Farm Notes – 08.03.06
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on August 2, 2006
Draft Picks Shine; M’s Have Decisions to Make
Been awhile since the farm deserved mass mention, but with the M’s 2006 draft picks putting up a good showing thus far, I had to do some homework and run up my cell bill a little bit… more.
Right-hander Brandon Morrow is starting put some distance between his future and the sore elbow that limited him to three one-inning stints in the first four weeks of his pro career.
The fifth overall pick in June’s draft has tossed seven shutout innings allowing just three hits. Morrow, who turned 22 last week, has walked four of the 25 batters he’s faced and countered that with nine strikeouts.
In his latest two outings, Morrow has revved up the velocity and is showing that his arm may be sound after the rust-induced pain he felt after his pen sessions. On July 28 versus the Cubs in Peoria, Morrow touched 95 on the gun for the first time, and sat 92-93 in his two innings of work.
On Wednesday versus the Angels in Tempe, Morrow again touched the mid 90s, including “a few 96’s” according to a Mariners official. He’s working primarily with his four-seamer right now but is starting to mix in some splitters here and there. With arm soreness, ripping off a slew of split-finger fastballs isn’t the smartest thing in the world to do, so it’s understandable that he’d work mostly with the heater for now.
He’s expected to continue to stretch it out to 75 pitches within the next two weeks, depending on how his arm responds. Morrow tossed 42 pitches in his latest stint, 29 for strikes. If all goes well, he could be two or three more appearances from being re-assigned to Class A Inland Empire, where he’ll really be challenged by legit bats, but Morrow has looked pretty solid in his limited time on the mound, including his command.
He’s induced seven ground ball outs to just two fly ball outs, a result of keeping the ball down in the strike zone.
M’s second rounder Chris Tillman is also putting up impressive numbers, especially considering he’s facing his own peers, both in age and pro experience. The 18-year-old has yielded just five hits in seven shutout frames, striking out 11 and issuing just one walk.
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-hander is straight fastball-curve ball right now, but it’s a pretty good combo and is shredding rookie league bats.
I wouldn’t expect Tillman to see a promotion at this point, barring injury in Everett, but his stuff is translating well to the pro game, and the hitting in Arizona. He’s just as intriguing as Morrow, and he has more time in which to develop into a major leaguer.
Third rounder Tony Butler was as good as can be expected in his 14 innings in Peoria where he fanned 25 in 14 innings of work. It was enough for M’s Director of Minor League Operations Greg Hunter, Director of Player Development Frank Mattox and Benny Looper, the club’s VP of Scouting and Player Development, to see no reason not to try the 6-7, 210-pound southpaw in the Northwest League.
He’s throwing 90+ consistently, and there’s more in the fastball but be patient, and a better than average breaking ball. His command is about average, but his pure stuff is getting him by. He’s struggled somewhat in two starts for the AquaSox, particularly with his control. He’s walked seven batters in 7 2/3 innings, but has allowed just four hits and has fanned seven.
Butler, 18, could move as quickly as any M’s prep draftee in recent memory, including Ryan Feierabend.
Notes: LHP Steve Uhlmansiek has been impressive, even if his results have been inconsistent, since missing all of 2004 and most of 2005 after having Tommy John Surgery in May of his draft year.
“He’s just rusty, really,” said M’s minor league pitching coordinator Pat Rice. “The arm strength probably isn’t where he’ll need it to be, but we’re happy with his progress; his velocity is fine, but what may take a little while is his command. That’s usually what takes the most time to come back.”
Uhlmansiek, 23, is one to keep an eye one… When the recently DL’d Chris Snelling is recalled by the Mariners, either sometime this month or just after the PCL’s regular season is over, the only thing that will change is Snelling’s geographical position.
Doyle is not injured, and his 15-dayDL status is a formality. He was called up last week to fill a hole for one day, so they could DL him. Why? Bill Bavasi and the rest of the organization needed a way to reward Snelling without hindering his return to form. Greg Dobbs is much better suited to come off the bench, but only because the Mariners do not want Snelling riding the pine. Do we blame him? I don’t.
Snelling is receiving a major league paycheck during his time on the disabled list, hence the reward factor.
Good move, Bill, and bravo Howard Lincoln for not freaking out over such an idea. You can spare an extra 12 grand a week… A conversation about the M’s newfound love for pushing prospects resulted in a few scouts offering up their own opinion on the matter.
Should they have been promoted?
LHP Robert Rohrbuagh – YES, YES, YES
3B Matt Tuiasosopo – NO, NO, YES
OF Mike Wilson – YES, YES, YES
OF Adam Jones – NO, NO, NO
C Jeff Clement – NO, YES, NO
RHP Mark Lowe – YES (to Tacoma), NO, YES (to Tacoma)
Obviously, hindsight is 20-20, so thanks to Mike, Chuck, Deron and Chris for being honest about their own personal thoughts on the above players and their developmental timetables.
The most interesting thought this week has been the potential September call-ups. Roberto Petagine, Francisco Cruceta, Cha Seung Baek and perhaps Jeff Clement will get the call, almost certainly.
But I have two more suggestions.
Travis Blackley and Hunter Brown, and no, not because they are two of my personal favorites within the organization.
Blackley has done everything the club could have asked this season, and the biggest test is the big leagues, which is where he was when his shoulder was most apparently torn to shreds.
Triple-A is not a challenge, he led the PCL in ERA just prior to his call-up in July 2004. It’s time to see how big-league bats react to his 86-89 mph fastball and a change that may be back to where it was early during his last healthy season.
Blackley is just 23 and could put up a worthwhile fight for the No. 5 spot in the rotation next spring. Let’s see where he’s really at right now.
Brown (above, left) deserves the Mickey Lopez treatment, at the very least. He’s been a team player since day one, even though he inexplicably gets ignored like a psychotic-driven religious tirade on Channel 9 every Sunday morning, and he works as hard or harder than anyone in the system.
Brown plays third base, extremely well, a little second, some first, is an emergency catcher and has played some left field of late. It’s Dave Brundage’s way to get Brown’s bat in the lineup. For the second straight season, Brown, in somewhat limited time, leads the Rainiers in doubles with 22.
He’s a useful piece in reserve that the Mariners don’t need as long as Willie Dynamite is beloved by every coach or manager that walks the earth, so it’s time to say goodbye. But the Mariners should be doing this the right way.
Hunter Brown, 26, more than deserves a few ABs in the bigs.
Photo: Max Waugh