The weekly race for the organization’s minor league pitcher and player of the week will often be hotly contested by the slew of top-notch prospects in Seattle Mariners organization. The lower levels are laced with great athletes with power, speed, and versatility that allow them to put up some pretty gaudy numbers across the board. The upper levels are jam-packed with high-ceiling starting pitchers, many of which are regarded as some of the best in all of baseball.
Having so many quality players throughout the system, one might assume that the two aforementioned weekly honors would be difficult to win, and usually that would be a correct assumption to make.
Not this week. Here they are:
POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Shin-Soo Choo
Choo, 21, raked his way to a .417 average, (10-24) with two homeruns, five RBI, seven runs scored, a triple, a double, a stolen base, and an outfield assist in six games for High-A Inland Empire. His hot-hitting and solid all-around play led the 66ers to five wins in those six games. For the season, Choo raised his average to .278 with six homeruns, 26 RBI, six triples and 10 stolen bases. His gold glove caliber defense continues to shine on a nightly basis as he runs down everything in sight. And his arm is one of the best of any outfielder in the Mariners system.
San Antonio infielder Jose Lopez, 19, hit a sizzling .385 (10-26), with three runs scored and three runs batted-in. Lopez improved his season totals to a .304 batting average, four homeruns and 32 RBI. Lopez’s teammate, 3B Justin Leone, had a strange week. Leone, 26, hit just .222 (6-27), but smacked two homeruns and drove in a robust nine runs.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK: Rafael Soriano
As easy as it was to see that Shin-Soo Choo was the best of the position players over the past seven days, it was even easier to see that Rafael Soriano was in a class all by himself in the pitching department. In two starts this week, Soriano went deep into close games and came out on top both times. He was simply un-hittable for the majority of both outings. Soriano came into the week after losing a tough game to Sacramento where he went head-to-head with Rich Harden, the Oakland Athletics top prospect. Tacoma sent him back out there versus Tucson, one of the best hitting teams in the minor leagues, and he simply shut them down. In his seven innings of work, the 23 year-old right-hander yielded just four hits and two earned runs while walking one and striking out 10 Sidewinders. Of the four hits, only one was solidly struck. In his second outing, a rematch with fellow super-prospect Rich Harden, Soriano was as good as he has been since his Texas League Championship performance in September of last year when he struck out 14 in seven scoreless innings. This time he went eight innings, allowing just two hits - one was a line drive homerun, the other a solid single up the middle. Soriano struck out eight and walked only one. For the week, Soriano put in 15 innings, giving up a stingy six hits, 3 earned runs, two walks, and 18 strikeouts. Soriano improved his 2003 ERA to 2.82 in 51 innings pitched. The hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League is hitting a measly .167 off of him. Rainier fans may not want to get too used to seeing him pitch every fifth day at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium. Soon they may have to travel up Interstate-5 for a chance to see Soriano, at SAFECO FIELD.
San Antonio Missions ace left-hander Travis Blackley, 20, went six more scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.18 for the year. Fellow lefty Glenn Bott, 22, went five gutsy innings in relief striking out 11 for the Inland Empire 66ers. Inland teammate Ryan Ketchner, 21, went seven solid innings, allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked just one. Ketchner’s ever-improving K/BB ratio has reached Pedro Martinez-like status at 68 to 10. 66ers lefty Troy Cate, a 2002 6th-round draft choice, was called up to do spot duty for injured Ken Cloude at Triple-A Tacoma and proceeded to impress. Cate, 22, went a solid 5.1 innings, allowed two earned runs on four hits, walked two and struck out six in a 4-3 Tacoma win.
Jason resides in North Tacoma, WA, where his father is his best friend, his mother has a better fastball than he does, and his nephew is the only person better suited for stardom. Feedback is always welcome at JasonAChurchill@cs.com.