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Farm Notes – 08.03.06

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on August 2, 2006

Draft Picks Shine; M’s Have Decisions to Make

By Jason A. Churchill

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

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56 Responses to “Farm Notes – 08.03.06”

  1. Seatown4Life said

    JAC, love the update on Morrow, Tillman, etc. If Morrow get called to Inland Empire this year would that put him on the path to Tacoma (possible Sept call up) by the end of next year? Also where would you slot Tillman for next year?

    ST4L

  2. Josh said

    Great Work, I think Charles Tillman was a absoulte steal in the 3nd round and he is proving it, Bill has shown thus far that he is a good drafter. I am excited about all of the young arms the M’s have in their system now, it looked very bleek last year.

  3. Matthew said

    Bob Fontaine runs the draft, not Bill, though Fontaine is here because of Bill.

    Did anyone else notice that Ms have a J Guzman (Juan) playing 2B at Tacoma and a J Guzman (Jesus) playing 2B at San Anton?

  4. Matthew said

    Also, Wlad now has 50 walks to 107 Ks. He’s gone from a 4+ K/BB ratio at his best to one that’s near 2 this year, and he’s still sporting a rather robust .224 IsoP. Would you call this a mini-Adam Jones leap Jason?

    Man, there just seems to be so much more substance to this farm system then there was 4 months ago, which in turn, was much better than it was 8 months previous.

  5. Salty Dog said

    Totally agree on Blackley. I was thinking the same think last night as I reviewed his AA numbers. If we’re going to call someone up as a fifth/spot starter, he should be the guy. Cruceta’s put up some good numbers, but I feel like he may implode when he gets to the majors (too many walks). Blackley, if he’s physically right, *should* be far more solid than he was in 2004.

    Why is Butler moving faster than Tillman? Stats seem comparable. Is it just the total # of IP in Peoria that’s holding Tillman back?

  6. Jack said

    Just curious….What colleges were Butler and Tillman prepared to attend if they didn’t sign pro contracts?

  7. Bilbo said

    JAC, with the coach for Evansville bolting to ND, any chance the M’s make another run at Jared Baehl or is that probably just wishful thinking? Also, is Nobles going to the farm or UW at this point?

    Thanks! Love the site and appreciate your efforts.

  8. Ty said

    I know this is a difficult question to answer, but what Major League pitchers would you compare Butler, Tillman, and Morrow to? I pretty much know nothing about any of them and comparisons always seem to help me. Thanks if you can.

  9. marinerswinws said

    I would compare Morrow to Wade Miller, Matt Clement,and Jason Marquis.

  10. Chad said

    As a Mariner fan living in Arizona I would like to see Morrow, Tillman and other draft picks pitch down in the Rookie League. Is there a place on the web to find a schedule for starts by these pitchers? Any help would be appreciated.

  11. Deanna said

    HUNTER BROWN FOR THIRD!

    Seriously, I adopted him as my personal favorite Rainiers player in early 2005, and ever since then, I’ve been just astounded by how good he is and how nobody seems to notice or care. It is a shame he’s blocked at third by Beltre and at utility by Bloomquist.

    I’d really like to see him get a callup this September as well. If not… you know, when I think of teams that could use someone like him, the Phillies immediately come to mind. They just ditched David Bell, and have actually been lacking decent righty bats as of late.

  12. jp17 said

    Somehow I knew Deanna would be all over this.

  13. I planted the Hunter Brown pic, just to get Deanna to make an appearance.

    I’m so shrewd.

  14. Re: Morrow

    I think Morrow will be a year to year type prospect. Not sure if he can skip levels too much or even split them.

    We’ll see, it’s tough to tell right now, but he certainly isn’t going to spend a lot of time in A ball.

    Once he gets there, that is.

  15. jp17 said

    Do Wilson and/or Balentien look like they may get a shot soon in Tacoma?

    Only three outfielders on the Tacoma roster (although a bunch of infielders) with Morse being hurt.

    Nelson and Bohn don’t seem to have much of a future past Tacoma, though during the Tacoma lone TV broadcast the announcers said Terry P. (hitting coach?) said Nelson projects to 40HR in the majors (really?)

