A month ago it was all about Edwin Arroyo, and while the 19-year-old had a terrific May, he’s got company this time.
Arroyo hit .300/.377/.539 with six homers last month, but his teammate had a monster month in the power department.
Robert Perez posted a .258/.352/.645 May with 10 homers and six doubles. He’s moved into my Top 30, but I still have questions about his ability to hit.
Despite all the power, Perez struck out 36 times in 105 plate appearances in May, and a .258/.352 slash, while good, isn’t exactly Julio Rodriguez territory. Add to that Perez is 22 years of age this month as well as repeating the league and level, and we have a red-hot hitter with a lot to prove, still.
For the year, however, Perez is batting .271/.371/.594 with 15 homers and 10 doubles. He’s drawn 24 walks against 54 strikeouts in 202 plate appearances. He’s at No. 23 in my rankings right now, but to stay there or move up, he’s going to have to earn his way to High-A Everett and perform there, too. In order to get there anytime soon, I imagine the Mariners will want to see more consistent contact than he’s shown the past five weeks.
But Perez’s performance isn’t simply the same athlete with the same swing finding a hot streak. There are reasons to remain curious about how real it might be. He’s added strength to his lower half, is less rotational, and his swing is more powerful than in previous seasons.
He’s always had some bat-to-ball skills, but has learned to create backspin, and the naked eye tells me he’s covering the inner half of the plate significantly better than ever before. I mean, go watch a few games and you’ll likely see him yank a couple of long balls to left field with big-time authority.
Joseph Hernandez, RHP — Modesto (A)
The soon-to-be 22-year-old has been outstanding this season for the Nuts in nine games, eight starts, covering 45.1 innings. He’s allowed just 32 hits (.204 BAA), has punched out 54 batters and walked 17.
Hernandez is a three-pitch arm, sitting 91-94 mph with the fastball and commanding a slider that flashes plus. He also commands an average changeup.
What makes Hernandez tough to hit is his consistency control with stuff that moves from a low three-quarter arm slot. The heater has late life and can induce a few whiffs up in the zone. But he pitches backward a lot, throwing his slider for strikes early in counts and either going upstairs with the fastball in favorable counts or sweeping the slider off the plate versus right-handed batters.
Hernandez’s pro track record is shallow, and he hadn’t started a game in affiliated ball until this season, but he was signed as a 5-foot-11, 150-pound athlete with 35 control and good arm speed. He’s throwing a lot more strikes this season, though 17 walks in 45.1 innings is too many.
His listed size cant be right, either. He’s still shown at 5-11, 150, but is probably at least 6-1 and 175, but while his size remains far from prototypical, I’m more curious about whether or not his arm action allows for another step or two in terms of control and command. His arm break fairly late from his glove, but he rushes his arm through its path during his high-effort delivery.
Hernandez has a shot to start considering his ability to throw strikes with three pitches, but long-term is more likely to show up in the big leagues in a relief role, where durability and control aren’t magnified. But he’s a lot of fun to watch, hides the ball pretty well as a result of the arm action, and shows some savvy by varying the speed on the slider.
Hernandez was actually better in April in four starts than his five outings in May, but he’s building a bit of an in-season resumé in May — or resuMay, if you will (bows), and has earned mention here, without question.
Taylor Dollard, RHP — Arkansas (AA)
Dollard has been terrific all year, incessantly pounding the strike zone with all three pitches (seven walks in 36.1 innings), and he’s finally stretched out enough to go deep in games — and he has.
After starting the season with three short, pitch-limited outings, Dollard has gone seven or more in back-to-back starts, and leads the Texas League in ERA. He’s third in BB/9 and fourth in ground ball rate (46.8%).
Dollard is a command-and-feel righty with a fastball living in the low-90s and touching 94-95 on occasion. There’s glove side sink and arm side run, and he commands the pitch well to both sides. His slider and curveball are both average pitches, and repeats his delivery. As a starter, Dollard projects to the back of a big-league rotation.
I think he’s a very intriguing candidate to flip to the bullpen, inject more effort into the delivery and see how much the stuff plays up as a result. He’s a good athlete and also has a curveball somewhere deep in his repertoire, but unless he’s going to add more velocity there’s not enough upside for me to let him rot as a No. 5. And there’s too much potential to waste.
