BRENT STECKER

Mariners Minors Check-In: How Kelenic, Brash, top prospects are doing

Jun 19, 2022, 4:19 PM | Updated: 6:46 pm
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Jarred Kelenic looks on during Mariners batting practice before a May 7 game at T-Mobile Park. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners are enduring yet another tough stretch in what has been a disappointing 2022 season thus far, having dropped all three series on their most recent homestand to fall to a 29-39 record. So, maybe it’s a good time to take a walk around the farm.

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Among the notable players on the rosters of Seattle’s minor league affiliates are some who have had a taste of the big leagues already, others who could be an opportunity away for getting the call, and others who are highly-ranked but just getting their feet wet in pro ball.

Let’s take a look at what the Mariners in the minors are up to.

Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers

Jarred Kelenic, OF

Being with the Rainiers in mid-June wasn’t the plan for the talented 22-year-old Kelenic this year, but that is the reality after he struggled to repeat the consistency in the major leagues he had late in 2021. Over his final 36 games with Seattle last year, Kelenic slashed .239/.311/.485 for a strong .796 OPS thanks to seven doubles, a triple and eight homers. In 30 games with the big club to start this season, however, he slashed just .140/.219/.291 (.509 OPS) with 36 strikeouts as an emphasis on hitting the ball to center and left field from spring training didn’t seem to translate.

Kelenic was sent down to Tacoma with a pretty simple objective, as Mariners general manager/president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto put it on Seattle Sports.

“He practices harder and more intensely than anybody else can, and I guess to some extent would like to see him – and it’s just gonna sound absurd to say – try a little less hard,” Dipoto said on May 19 to Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk. “… Just go have fun playing. The marching orders, so to speak, were no deeper than that.”

Statistically, it appears Kelenic is doing that. After Sunday, he is slashing .282/.333/.553 (.886 OPS) with six homers, eight doubles and a triple in 25 games. While he was playing a stellar defensive right field in his month with the Mariners this year, he’s split time in all three outfield spots as well as at designated hitter with Tacoma.

There was a hiccup due to a hamstring strain, which cost him five days of playing time in the last week, though he returned to the lineup Thursday, going 1 for 3 with a double and a walk against Sacramento.

What will it take for Kelenic to return to the Mariners? I would imagine the front office wants to see a little less swing and miss in his game. His strikeout numbers were always pretty low on his journey to MLB – just 183 in 203 minor league games from 2018-21 – but he has struck out 34 times in 24 games this season with the Rainiers after logging 142 in 123 MLB games over the past two years.

Matt Brash, RP

MLB Pipeline rankings: No. 4 in Mariners system, No. 84 overall

Brash, 24, began the season as the fifth starter in the Mariners’ rotation, but while he had an impressive first two outings, his command proved to still need work as he was demoted to Triple-A after just five starts. And not only was he sent down, but he began a conversion to the bullpen as the Mariners decided that was the best way for the hard-throwing right-hander with wicked breaking stuff to help them this year.

It was a rocky start as a reliever for Brash, who had a 7.00 ERA after his first five appearances with Tacoma. It’s gotten better, though – a lot better.

Brash has thrown 11 straight outings without an earned run, all of which have been an inning long. Especially important is he hasn’t allowed a walk in 10 of those last 11 appearances, including the last six straight. He’s also allowed just three hits over his last seven games. That hasn’t come at the expense of his strikeout numbers, either. He has 19 Ks over the 11-game stretch, including eight games with at least two strikeouts.

It will be worth keeping a close eye on Brash, who owns a 3.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with the Rainiers, as a potential call-up for Seattle’s bullpen from this point forward.

Double-A Arkansas Travelers

Emerson Hancock, SP

MLB Pipeline rankings: No. 5 in Mariners system

The narrative around Hancock to start 2022 was an interesting one. Previously ranked highly by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, and even a Mariners representative in the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star festivities last July, Hancock fell out of the top 100 for both publications early this year. Shoulder fatigue concerns resulted in Hancock being shut down not once but twice last season, likely the biggest reason for his stock to fall, and to this point the 2020 first-round MLB Draft pick has pitched in just 18 career minor league games.

Six of those games have come this year, and he’s pitched consistently with the Travs. He’s also pitched quite well, owning a 2.45 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with 21 strikeouts to six walks. Don’t set your sights on seeing him in Seattle any time soon, however. The Mariners are understandably taking things slow with him after last season’s shoulder trouble, as he’s pitched no more than five innings in any outing, and he only reached that threshold two starts ago.

Levi Stoudt, SP

MLB Pipeline rankings: No. 6 in Mariners system

A 2019 third-round pick by the Mariners, the 24-year-old Stoudt was a fringe candidate for Seattle’s fifth spot in the rotation in spring training this year. Instead he was assigned to Arkansas, where he’s generally been solid other than a few rough outings (five runs allowed on April 27, eight on May 8, six on June 9).

Stoudt went five innings or more and gave up two runs or less in seven of his first nine starts this season, but it’s been a little bit tougher of a go in June. Over his last three outings, he’s allowed at least three runs each time and made it through the fifth inning just once. For the year, he has a 4.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 62 strikeouts to 14 walks over 12 starts (60 2/3 innings).

High-A Everett AquaSox

Noelvi Marte, SS

MLB Pipeline rankings: No. 1 in Mariners system, No. 9 overall

Most of the top young hitters in the Mariners’ system have already seen significant big league action, but their top player that still holds prospect status is a hitter with a high ceiling in Marte.

The talented shortstop arrived in Everett late last year, playing eight games with the AquaSox after a strong 99-game showing a level below with Modesto. The 2022 season has been a bit of a struggle for the young slugger, however.

After Sunday, Marte owns a .234/.329/.365 slash line (.694 OPS) in 55 games for the Sox. A swoon in April is partly responsible, though his season batting average has hung under .250 since May 25. He has six homers, 11 doubles and five stolen bases on 10 attempts a year after registering 17 homers, 28 doubles, two triples and 24 steals on 31 attempts in 107 games between Modesto and Everett in 2021.

Single-A Modesto Nuts

Harry Ford, C

MLB Pipeline rankings: No. 3 in Mariners system, No. 81 overall

Seattle’s top pick in the MLB Draft last summer, the 19-year-old Ford is just getting his feet wet in pro ball. After a strong 19-game debut in rookie ball last year, he’s slashing .238/.394/.390 (.784 OPS) with five homers, four doubles, three triples and seven steals on eight attempts over 43 games with the Nuts. An unusually athletic catcher, Ford has split time behind the plate (21 games) and at DH (22 games).

Edwin Arroyo, SS

MLB Pipeline rankings: No. 8 in Mariners system

After the Mariners selected Ford last year, they made Arroyo their second-round selection in the draft. Though he had a slower start in rookie ball than Ford, he’s been maybe the most eye-opening player in the Mariners organization this season.

In 58 games as the Nuts’ primary shortstop, the Puerto Rico native is slashing .311/.376/.510 for an .886 OPS. Most impressively, he’s shown slugging ability with 10 homers, 10 doubles and four triples while also stealing 12 bases on 15 attempts.

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Mariners Minors Check-In: How Kelenic, Brash, top prospects are doing