    Be nice to see if Wilson can continue his success while making another jump.

  16. Morse is active…

    But yeah, when Snelling goes up, Wilson probably gets the nod.

  17. Great post, Jason!
    I have a couple questions about another 2006 draft pick, Doug Fister.
    (You can save this for a mailbag, if you’d like)

    A) What type of pitcher do you see him becoming? What kind of stuff does he have? Any talk on his make up? Who is a current Major Leaguer you would compare him to? (Kameron Loe?)
    B) He’s been inducing a lot of groundballs in the Northwest League. Is this a skill that he’s shown before? Is it something you expect will continue – especially considering his height?
    C) Is he pitching out of Everett’s bullpen simply because the M’s want to limit his innings this season (after throwing 116 innings for Fresno State)? Are they planning to keep him in Everett for the entire season?

    Thanks, and keep up the great work! 🙂

  18. jp17 said

    Oh that’s right Morse is back, slipped my mind, that was a pretty quick recovery.

  19. Deanna said

    Doh! You got me.

    Hmm… yeah, I can’t decide which would troll me to comment more, a Hunter Brown post or a Doug Fister post. Probably the former, since I’ve still only seen the latter pitch once. But he’s SO TALL!

  20. So, yer a Justin Ockerman fan, too, Deanna?

  21. Willmore said

    I’m guessing that Ryan Doherty is more her type.

    http://und.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/mtt/doherty_ryan00.html

  22. Edman said

    Willmore…..this is off topic….but you should be thanking Jason mightily for letting you back on his forum, after the comments you made about him on the PI board. I’m all about not holding a grudge, but you started a little fire storm over there, that Logan and his crowd took hold of and continued on slamming Jason.

    Make no mistake, you owe him an apology.

  23. Willmore said

    He never banned me. He asked me not to talk about that subject in that thread. I took some time off here just to cool off. And I have talked with Jason, and we’re fine.

  24. Willmore said

    By the way, what comments are you referring to ? PI can mean either Prospect Insider, in which case, I didn’t say anything wrong about Jason here. Or, Post-Intelligencer, which I never visit and never post. I just went there to check and some guy called “Jason Willmore” posted something a couple days ago, but I think that was one of their regular users that have nothing better to do. I only post here and at ITP, or rather Seattle Hardball right now.

  25. Edman said

    Sounds like the low-life cowards at the PI board used your name to slam Jason and Prospect Insider. I knew they’d do anything to advance their cause, but that’s really cheap. Sorry for mistaking those posts for you. It was no random act. Best thing they could do would be to shut that board down. They really have allowed the inmates to take over the asylum.

  26. Edman said

    BTW…..back on topic. Butler pitched a gem tonight. Five shutout innings, nine strikeouts. Top three picks in this draft could turn out to be very special…..not to mention some of the higher round picks. This could be a draft that shapes the M’s in a few years.

    Also, a good article on Aaron Jensen. A perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge over-all stats without a little history.

    http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/news/article.jsp?md=20060803&content_id=113697&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp

    If this doesn’t work, go to http://www.milb.com……it‘s part of their article banner.

  27. Another 2006 draft pick question:

    What does the organization think of Austin Bibens-Dirkx? I caught him in his one appearance at Tacoma (2 IP and 5 Ks), and his stats look pretty good in Wisconsin. I recognize that he’s not a starting pitcher, and therefore will fly under the prospect radar a bit. Just the type of guy I like to follow. His sidearm motion, and the whipping action he puts on the ball, is quite entertaining to watch, if not rather effective.

    He’s off to a great start, really, with his pro career. A WHIP less than 1, a super-high K/BB rate and K% – plus his splits look pretty good, too, even if the sample size is rather limited.

  28. Willmore said

    Yeah. He needs a nickname, by the way. Bibens-Dirkx is too unwieldy.

    Anyway, I completely agree, BD is intriguing, he is just 21, his delivery is whacky enough to be effective in relief and his stats speak for themselves. As a middle-reliever, he could do well for himself in the majors.

