Each Monday during the minor league season, I will give our readers a rundown of the best and worst from the minor league week that was within the Seattle Mariners system. The focus will be to concentrate only on true prospects, but if any player has an exceptionally noteworthy good (or bad) week, he could appear here as well. This isn't necessarily a "stock going up" or "stock going down" on the player, just simply a recap of their week.
The goal is to not only keep you up to date on the goings on, but to try and give you a better look of what talent is in the system by spreading the coverage around.
With the four-team Venezuelan Summer League finally underway, we have one more group to keep an eye on, and it actually has several interesting names on the roster. We highlight one of those players and cover five other names in this week in review of the Mariners minor leagues with Three Up, Three Down.
Carlos Peguero - Tacoma Rainiers: .321/.400/.857 (9-28), 5 HR, 14 RBI, 3 BB, 10 SO
Peguero did have the second most strikeouts of any player in the PCL this past week, but he also blasted five homers and averaged two RBI per game while driving in at least one for every game during the week. And while he'll never be confused with Wade Boggs on the plate discipline side of things, the three walks is a nice touch to the total package, too.
He's now hitting .329/.411/.763 with nine home runs (and 26 strikeouts) in just 20 games this year for the Rainiers and it is becoming clear that Triple-A doesn't pose much of a challenge to the big fella anymore. And after drawing just six unintentional walks in 155 plate appearances as a rookie in 2011 for the Mariners, the 25-year-old Peguero drew 19 in 45 games in Winter Ball and has picked up nine with the Rainiers in the early going. With the big league club still struggling for offense, it may be time to give Peguero and his massive power another big league chance.
Danny Hultzen - Jackson Generals: 0-0, 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 SO
For the third straight week, Hultzen was dynamite for the Generals while turning in what was arguably his best start to date as a pro. Six strong innings highlighted by a career high 12 strikeouts has Hultzen looking every bit the part of the No. 2 pick from a year ago. It also has him looking like a likely candidate for a promotion to at least Tacoma soon.
He did have a couple starts this year where his command wasn't great, but with three outstanding starts in a row and just two walks against 20 strikeouts over 13 innings in his last two games, his ERA is now down to 1.78 through nine starts and opponents are batting just .146 in 200 plate appearances off of Danny: .093/.210/.130 versus lefties and .171/.287/.265 versus right-handed hitters. He may not be in Seattle until late this summer or early fall, but it looks very promising for the future with the results he's been posting thus far.
Alexy Palma - VSL Mariners: .533/.667/1.067 (8-15), 2 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 6 BB, 2 SO
It's a little silly to put too much stock in stats from foreign rookie league ball, but when a player goes out and simply dominates for a stretch, it's still a sign that some things are going well. This past week saw Palma -- a 2009 International signing from the same class as Guillermo Pimentel, Alfredo Morales and Ji-Man Choi in his third season in the organization -- lead the VSL in AVG, HR, RBI, OBP, SLG and OPS while continuing on his hot start.
Now 19, Palma has shown good plate discipline and decent gap power over the past two seasons in Venezuela, but he seems to be taking it to the next level in 2012 as he leads the circuit in walks (12 in 11 games) and has struck out just six times while seeing half of his hits go for extra bases on the young season. That fits the profile that he had when signing of a right-handed bat with projectable, developing power. Perhaps the club will see enough in Palma early to warrant a move stateside at some point in '12, in which case we could all get a much better handle on just what type of prospect he is.
Forrest Snow - Tacoma Rainiers: 1-0, 6.30 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, 10 IP, 13 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, 11 SO
If it is starting to feel like Snow is on this list a lot, it's because he is. Struggling with his command all season, Forrest finally cleaned up the control, walking a season low one in his Sunday start, but unfortunately that didn't solve his issue with giving up runs as Tucson tallied six off the tall right-hander in the first five innings.
Snow picked up his first win of the season on Monday, but wasn't very good then, and as I touched on in the podcast this week, he just seems to be struggling everywhere in his game right now. For the '12 campaign Forrest is averaging less than five innings per start, is getting beat up by both lefties (.284/.404/.511) and righties (.300/.372/.464) and -- despite a good strikeout total overall on the season -- is struggling to put batters away more often than not. Now an ugly 10 starts (7.79 ERA, 1.81 WHIP) into the season, can he turn this trend around and still make 2012 productive, or is Forrest finally starting to perform like the 36th round pick that he is?
Denny Almonte - Jackson Generals: .179/.273/.286 (5-28), HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 11 SO
Almonte -- who gave a fantastic interview to SeattleClubhouse just about a week ago -- has really impressed in the early going this season, but when the strikeout numbers start to pile up again, it makes you wonder if he can sustain the early success. The league worst 11 strikeouts over the last week are slightly mitigated by the four bases on balls, and the home run this week was Denny's first in almost a month, but his 0-6, 5 K game on the 23rd (not his worst game of the year, as he went 0-7 with 6 Ks back on 4/15) are a clear sign that his contact issues aren't completely behind him.
After a .337/.394/.605 month of April, Denny is now hitting under .200 for the month of May now (.198/.315/.253). Almonte is likely looking forward to turning the calendar to June from his new spot at the top of the Generals' batting order, where hopefully the emphasis on patience will help Denny stay on track with his pace to blow by his previous career best of walks (29), as he has 22 in the first 48 games already. Still, it would be nice if the base hits and extra base power started to show up a bit more often.
Brandon Maurer - Jackson Generals: 0-1, 4.35 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 10 1/3 IP, 16 H, 5 ER, 2 HB, 4 BB, 12 SO
Although he actually did a pretty fair job of damage control, Maurer surrendered the most hits in the Southern League this past week as opposing batters hit .356 off the big right-hander. And while he has a winning record (2-1) and a decent ERA (4.38) through his first 10 starts for Jackson this season, this week's performance is indicative of the overall season Maurer is having so far in Double-A.
Maurer has good sinking action on his fastball and tends to get a good number of ground balls, but his stuff is also good enough to miss some bats as he can touch the mid-90s at times. And it seemed early in the season that he wasn't missing enough. But while he has turned that around somewhat in May (23 Ks in 25 1/3 after just 13 Ks in 26 IP in April), it seems to be coming at the expense of getting easy outs and lower pitchcount innings. Left handed batters are hitting Maurer to the tune of .333/.385/.486 in 105 at bats and the league is hitting .353 in May off of him. The big righty needs to get back on track while finding a balance between getting strikeouts and limiting damage.