Every Monday we present a rundown of the best and worst performances from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal is to keep you up to date on your favorite M's prospects while also shining a little brighter light on some of the lesser known standouts in the system, spreading the coverage around and highlighting those that deserve it most.
With all of the recent MLB graduations, Seattle's system isn't nearly as top-heavy in talent as it has been in years past. But that means that there is more to be learned on some of the better prospects in the organization. Three Up, Three Down should help with that learning, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who still have MLB rookie status.
Seattle affiliates have had a rough time getting their games in between the rain drops, but when they did get a chance to play this past week, there were some standouts and some thuds. Here are those six players.
Austin Wilson - OF, Clinton LumberKings: .375/.429/.833 (9-24), 3 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 3 SO
Wilson started a little slowly last year in Everett before coming on strong late in the year. He had a few good games early this year but wasn't really consistently driving the ball, but he entered this week with a .730 OPS and ended it with an .860 OPS. Three multi-hit games, six extra base hits, a four-RBI game and a six-RBI game, all while doubling his season walk total and only striking out three times. The season line for Wilson now sits at .303/.375/.485 with a league leading 24 RBI for the LumberKings.
Wilson is a power bat and while he has just three home runs, he is out-slugging the Midwest League by more than .100 a month into the year. If he continues this hot streak he's on it is hard to imagine the Mariners keeping the 22-year-old in Clinton much past the All-Star break.
Cam Hobson - LHP, Jackson Generals: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 13 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, .191 oAVG
An 11th round pick in 2011, Hobson has pitched very well for the Generals this year -- and very well in Double-A overall, including last season --and he turned in two shutout starts this past week for Jackson, keeping both Mobile and Pensacola off the scoreboard. The left-hander walked just two this past week and hasn't walked more than two in any of his six starts this year. He's now allowed more than three earned runs just once in nine Double-A starts, going six or more innings in six of those games.
Hobson has only struck out 12 hitters on the year in 35 2/3 innings after entering the year at 7.0 SO/9, but he's getting a lot of soft contact and shutting down left-handers (.100/.182/.250) while keeping right-handers at bay (.243/.298/.342). The 25-year-old southpaw has enough stuff to get more strikeouts -- featuring a solid slider and a fastball that touches 93 -- but until he starts to do so, it will be hard to project much more than Double-A success for him.
Jabari Henry - OF, High Desert Mavericks: .348/.483/.696 (8-23), 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 BB, 5 SO
Henry started 2013 as the organization's hottest hitter, starting May flirting with .400 and with an OPS well north of 1.000 for most of the Midwest League's first half. But even a late-season surge couldn't salvage his time in High Desert last year, as the right-handed hitter ended up with a slash of just .238/.336/.438 for the Mavs. Back in High Desert to start 2014, Henry just got to the Mendoza line at the end of last week before going on an offensive tear this week. Three multi-hit games, four extra base hits, four multi-RBI games and five walks jumped his season OPS all the way up to 1.088.
Henry is a bit mis-cast in center field and he probably doesn't run well enough to hit near the top of the order, either, but the 23-year-old has enough power (six homers) and plate discipline (11 walks, 13 strikeouts) to make him and interesting prospect to keep tabs on. He seems to make adjustments well and is hitting right-handers better than left-handers in the early going this year, which is a good sign.
Nick Franklin - SS/2B, Tacoma Rainiers: .150/.227/.150 (3-20), 3 RBI, 2 BB, 7 SO
Franklin was recalled to Seattle in the middle of April sporting a 1.214 OPS, but he's gone just 6-for-28 since being sent back down to Tacoma. This past week he had some strikeout issues once again and picked up only three singles. His season numbers are still very good (.324/.407/.563), but the early season offensive explosion that forced the Mariners to recall him has certainly cooled. The switch-hitting middle infielder has seen just seven plate appearances from the right side (his weak side) and hasn't played the outfield once for Tacoma.
Judging by the way he's been handled this year, the Mariners seem to not really know what to do with Franklin. If they want to keep his bat as an option at the big league level it would make sense to start playing him in the outfield, but the club seems intent on keeping him at second base and shortstop, making another recall seem unlikely in the near future.
Jordy Lara - 1B, High Desert Mavericks: .240/.269/.440 (6-25), 2 2B, HR, 6 RBI, BB, 14 SO
Lara made his way on the "Up" side of this feature just last week, where I lauded his improvement in plate discipline in the season's early going. Too soon, it appears. He still produced this week, but one walk and 14 strikeouts is an ugly reminder of why Lara -- in his sixth year in Seattle's system -- is still in just High-A. He's a hitter with power, but he's very aggressive at the plate and that works against him as pitchers attack that aggression.
Lara was moved off of third base in last season's second half, probably for good. He's seen a little bit of action in the outfield, but first base is his likely long-term defensive home. That means that the right-handed hitting 23-year-old will need to maximize production with his bat to get any kind of serious look. He has good batspeed and power to all fields, but the plate discipline needs to be cleaned up.
Tim Lopes - 2B, High Desert Mavericks: .154/.214/.308 (4-26), 2 3B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 6 SO
Still just 19, the Mariners gave Lopes' late second-half performance from 2013 a lot of weight and assigned him to the Cal League -- where he is the fourth youngest player -- to open this season. He hasn't been able to recapture his form from that stretch last summer (when he hit .328 in the last two months) yet, enjoying just one multi-hit game to date and never ending a day with his average above .200 despite playing in perhaps the best hitting environment in pro ball. Lopes started all seven games this week and reached base in five of them but his season slash is still just .167/.245/.271.
The club's 6th round pick in 2012, Lopes has been outstanding thus far defensively at second base for the Mavs, but his bat hasn't been able to handle the pitching of the Cal League yet, thanks to his youth and experience. He's striking out in only 17.9% of his plate appearances so far, so the bat is getting to the ball, he just isn't getting much to show for it. Despite his struggles, Lopes always gets talked up for his maturity and mental approach to the game, and the ability to adjust that he showed last year should help him again in 2014.
That does it for this week. Check back in next Monday for more Three Up, Three Down, and stick with SeattleClubhouse throughout the year for reports from all of the Mariners' affiliates.
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