  29. jp17 said

    Willmore I owe you an apology as well as I thought it was you over at the Seattle PI slamming Jason.

    Just more losers trying to drum up hits on one sorry excuse of a website.

    Logan and company are first rate losers whose jealousy is plain to see.

    And I know your reading Logan and the Boo Hoo Crew.

    Jason are you gonna get back to doing player profiles?

  30. 1996Coug said

    Does anyone have any idea who the team was that laid claim to Andrew Jones?

  31. Willmore said

    Most likely, Houston.

  32. Mabalasek said

    Boston Red Sox

  33. Willmore said

    It probably wasn’t the Red Sox, considering that all 16 NL team and most of the AL teams would have to pass on Jones first, and that is extremely unlikely.

    In either case, the deadline for any deal passed around 10 AM this morning, so Jones isn’t going anywhere. But, as reported by espn, Jones is now upset after getting the waiver treatment.

  34. That’s not true, Willmore. Read this…
    http://baseball.about.com/od/lesserknownrules/a/traderules.htm

  35. Willmore said

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_transactions

    “Any player under contract may be placed on waivers at any time. If a player is waived, any team may claim him. If more than one team claims a player from waivers, the team with the lowest record in the player’s league gets preference. If no team in the player’s league claims him, the claiming team with the lowest record in the other league gets preference. The previous year’s standings are used during the first month of a season to determine preference.

    If a team claims a player off waivers and has the viable claim as described above, his first team may choose one of the following:

    * arrange a trade with the new team for that player within two business days of the claim; or
    * rescind the request and keep the player on their major league roster, effectively canceling the waiver; or
    * do nothing and allow the claiming team to assume the player’s existing contract, pay a waiver fee to the first team, and place him on their active major league roster

    If a player is claimed and the option to rescind is used, this option to rescind a waiver may not be used again for that player in that season. If no team claims a player from waivers in three business days, the player has cleared waivers and may be assigned to a minor league team, traded, or released outright.

    The waiver “wire” is a secret within the personnel of the Major League Baseball clubs; no announcement of a waiver is made until a transaction actually occurs. Many players are often quietly waived during the August “waiver-required” trading period to gauge trade interest in a particular player. Usually, when the player is claimed, the waiving team will rescind the waiver to avoid losing the player unless a trade can be worked out with the claiming team.”

  36. Willmore is correct here. The players league gets first shot, then the other league gets a chance.

  37. Ah..I know the team’s league gets first dibs and I wasn’t questioning that it probably wasn’t the Red Sox that claimed Jones. I was just questioning where Willmore said, “In either case, the deadline for any deal passed around 10 AM this morning, so Jones isn’t going anywhere…” because I didn’t realize a deal had to get done within two business days. My bad…

  38. glenda said

    Not the right venue

  39. Goose said

    I smell a deletion coming!

  40. Paul said

    After noticing Chris Snelling was only hitting .218 I looked at his box score the last couple months, and he is 6 for his last 74 dating back to July 14th. We all know he is as good a hitter as the M’s have in their system so is this the biggest slump of his life or the result of an injury?

  41. mk said

    Jason, has your opinion on Cha-Seung Baek changed with his sustained success this season? Correct me if I’m wrong, but towards the begining of the season you saw Baek as a 4-pitch pitcher who doesn’t have the guts, or stuff, to make it in the bigs as a starter. At least not as a Mariner.

    However, with Joel being, well, Joel, and the prospects of having wild-child Cruceta up, and subsequently walking 3-4 batters a game, would Baek be a safer option? And if so, is it fair to think he may get a late season call up, especially if the Mariners continue to slip out of the race?

    And lastly, have scouts from other organizations expressed like or dislike about his game?

    He intrigues me to say the least…then again, my only view is from the stat sheet, not home plate at Cheney..

  42. Edman said

    After Joel’s comments in the paper after his last start, I can’t believe Hargrove or Bavasi would let him see the starting rotation again.

    For those of you who missed it, he basically said that even he believes he suck, paraphrasing his comments. In MLB, confidence is the difference between employment….and unemployment.

