There is plenty to be thankful for in the Seattle Mariners Minor League system. Six of the clubs nine affiliates finished first or second in their division earning three MVP awards (Ugueto, Kivlehan, Guerrero) and a Pitcher of the Year (Maurer) award. These nine affiliates broke the Minor League record for wins in a season (495) by, with the High Desert Mavericks of the California League recording the sixth highest total in 2012 with 83 wins.
Lost in all this winning were the ten below performances. Let’s take a look back at the Top-10 2012 Seattle Mariners Minor League performances.
10. Tyler Pike – Braving the elements
The achievement: Tyler Pike threw five innings of seven strikeout baseball in arguably the toughest of in-game environments.
2012 line: 1.78 ERA, 1 HR allowed in 50.2 innings pitched with a 1.086 WHIP
On August 20, 2012 the Arizona League Mariners took the field in what was arguably the wildest game of their season. Winds reached 28 miles an hour with a game time temperature of 103 degrees.
On the mound for the Mariners, 18-year old Tyler Pike, a 3rd round selection in the 2012 draft, making just his tenth professional start. He entered the game with a 1.32 ERA and would allow just two earned runs through five innings of work striking out seven, raising his ERA to 1.57. Pike would finish the season with a 1.78 ERA, 26th overall in Minor League baseball (including summer leagues), for those with a minimum of ten games started. Standing out for Pike on the season were his 0.2 HR/9 (home runs allowed per 9 IP) and his 10.1 K/9 ratio.
In 2013 expect him to trade in his beach attire for rain gear as he looks headed for the Everett Aquasox of the Northwest League
9. Dario Pizzano – August Streakin’
The achievement: Dario Pizzano turned in one of the top Minor League hitting performances of August pacing the Appalachian league with 42 hits in total.
2012 line: .354/.442/.507 with 30 BB/36 K (1.2 K/BB ratio)
Coming out of Columbia University may have disguised the skill-set of Ivy League slugger Dario Pizzano but he made quite a statement in his first professional season. Following his 15th round selection he captured the Appalachian League batting title at .356, a full .30 points higher than second place.
Pizzano was named a Topps Performer of the Month for August hitting .429 amid a 15-game hitting streak. He led the Appalachian League in hits (42), doubles (18), on-base percentage (.472), and OPS (1.130) while his .602 slugging percentage placed him in the Top-5.
He concluded his inaugural season in the Pacific Northwest, playing with the Everett Aquasox. He will still be just 21-years of age once the calendar flips, expect him to be swinging a hot-bat again for Everett to kick off 2013.
8. Danny Hultzen – Southern General
The achievement: Danny Hultzen was the #21 overall prospect coming into 2012, but he pitched like #1 overall at Double-A Jackson, posting a 1.19 ERA through 13 games started with a 0.929 WHIP.
2012 line: 3.05 ERA, 4 HRs allowed in 124 innings pitched with a K/9 ratio of 9.9
Hultzen failed to get on track with Triple-A Tacoma following his 2012 promotion but the numbers he posted while with the Generals were nothing short of brilliant. He allowed just two home runs in 75.1 innings of work and allowed just 4.5 hits per nine innings pitched. He would strike out 79 to just 32 walk, facing a total of 290 batters. With just ten earned runs allowed in his Southern League stint, he averaged an earned run against every 29 batters, or more than 3 times through a line-up.
Hultzen will be active in Spring Training for Seattle but will likely, in part due to his age, be headed back to Tacoma to open 2013.
7. James Jones – Being Mike Trout
The achievement: James Jones scored 41 runs in 37 games from 7/09 – 8/22; 1 run better than American League Rookie of the Year Mike Trout over the same period of time.
2012 line: .306/.378/.497 with 109 runs scored
Mike Trout awakened Major League baseball, scoring a league-leading 129 times in 2012, in 139 games played. James Jones had much the same impact through 126 games with Advanced-A High Desert scoring 109 times, the 8th highest total in Minor League baseball. Both hit lead-off the majority of their seasons as they unsuspectingly traded blows.
From July 9th to August 22nd, a span of 37 games for Jones he bested the American League Rookie of the Year by crossing the plate 41 times, one better than the Angels young slugger. He hit safely in 31 games over this span, including a 10-game hit streak, and posted six games of at least three hits.
Jones is 24-years old, already completing his fourth season of professional baseball. Count on him to be among the opening day starters in Double-A Jackson, and with a strong performance, expect to see him with Tacoma before long.
6. Daniel Paolini – Power Stroke
The achievement: Daniel Paolini opened eyes inside and outside the Seattle organization with his 2012 performance, none standing out more than his 11 home runs and 37 RBIs in the month of August.
2012 line: .299/.376/.493 with 125 hits.
No one expected Paolini to have this much success from the plate in high school let alone professional baseball, not due to lack of talent, but because he was primarily a pitcher. An arm injury in high school left him the need to convert to full-time position player, a switch that has worked out brilliantly for Paolini and the Mariners.
He played 29 games in the month of August (.361/.422/.705), hitting a home run in ten of these, and driving in at least one RBI in sixteen contests. His 44 hits led the Midwest League, while he reached base 56 times, or nearly twice per game.
Of his other 82 games played he hit seven home runs and drove in 36 RBIs. His second half numbers (.329/.401/.591) cannot be ignored, expect to see Daniel swinging his bat at Pringles Park in Jackson, TN for the Double-A Generals early in 2013.
5. Stefen Romero – Player of the Year
The achievement: Stefen Romero could not do wrong in 2012 on his way to being named the Seattle Mariners Minor League Player of the Year.
