in high A at 20. Yeah, it’s the Cal League, but the M’s system is just thin on true power potential. Personally, I think the M’s have handled him perfectly. He’s been successful at each stop, but he’s quite raw and they’ve given him full seasons at each level to really learn from people. With Jones, it’s just a matter of time and experience. Wlad needs *teaching* and it looks like he’s getting it.

  16. Willmore said

    “Wlad is only 21, Willmore, he’s not developing slowly.”

    I meant that he’s not improving his plate discipline from year to year.
    He struck out in 29.4 % of ABs in 2003.
    29.6% in 2004.
    32% in 2005.

    This year, he’s striking out in 36% of his ABs.

    That is not good plate discipline. Though he is getting walks, which is encouraging, at that level I can’t imagine him having many quality at-bats. Instead, he’s relying on the quality of pitching. This is all surmising and speculation on my part, but still, better competition at higher levels will eat him up if he doesn’t cut on the strikeouts. He’s a Borchard without the defense.

  17. Willmore said

    now that I think of it, I probably should’ve used plate appearances, not at-bats. But oh well, I doubt the results would be dramatically different.

  18. The stat still stands either way, but you have to consider the level he’s playing at, too.

    He’s made progress, but the one area where he’s still sorely lacking is the K’s.

    Lack of pitch recognition, plate coverage and discipline.

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