July M's Minor League Players of the Month

Kivlehan stayed hot all month in High Desert

Seattle's system had some stand out performances in July. We highlight some of those performances and hand out our unofficial awards for the top player of the month of July at each of the nine levels inside.

Venezuelan Summer League

Yordi Calderon1B/3B/LF: .390/.505/.659 (32-82), 25 G
Having posted an OBP of .500 in his last 124 plate appearances (back to June 26th), Calderon may have overtaken teammate Gianfrancoe Wawoe as the favorite to win MVP honors in the small VSL with his performance over the last month and a half. That crazy stretch of games has his season numbers up to .346/.454/.597 with 33 extra base hits and 39 walks in 65 games. And while Yordi has been seeing a lot of time in left field and at first base, it is also nice to see that he has cleaned up his defense with only two errors in his last 32 games.

Dominican Summer League

Yeuri GonzalezRHP: 3-1, 1.55 ERA (5 ER, 29 IP), 1.00 WHIP
Although this is his fourth season pitching for Seattle in the Dominican, Gonzalez won't turn 21 until this winter. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has just 13 walks in 121 innings since the start of the 2012 season. Right-handed hitters have managed just a .203/.234/.277 slash with a 21.9% strikeout rate against Gonzalez this season. This is his first season as a full-time starter as all 10 of his appearances have been as a starter and he ranks 3rd in the league in innings pitched (60) and is also one of only three DSL pitchers averaging at least six innings a start (minimum eight starts).

Arizona Rookie League

Tyler O'Neill - LF: .318/.416/.470 (21-66), 19 G
The M's 3rd round pick in this year's draft, who I interviewed right before he signed, O'Neill is a player who gets compared a lot to Brett Lawrie, who is from the same travel team and was a pick of Zduriencik/McNamara while they were with the Brewers. He's 2nd on the AZL M's in TB (41) and RBI (15) despite only playing in 24 games to date. He's posting a strong BB rate of 11.0% and is at 9.0 for his XBH%, too. He turned 18 right before he was assigned to Peoria so he is very young, but he has a very strong bat and a hard-nosed style of play that could help him advance pretty quickly starting in 2014, when he'll probably skip to Everett.

Pulaski

Tyler SmithSS: .350/.412/.495 (36-103), 27 G
Smith was the lone M's draftee who made it deep into the College World Series, manning shortstop for the Oregon State Beavers. Pulaski has gone 20-9 since he joined the club and Smith is unquestionably a big reason why. The righty swinging shortstop ranked 4th in the league in OPS during the month of July (.907), cranking out 11 extra base hits and driving in 19 runs, usually from the No. 3 spot in Pulaski's order. He's also played very strong defense at short and showed great instincts in all aspects of the game in making him one of the top middle infielders to watch in the whole Appalachian League.

Everett

Lars HuijerRHP: 5-1, 0.82 ERA (3 ER, 33 IP), 0.70 WHIP
This 19-year-old Dutch right-hander has been generating a lot of buzz lately in Everett. Huijer, a Northwest League All-Star selection, has carried no-hitters into the 7th inning of each of his last two starts for Everett. Huijer was signed in June of 2011 and made it into 21 games in relief for Pulaski last year, but this year is really his first major exposure in the M's system as a starter. Huijer has yet to allow a home run in 2013 and is surrendering just 4.5 hits-per-nine through his first 51 2/3 innings this season. He leads the league in Wins (7) and WHIP (0.77) and is second in ERA (1.57) and fourth in strikeouts in the NWL.

Clinton

Timmy Lopes2B: .338/.372/.400 (27-80), 23 G
Seattle's 6th round pick out of high school in 2012 -- a round higher than his older brother was picked a year earlier by Toronto -- got off to a bit of a slow start in his aggressive MWL assignment this season, but he really picked things up in July, authoring the 9th highest average in the league during the month. He had an 11-game hitting streak to start the month and ended up raising his OPS .059 points during his strongest month of the year. Lopes has seen some time at shortstop for the LumberKings, but he's shown very good defense and quick reactions at second. He doesn't have ideal speed, but his line drive bat makes him a fit at 2nd, 8th or 9th in the order right now.

High Desert

Patrick Kivlehan3B: .303/.379/.495 (33-109), 29 G
Kivlehan had a pretty quiet start to his season in Clinton, but nevertheless, the 2012 NWL MVP was promoted to High-A after the All-Star break and he's responded by hitting very well. His OPS is up .101 points in the Cal League and he's doubled his home run output in just 2/3 of the games with the Mavs, bringing his combined season line up to .289/.355/.416 in his sophomore season in the system. While he's done most of his damage at home, Kivlehan has hit .298 and stroked five extra base hits to his name out of 14 knocks in his last 12 road games after collecting only five hits and one double in his first seven road contests. On top of the improvement in production, the former college defensive back has cut his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate while continuing to show promising speed on the bases (15 steals) for a big guy.

Jackson

Ji-Man Choi1B: .312/.430/.545 (24-77), 23 G
"The G-Man" has been grand for Jackson, slugging two Grand Slams and driving in 14 runs in his seven plate appearances with the sacks full for the Generals so far. The left-handed swinging Choi stung a ball is his only plate appearance in the Futures Game and he's shown a great approach all year while continuing to play solid defense at his new position of first base. After a slow start in Jackson he really came on over the last couple of weeks with consistency. Combined on the season Choi ranks 5th in the organization in Average (.309), 4th in HR (15) and tied for 1st in RBI (71) and is definitely in the conversation for the organization's Player of the Year Award at this point.

Tacoma

Ty Kelly - 2B: .329/.459/.459 (28-85), 23 G
Kelly came over from the Orioles in the Eric Thames trade in June and has been hitting for Tacoma ever since. The 25-year-old infielder made the jump from Double-A with the O's to Triple-A with the M's and has hit .333/.461/.452 in his 26 games since, drawing 22 walks to just 13 strikeouts in that time. In fact, he's one of the few Rainiers batters who are hitting right now. The left-handed hitter doesn't have home run power, but he hits line drives all over the park, leading to a 7.1 XBH% over the last two years, and Ty has an OBP well over .400 since the start of 2012, too. Kelly doesn't profile as a plus defender anywhere, but he has played defensively at second, third, left and right this year.

. . . . . . . . . .

There are our nine choices for July Minor League Players of the Month for the Seattle Mariners. Stay with SeattleClubhouse throughout the coming months as we bring you more coverage of the minors, and be sure to check in for the Player of the Month post next month as we give the same attention for August's standout performers.

Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.

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