2012 line: .352/.391/.599 with 64 XBH (extra base hits)
No statistic stands out above the others from his 2012 campaign, but with Romero, it’s all his statistics that stand out together. Shortly after the season concluded Romero was named the Player of the Year for the Seattle Mariners system, and a deep system it is.
His similar splits between High Desert of the California League and Jackson of the Southern League is a sign of just how far his development has come. The former has a tendency to favor hitters, providing a skewed sample of offensive potential in many cases, while the latter illustrates a more even-keel game of baseball. When I say his numbers in both leagues were similar, that is no exaggeration.
Due to the third base log-jam in the Mariners system it is possible Romero finds himself back in Jackson on Opening Day. Regardless, he proved in his 56 games of Double-A ball this season that he is ready to take the next step and deserving of his title.
4. James Jones & Leon Landry – Desert Scorching
The achievement: James Jones & Leon Landry joined just ten other Minor League players in 2012 by totaling at least 10 doubles, 10 triples, 10 homeruns, and 10 stolen bases during the regular season.
2012 line: .341/.371/.584 with 18 triples (Landry) & .306/.378/.497 with 109 runs scored (Jones)
Landry made quite an impact after being acquired for Brandon League during the 2012 season. He hit for the cycle within two weeks of joining the organization and concluded his regular season leading the Minor League in triples (18). He finished 2012 with 34 doubles, 13 home runs, and 27 stolen bases to join this list.
Jones is a repeat addition to this list, doing the same in 2010 with the Clinton Lumberjacks amid batting .269 through 132 games. In 2012 he found himself the better in all categories finishing with 28 doubles, 12 triples, 14 home runs, and 26 stolen bases.
Both players are projected as the Top-2 lead-off candidates within the Mariners organization and both should expect to see playing time with Double-A Jackson in 2013.
3. Matt Brazis – Strikeout King
The achievement: Matt Brazis, drafted in 2012, threw heat in his inaugural professional season finishing T-2nd for the highest K/9 in Minor League baseball at 16.6.
2012 line: 0.65 ERA, 1 HR allowed, 51 Ks/5 BBs (10.2 K/BB ratio) through 27.2 IP
There is no alternative way to describe the numbers that Brazis put up in his inaugural season; downright filthy. In 18 appearances the Boston College graduate posted a 0.65 ERA alongside a 0.578 WHIP. He struck out 51 batters in 27.2 innings pitched, walking just five. His 10.20 SO/BB ratio led the Mariners system while his 16.6 K/9 tied him for second in Minor League baseball.
Although light-years away it is worth nothing that Braves Craig Kimbrel, master of the relief strikeout, posted a 16.7 K/9 statistic in 2012.
Brazis did not blink following his promotion to Clinton, throwing 19.1 innings of 0.93 ERA baseball. With many members of the Double-A Jackson Generals moving up, expect Brazis to be in consideration to make that jump forward in 2013.
2. Mike Zunino – Top Northwest Slugger
The achievement: Mike Zunino stormed the Northwest League, wrapping his stint with a .736 slugging percentage; the highest number of any 2012 Minor League Player in a singular league (min. 100 PAs).
2012 line: .360/.447/.689 with a 1.137 OPS
Zunino tore the cover off the ball in all-2012 settings, amateur and professional. His stint with the Everett Aquasox in the Northwest League was his third designation of the season, coming off the NCAA regular season and College World Series. He would finish the 2012 regular season with Double-A Jackson and finish his season in the Fall League with the Peoria Javelinas (2012 Champions). You cannot sugar coat his seasonal resume, that is a lot of baseball.
Despite playing in different environments the young catcher hit .335/.416/.652 with 88 extra base hits, 37 home runs, and 135 RBIs (NCAA, MILB, AFL). His .736 slugging percentage in the Northwest League in 29 games played was the highest statistic of any player in a singular league in 2012 (min. 100 PAs).
Lots of talk surrounds the placement of Zunino in 2013.. His Fall League showing behind the plate has the Mariners leaning towards Tacoma, though his bat is undoubtedly as valuable now as any player on their big league roster.
1. Brad Miller – Hits Machine
The achievement: Brad Miller finishes the 2012 Minor League regular season with 185 hits; trailing just Arizona Diamondbacks slugger, Adam Eaton (196) at all Minor League levels.
2012 line: .334/.410/.922 with a .388 BABIP
He didn’t bat .415, like he did in 2011, although if you glance at his numbers you wouldn’t rule it out. He joins Corey Dickerson (Rockies), Jackie Bradley (Red Sox), and Adam Eaton (Diamondbacks) as the only four players to register 40 doubles and steal 20 bases in 2012. His 40 doubles stand out when combined with his total of triples (7) and home runs (15). 62 extra base hits is an impressive number, even more impressive when such a large number counts for just 33% of your hit total. He flat out puts the bat on the ball, hitting a number of different arm angles and deliveries off the mound with ease.
Brad Miller has received high marks with his bat, albeit, with a swing that many scouts fail to put together. Scott E. Keltner, of Seedlings To Stars, wrote of Miller’s plate approach, “This guy squares up everything and while it’s not pretty from load to contact, the swings works very well.” Continuing to report, “He finds a way to make it work for him though, and he barrels balls to all fields.”
It’s all a part of developing. Expect the Seattle Mariners to work with Miller on replicating a fluid Major League swing. But after 185 base knocks in 2011, they might give him a get out of jail free card for this lesson.
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