Results aren't typically what the club is looking for from their players that participate in off-season leagues. The players are generally sent to these leagues with assignments of specific areas of focus and improvement--be it better fastball command or cutting down on strikeouts, etc.
That said, statistics do still tell part of the story of how well those assignments are being handled. With that in mind, here now is a breakdown of some of the players enjoying statistical success in the three off-season leagues involving Mariners players that are underway.
Chih-Hsien Chiang, Peoria Javelinas (AFL)
After leading the Eastern League in hitting early, Chiang never really got his bat going in Double-A Jackson following his trade to the Mariners at the deadline. His strikeout rate climbed and his walk rate plummeted while he had difficulties ever putting together anything resembling a streak of success at the plate. As a 6-year minor leaguer, Chiang's assignment to the AFL was a chance for the M's to get a further look at him before making a determination as to whether or not he deserved a spot on the 40-man roster this winter.
The left-handed hitting outfielder has shown signs of life through his first seven games of action for Peoria, hitting .320/.433/.480 while drawing five walks and collecting three extra base hits for the Javelinas. He ranks 21st in the AFL in OPS (.913) and has added a stolen base to his resume as well. He has also seen some time in center field, a move that would certainly make him a more valuable prospect if he can handle the position defensively.
Hopefully Chiang can continue his early success and show the Mariners, and himself, that his .517 OPS in 32 games with the Generals was not a true representation of his talents.
Forrest Snow, Peoria Javelinas (AFL)
When you look up fast-moving, surprise prospects in the dictionary, a picture of right-hander Forrest Snow very well might come up next to the definition. A 36th round pick out of college in 2010 (where he posted a 6.30 ERA in his final season), he lit the minor leagues on fire in 2010 going a combined 0-1 with a 0.60 ERA and 0.73 WHIP with 52 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen. His 2011 wasn't much less impressive as he carried an 8.0 SO/9 rate through 143 1/3 innings in 28 appearances (21 starts) across three levels, reaching Triple-A Tacoma for nine appearances to end the season.
In his first three AFL appearances Snow has continued to dazzle, with eight strikeouts and just two baserunners allowed (1 hit, 1 walk) through 6 1/3 scoreless innings of work. His fastball has generally been in the 92-94 range, a curveball, a changeup, and--as Snow told me the other day--he has been working in a splitter on occasion as well.
Snow's work in the AFL may very well determine if the club wants to move forward with him in the rotation or consider him as a bullpen option for the big league club in 2012. His velocity plays up in the pen, but his full repertoire could still work as a starter, so 2012 could also be another year in the minors fine-tuning his secondary offerings and command.
Carlos Peguero, Gigantes del Cibao (DWL)
Peguero, as Mariners fans saw early in the season, has mammoth power, but even after he was sent back down to the minor leagues, his plate discipline and pitch recognition are far from ideal. His strikeout total of 136 in just 413 plate appearances combined in the major and minor leagues this season (paired with just 23 walks) are tough to look at, but his 19 home runs and 41 extra base hits are a sign of his potential.
As I covered in the Dominican League prep piece last week, Peguero tied for the 5th most strikeouts in this league last season despite having the 58th highest at bat total. It is early, but through his first three games this season, Carlos is showing some encouraging trends: he does have three strikeouts in three games, but he also has drawn two walks and has hit two doubles.
He obviously is already on the 40-man roster, and the club says he made strides defensively. On top of that, he hits left-handed and obviously has big power, so he may be an option as a back-up outfielder on the 2012 roster.
Jarret Grube, Cardenales de Lara (VWL)
Grube had a very impressive first start for manager Pedro Grifol in the Venezuelan League last week: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB and 7 SO. Unlike most players here, Grube isn't a young buck. He came to the Mariners as a minor league free agent signing in 2010 out of the Independent Leagues after playing six seasons for the Colorado Rockies organization who drafted him in the 10th round in 2004.
A 6-foot-4 right-hander, Grube posted a 3.88 ERA and 1.17 WHIP across two levels this season for Seattle in 2011 with 21 starts in 28 appearances. Unless I missed the announcement of his re-signing, he'll be a free agent again this offseason, so this is an audition not just for the Mariners, but for all MLB teams. As a guy that has stuck it out and bounced around on his journey to fulfill his dream to be a big leaguer one day, I hope he is back with Tacoma in 2012.
Of note: Former Mariners farmhand Nathan Adcock--dealt to Pittsburgh in the Jeff Clement/Ronny Cedeno/Ian Snell/Jack Wilson trade and since plucked up by the Royals in the Rule V draft from a year ago--was named AFL pitcher of the week for the Arizona Fall League's week two.