LHP Travis Blackley (Photo: Seattle Mariners)
This past week the farm has seen more players go down with injuries, a few weather postponements, and more struggles from the big club in Seattle... again. One thing we have not seen is an end to the dominating play of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. That's reflected in the amount of Rainiers in the mix for Player of the Week honors this week at InsidethePark.com.
Position Player of the Week Finalists:
3. Jose Lopez, SS/3B, Tacoma Rainiers
Lopez continues to impress the Mariner brass with his solid all-around play. His bat is what opens eyes, however, and this week Lopez took another step toward a starting spot in the Mariner infield. The 20-year-old went 6-18 (.333) with two home runs and three RBI. The top positional prospect in the organization scored seven runs, and showed a lot of plate discipline, walking three times to raise his season total to 12. Lopez is hitting .271 with eight home runs and 17 RBI for the year.
2. Jamal Strong, CF, Tacoma Rainiers
Strong seems to have gotten back to form after a hamstring injury sat him down for three weeks. The 25-year-old went 10-27 ( .370) with a home run and three RBI this past week. Strong hasn’t begun to set the base paths on fire of yet, but is clearly back on track at the plate. Getting on base and scoring runs is the main objective for the lead off batter and Strong is doing just that. His eight runs scored for the week are evidence that he is not only swinging the bat well, but being selective at the plate and forcing the pitcher to go deeper int the count. Strong is hitting .330 for the season and carries a .407 on base percentage into the new week.
InsidethePark.com Position Players of the Week:
Justin Leone, 3B/OF, Tacoma Rainiers
Leone’s week was shortened when he took a fastball off of his left arm on Friday night but his numbers show two or three weeks worth of production. The Saint Martin’s College product was 5-13 (.385) with four home runs and eight RBI. Leone had a hit in all four games he played in and was tied for the league lead in home runs until the bruised arm kept him out of action over the weekend. Leone is hitting .262 with 13 homers and 24 RBI on the season and is expected to be back in the lineup sometime during the first series of the upcoming road trip.
Bucky Jacobsen, DH, Tacoma Rainiers
The Buck just doesn’t stop here in Tacoma. Jacobsen had eight hits in 24 at-bats, five of the extra-base variety, and drove in 11 more runs to bring his season total to 38, second in the PCL and tops in the organization. Jacobsen blasted three home runs, including a game-winner on Saturday night to hand the Rainiers a 5-3 win after trailing 2-1 for much of the game. Jacobsen is hitting .311 with 10 home runs to anchor down the vaunted Rainier offense.
Wladimir Balentien, OF, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Possibly the top power prospect in the Mariner farm system, Balentien has had some issues with making contact on a regular basis and was headed into the “all-or-nothing” zone. After sitting out two weeks with a sore shoulder, Balentien seems to have flipped the switch and seen the light. The 19-year-old slugger went 8-16 (.500) with three home runs and 10 RBI this past week. Two of the bombs came in one game, as did half of the runs batted in. More importantly, Balentien struck out just once in 18 plate appearances, and was much more selective at the dish. The Aruban Assassin leads the Rattlers in homers (5), steals (6), slugging percentage (.535), and batting average (.267).
Pitcher of the Week Finalists:
5. Matt Thornton, LHP, Tacoma Rainiers
The former first-rounder had what was possibly his best start of the season on Thursday night versus Omaha. Getting into the sixth-inning, he fell a little short of his pre-game goal of six full frames but after shutting out the Royals on just three hits over 5.1 innings, the Rainiers were obviously pleased with the progress. Thornton won his fourth-straight decision to move to 4-1 on the year and set himself up for a breakthrough outing in his next start.
4. Bryan Heaston, RHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Heaston has been solid all season as a middle reliever for the Rattlers, and had another fine week with a four innings stint versus West Michigan on Thursday. Heaston followes starting pither Ryan Feierabend with four shutout innings to allow the T-Rats offense time to take the lead. The 23-year-old allowed just two hits and struck out five to pick up his third win of the season. Heaston is now 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 16 appearances.
3. Jason Mackintosh, LHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Mackintosh made his first start of the season after 12 relief appearances, and exceeded any expectations that Rattler manager Steve Roadcap could have had coming in. Mackintosh went 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out six and did not walk a batter in a no-decision versus Cedar Rapids. Mackintosh is 0-1 with a team-best 2.45 ERA in 13 games this season.
2. Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP, Inland Empire 66ers
Rowland-Smith tossed seven strong innings over two appearances, striking out six and walking just one. The Australian-born southpaw made a spot start versus the Lancaster JetHawks and went five strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits. Earlier in the week, the 21-year-old made a relief appearance and went two perfect innings, striking out two and picking up the win. Rowland-Smith is 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA on the season, and has a team-leading three saves to his credit.
InsidethePark.com Pitcher of the Week
Travis Blackley, LHP, Tacoma Rainiers
The 21-year-old started two games this past week and was nails in each. Allowing just one earned run at Memphis over six innings, the left-hander came back at home versus Omaha and dominated their entire lineup for seven frames. Blackley allowed just five hits in 13 innings for the week, striking out 10, including nine in Sunday’s start against Omaha.
Blackley started off slow against Omaha, getting deep into counts, forcing his pitch count to be a factor early on. The Aussie settled down quite nicely and skated through the final five innings without any trouble at all and at times looking as good as he ever has. It was his finest outing of the season thus far.
The M’s top left-handed pitching prospect picked up two wins and moved to 4-2 on the season with a 2.96 ERA in eight starts.
Rainiers 1B A.J. Zapp hit in all six games last week and now has a 10-game hitting streak
San Antonio infielder Hunter Brown continues his solid month of May with seven hits in 21 at-bats, and four RBI for the week
Juan Gonzalez, Inland Empire’s lead off hitter, had eight more hits to raise his season total to 54, tops in the system
T.J. Bohn had two more home runs and seven RBI to add to his power totals for the year. Bohn now has six home runs and 26 driven in
Inland Empire reliever Miguel Martinez picked up a win and a save in two outings this past week. Covering three innings, the 20-year-old didn’t allow a base runner and struck out four
Rainiers reliever Randy Williams tossed 3.2 scoreless frames, allowing just two hits. Williams is flying in under the radar with a 1.46 ERA on the year
Future ace Felix Hernandez pitched six solid innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs. The “Teenage Terminator” struck out seven and earned his fourth win of the season
T-Rats closer Brian Stitt picked up save No. 9 in 1.2 perfect innings. Stitt sports a 2.53 ERA and anchors the Rattlers bullpen
Vince Faison made his first appearance of his Mariners career with the Inland Empire 66ers. The forgotten man acquired in the Jeff Cirillo deal with the Padres, he went 5-12 with a home run in his first week on the job
Inland Empire 2B Hyung Cho went 5-17 with a home run and two doubles for the week. The 23-year-old has picked up where Ismael Castro left off before suffering a season-ending knee injury earlier this month
Tacoma relief ace George Sherrill racked up six more strikeouts to raise his total to 40 on the season. The left-hander still ranks in the top 15 in the PCL in K’s, sitting in the 13th spot
Jason resides in Tacoma, Wash., the home of the best professional baseball team in the entire northwest region. These days Jason laughs loudly at Luke’s Power Rankings, wonders why Mariner fans blame Bob Melvin and Bill Bavasi but not the millionaire players that take the field everyday, and is sickened by the fact that George Sherrill is still in the minor leagues. Feedback, suggestions, and comments are always welcome at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com.