    Baek, IMHO, is a guy with enough to win. He’s not a #1 or #2 guy in rotation, but he can easily fill a #4 or #5 spot, and possibly #3. He does something that totally impresses me…..he figures out how to win with his stuff. By all appearences, he’s smart and doesn’t just rely on the quality of his pitches.

    He’s got nothing left to prove in Tacoma.

  43. Willmore said

    Edman, wasn’t that the basic description of Ryan Franklin ? I would prefer a guy who can consistently dominate batters, even at the expence of walks, the way Cruceta can. Cruceta too is a not TOR guy, but he would be a better pitcher in the majors than Baek, IMO.

  44. Center Field Sports said

    Tilman is in Everett now, should be intresting to see how they use him

  45. Edman said

    Disagree about Cruceta. He lacks not only the command, but the maturity to handle being in the majors. I’ve seen him work three times this year. When things are going right, he’s cruises. But, then things get a little sticky, he looses his composure and starts to think his pitches. Great stuff without command and mostly without the ability to look past adversity, only spells failure. This is the first time in a while, that Cruceta has experienced any form of success. IMHO, he needs a full season at Tacoma, with a Sept. call up…..and another half season in AAA, at least.

    And Baek and Franklin being identical? I don’t think so….not even remotely. Ryan is a mental midget, compared to Baek. The times I’ve seen Baek pitch, he’s business like in his approach. The times he’s struggled, he still didn’t let the situation get out of control. And, Baek don’t throw that much softer than Cruceta, and has at least an equal pitch selection, just different pitches.

    Either guy is better than Joel, at this point. It’s easy to fall in love with power pitchers, because their mistakes are harder to hit……but, the back end of that is that they get hit harder.

    I’ll take a guy who gets out and keeps the run count down, no matter how he does it.

  46. Allen Jacobs said

    I agree with you Edman, just wish Bavasi would pull the trigger.

  47. Wade said

    Jason on Vacation or something ? I need my fix… the Loganites are driving me nuts on the Seattle PI forum and I need some intelligent baseball discussion.

  48. I’ll have an update tonight and a Mailbag tomorrow.

  49. Wade said

    Cool – I always look forward to your insight.

  50. Center Field Sports said

    Tony Bulter looked great for Everett tonight, only gave up one hit in a ND.
    if your keeping score at home thats one hit in 2 games and he is 0-1

  51. Edman said

    I was at the frog’s game tonight, and have to agree. He’s already hitting 92 MPH, and once his mechanics get refined, he should be near 95 MPH. For a kid just out of High School, his form was pretty darn good. Very over the top with his pitches. He generates a lot or arm speed.

    Didn’t get to see his breaking pitches, but I’m sure they need some refinement. I was behind the first base dugout, so best I could do was downward movement.

    For an eighteen year old kid, he’s got good size. He’s a little lanky now, but he’ll fill out nicely in another couple years. He and Tillman could turn out to be steals in a few years. You see potential first round material, if he’d have opted to get experience in college.

    Bodes well for Seattle’s future. I can see several arms emerging at once…….what a horrible problem to have.

  52. J said

    Yup, Butler was pitching pretty well, minus a few mechanical issues that could probably be resolved in the future. He does so love throwing that breaking pitch on two strike counts, and I can’t blame him, but he’s probably going to hit a wall sooner or later. He’s composed, emotionally and physically, for the most part, but he looks like a HS pitcher, albeit a damn good one.

    Got some more dtailed notes on him over at my blog…

  53. Word on Butler is that the club is going to try and simplify his delivery for him… his actual mechanics are fine.

    They’ll eliminate the unnecessary stuff and let his natural physical abilities add the velo.

  54. Edman said

    Good news. I looked at the boxscores, and Varvaro pitched an inning. It’s going to be pretty exciting in a couple of years to see some of the talented arms, as they hit AA and AAA.

  55. MMjohns195 said

    Can anyone tell me whats happend to snelling he went from hitting .290 and now in a little over a month he’s down to .209? is he actually hurt or just in a horrible slump?

  56. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, 1B Gerardo Avila is now in Wisconsin, skipping SS Everett, and already has a three-hit game under his belt.

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