Dollard gave up his first five runs of the season in 28.1 frames last month, but still has yet to yield a home run.
Bryce Miller, RHP — Everett (A+)
Miller has gone at least five innings in all eight starts this season, and walked just five of 108 batters faced in May. Seattle has him throwing 80-90 pitches per start, though he did get to 100 April 16, so he’s settled in after throwing just 9.1 innings last summer following the draft.
He’s typically 92-95 mph, but has touched 97, and his slider and changeup both are weapons he can miss bats with in a given outing. His 6.3% walk rate is key here, as is the consistent performances that have included command and consistent usage of his entire arsenal.
His work versus left-handed batters is impressive, too: .217/.305/.289, 23% K.
While there’s no question his workload will be somewhat limited this season, I don’t believe he’s going to have to be shut down in order for Seattle to manage his innings. He threw 66 innings total last season between college and the minors, and enters June at just 43.1 for the year.
For comparison, Logan Gilbert, after not pitching at all in 2020 and getting only the workout site sessions, went to 124.1 last season. Granted, all pitchers are different and Gilbert is bigger than Miller, it suggests clean deliveries and starts without a lot of stressful pitches go a long way.
I expect Miller to see Double-A Arkansas for at least the final six weeks of 2022, but it would not surprise if he gets there in June. He’s been outstanding and very consistent in the Northwest League, and if the club waits too long he’ll run out of innings.
NOTES: RHP Michael Morales projects to have three above-average secondaries. He’s low-90s now, touching 93-94, and could end up sitting 93-95 mph, scraping 96. Still a lot of development left, including shoring up some delivery stuff so he can repeat and throw more trikes, but the pitchability is off the charts. Morales, part of the club’s 2021 draft class, is among many showing plenty this season from a scouting and projection standpoint (despite some uneven results, including his final start of May on Tuesday). Arroyo (2nd round), and Miller (4th round) have starred this season, too, but they’re not alone. Righty Andrew Moore (14th round) is the No. 2 relief prospect in the system with huge velocity nearing triple digits with movement, and a nasty breaking ball. William Fleming (11th round) looks like a big-league arm, too, though perhaps more as a reliever than the starting role he’s serving in right now. Both Moore and Fleming probably see Everett this season. Jordan Jackson (10th round) has flashed a bit, too…
Victor Labrada fell off my Top 30 over the winter as a 22-year-old who swung and missed too much and didn’t hit after a promotion to Everett. He started poorly at the plate with the AquaSox this season, too, but after a quick stop in Modesto where he went 9-for-22, the left-handed batter is hitting .291/.361/.382 in 15 games back with Everett. He’s still striking out too much (16 times in 61 PAs, 26%) considering he’s a contact hitter with speed and has no chance to hit for meaningful power, but this is progress for the speedy centerfielder…
Just as I typed the previous sentence about Labrada, Arroyo sliced a liner to left for a base hit and he’s now my favorite Mariners prospect…
Infielder Donovan Walton is playing in the bigs for the San Francisco Giants right now, suggesting San Francisco perhaps valued Walton more than Seattle could. The key here is the Mariners got value in return in the form of right-hander Prelander Berroa (No. 18). In his three starts for Everett, the 22-year-old has been up and down a bit, but has fanned 16 of the last 36 batters he’s faced, including nine in five frames versus Spokane May 26, a game in which he allowed just one hit and one walk. Berroa is a legit prospect with mid-90s heat and a slider that flashes…
The Arizona Complex League (and Dominican Summer League) gets under way next week — June 6, to be exact. Among the names to keep an eye out for in Peoria: OF Gabriel Gonzalez (No. 8), LHP Juan Pinto (No. 16), OF George Feliz (No. 19), and IFs Michael Arroyo (No. 20), and Starlin Aguilar (No. 26). I’ma lso on the lookout for CF Luis Bolivar (No. 28), the fastest runner in the system, SS Martin Gonzalez (No. 32), and 2B Edryn Rodriguez (No. 33).
Jason A. Churchill
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