Some thoughts on farm system from Tom McNamara

It is nearly July and three of the four full season minor-league affiliates for the Mariners have had their respective All-Star breaks. Which means it is a good time to take stock, do some analysis and see what’s a-brewin’.

Seattle has a few players at each level putting together strong 2014 campaigns. At Clinton, OF Austin Wilson, UTL Zach Shank (.290/.368/.429/.797 with 4 homers, 21 RBI and 19/39 bb/k rate) and RHP Edwin Diaz.

Diaz, 20, was elected to the Midwest League All-Star team along with teammates Marcus Littlewood, Jack Reinheimer and reliever Emilio Pagan. In 13 starts in the first half, Diaz went 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA over 61.1 innings. His WHIP was high as a result of 29 walks, but since May the results for Diaz have been better.

At High Desert OF Gabriel Guerrero, 3b D.J. Peterson, 1b Jordy Lara and C Tyler Marlette have been the standouts on a club that finished middle of the pack in the California League over the first half.

At Double-A Jackson SS Ketel Marte, 3b Patrick Kivlehan, RHP James Gillheeney and RHP Victor Sanchez have had good starts. Marte and Gillheeney were selected to the Southern League All-Star team to represent the Generals. Marte has been Jackson’s leading hitter all season as the leadoff man with a current .305/.336/.384/.719 slash line. Marte has 18 doubles, two triples, 15 walks (coupled with just 36 strikeouts in nearly 300 plate appearances) and 18 stolen bases.

Kivlehan, though, has been somewhat of a revelation. Drafted out of Rutgers as a senior, he spent the previous three years playing college football. After somewhat of a slow start to his career in the minors, the 24-year-old Kivlehan has really made progress this season which has been rewarded with a promotion to Double-A. Kivlehan had his 17-game hitting streak snapped Tuesday night, but is still hitting .306/.387/.486/.873 with 20 walks in 40 games with the Generals.

Luckily I was able to catch up with director of amateur scouting Tom McNamara to talk about a few of the Mariners’ hottest prospects. He started off talking about Kivlehan:

“Kivlehan’s a tough kid and I know where he’s from, I know his family,” said McNamara. “I wasn’t sure if Kivlehan was ready for the (Arizona) Fall League. But, it has become more of a developmental league and I think him going to the Fall League and struggling, was good for him . . . I think it really forced him to tighten the screws.

“He got off to a decent start in the Cal league and I was really anxious when he got to Double-A, was curious to see how he would do out of the gate,” added McNamara.

In addition to his slash line, Kivlehan has shown power with 10 doubles, three triples and four homers.

“I think makeup, what kind of kid he is . . . He’s a lot like James Jones from the neck up, he’s that kind of kid,” McNamara noted.  .”We’re really proud of him.”

The talk transitioned to the team’s 2013 first-round pick and subject of a recent promotion to Jackson as well — Peterson. The 22-year-old got off to a relatively slow month of April before absolutely destroying the Cal League in May and June to not only receive the promotion, but also the honor of being selected to the 2014 All-Star Futures game to take place in Minnesota.

“He’s got hitter’s eyes, just everything about him was like, ‘Hey, when he’s in the batter’s box that’s what he does,” McNamara said.

Peterson suffered a setback late last season as he was concluding his rookie year with Clinton when he was took a fastball to the jaw. The pitch shattered his jaw in eight places and forced him to sit out the entire offseason.

“I was concerned, obviously just like his family and everybody else after he broke his jaw in eight places. I didn’t have an answer for that one,” McNamara said. “I think D.J. is further along than I thought he would be this summer — with the injury. Without the injury, he’s in the Arizona Fall League so maybe Kivlehan doesn’t get that experience and it kind of worked out well for both of them.”

Peterson is set to make his debut with the Generals on Thursday. Meanwhile, the team’s second-round pick of 2013, Austin Wilson of Stanford, was also a topic of conversation.

“Austin is ahead of schedule,” McNamara said. “He is putting together good at-bats, he’s showing power, he’s got plate discipline which is really important — I think his on-base is .380, .390 — but he’s been consistent . . . The reports we’ve gotten from Clinton on his work ethic and how he plays the game day in and day out, have been really, really good. So we’re happy.”

Wilson’s numbers have been impressive. What catches your eye is the .390 on-base percentage in 64 games, but a slash of .302/.390/.530/.920 is also impressive. The .920 OPS (on-base plus slugging) was good enough for third in the entire Midwest League as of Tuesday. The 22-year-old should be in line for a promotion soon.

Speaking of outfielders, the Mavericks’ Gabriel Guerrero, the 20-year-old nephew of Vladimir Guerrero is beginning to put it all together.

“He’s a fun guy to watch. I mean anybody that has seen him down in spring training or instructional ball, you see the blood lines,” said McNamara. “He’s got that body and the tools, I think the power will develop as he gets older . . . ”

“He’s got a big ceiling and he’s got great work ethic, really good makeup . . . we’re building a pretty good stable of outfielders. Maybe next year we’ll take some pitchers,” McNamara said, chuckling.

Oh don’t worry, there’s plenty of pitchers in there, too Tom.






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