The High-A West league was formed prior to the 2021 season and consists of six teams.
Everett AquaSox (Seattle Mariners)
Eugene Emeralds (San Francisco Giants)
Hillsboro Hops (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Spokane Indians (Colorado Rockies)
Tri-City Dust Devils (Los Angeles Angels)
Vancouver Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays)
In the first installment of this six-part series, I will look at the Everett AquaSox, the affiliate for the Seattle Mariners. Before the season began, the roster was being touted as one of the best teams in the Minor Leagues. There is no shortage of talent to choose from on the roster. A lot of people who follow prospects will be familiar with most of these players. That will not be the case with each team in the league.
The AquaSox currently sit atop the division by 1.5 games with a 20-12 record and a staggering +91 run differential. Overall, the team is led by a potential generational talent on offense and arguably one of the best rotations ever assembled in the lower Minors Leagues. While there will undoubtedly be major pieces that are lost to promotion, the quality and depth should make the team a very strong contender to win the league title at season’s end.
Julio Rodriguez, OF
2021 Stats : .343/.430/.616, 6 HR, 5 SB
It’s no secret Rodriguez is among the very best prospects in baseball. The assignment to High-A was surprising for such an advanced player his age. What could have been a setback for some, Rodriguez took as an opportunity to showcase his talent. While a promotion to Double-A could be on the horizon any day, the time spent with the Aqua Sox will be something fans from Everett will remember for years to come. The phenom took time away from the team to play with the Dominican Republic national team in the Olympic qualifiers and was one of the standouts of the event.
From a dynasty perspective, the combination of hit tool, power upside, and pure talent is hard to match. His athleticism is underrated, as evidenced by the 5 steals already. Rodriguez plays the game with a sense of joy and gives noticeable effort when he is on the field. You can tell he takes pride in what he does. The right-fielder is a gifted talent by any measure and could become a franchise player for the Seattle Mariners and dynasty managers alike.
WBSC ⚾🥎 (@WBSC) June
George Kirby, RHP
2021 Stats : 11 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 16 SO
As someone who has become enamored with his command and control profile, I was genuinely surprised when the organization assigned the 23-year old to High-A. I prefer organizations to challenge their top prospects, and part of that is competing against players the same age or with more professional experience. The team has taken a cautious approach with his innings to begin the season, perhaps in an attempt to manage is workload so he’s available deep in the season. He should handle the hitters at this level with relative ease.
While his skill set was intriguing when he was drafted, the addition of a fastball that can hit triple-digits to the arsenal has him drawing comparisons to some of the best pitchers in baseball. With his age, skill set, and the clear transition to a youth movement, the right hander should become an integral part of the future. Kirby is a coveted pitching prospect and should be on the fast track to the Majors. Some have suggested he may be the best pitcher in the Minor Leagues.
sat 98-100 (rumored a tick above.). Faced 8 thru the first 2 inn
striking out 6 (2 team errors) Only hittable ball was Foscue who
homered, but Kirby also got the best of him in an at-bat. Command all
day & 3 plus pitches. Here’s all 6 K’s 🔥#ProspectOne
The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) April
Emerson Hancock, RHP
2021 Stats : 12.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 11 SO
Selected 6th overall in the 2020 draft, Hancock is still working his way into form as a professional. The team is easing the righty in with shorter appearances, and it has produced mixed results thus far. The advanced college arm has a four-pitch arsenal, highlighted by a plus change-up that should begin to give hitters fits as he becomes acclimated.
His command and control should be beneficial as he rises through the system, but he must continue working on locating or he can become hittable in the zone. The organization may take a conservative approach this season, but the talented righty should be a fast riser through the system. Dynasty managers would be wise to invest in his services sooner than later, as the helium will only continue to rise once the results begin to match his pedigree.
MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May
Brandon Williamson, LHP
2021 Stats : 25.2 IP, 18 H, 10 ER, 7 BB, 51 SO
A 2nd round draft pick in 2019, Williamson is flashing immense upside for the Aqua Sox. The lefty had been overlooked in the organization due to higher-profile names, but he is making it impossible to ignore at this point. His 17.88 K/9 and astounding 50.0 K% currently lead all of the Minor Leagues. His 6.9 BB%, 0.97 WHIP and 2.88 FIP are all incredibly promising when paired with elite strikeouts.
If the 6-foot-6 lefty can show sustained improvements with his command and control, there is really no limit to his upside. He possesses a fastball that hits the upper 90’s, a plus curveball, and a developing change-up. Williamson may still be a tad underrated in dynasty circles at this stage, but that will not be the case for much longer. We will get a better sense of where he stands relative to the top pitching prospects once he reaches Double-A. Williamson is a highly recommended target in dynasty while the price is still reasonable.
Williamson vs Jarred Kelenic. Mariners have some legit arms on the way.
Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July
Zach DeLoach, OF
2021 Stats : .252/.345/.417, 4 HR, 4 SB
DeLoach burst onto the draft scene as a junior at Texas A&M after looking underwhelming his freshman and sophomore seasons. The Mariners bought into the breakout and selected him in the 43rd overall in the 2020 draft. The left-handed hitters’ hit tool has received praise throughout the organization since signing.
His ultimate upside feels a bit unknown at this stage since we have seen such vastly different versions. This year will be crucial for his development and will tell us a lot about whether or not his breakout in college was a mirage or the start of something big. DeLoach seems to be adjusting to pro ball at this stage and flashing signs of what he could become with more time to develop. He possesses enough speed in his profile that he could have notable value down the line if it all comes together.
Juan Then, RHP
2021 Stats : 19 IP, 14 H, 9 ER, 8 BB, 15 SO
With so many high-caliber arms in the system, it may surprise some to hear that Juan Then may have the most electric of them all. The flame-thrower routinely hits the upper 90’s with his fastball and supports it with a quality slider. The organization continues to use him in a traditional starter’s role, although many scouts believe his lack of an effective third pitch will ultimately lead to moving to the pen.
As a late-inning arm, he could profile similarly to Edwin Diaz, the former starting pitcher prospect who was fast-tracked as a reliever. The righty has the potential to be a high-end closer with an elite K%, so he is worth monitoring at the very least. Then is worth stashing now in deep dynasty leagues, and particularly those that give significant value to closers or high strikeout relievers.
Straight 🧀 from
Juan Then. pic.twitter.com/yX9EjiFKjZ
Mariners Player Development (@MsPlayerDev) April
Keep an eye on:
Carter Bins, C
An 11th round steal in the 2019 draft, Bins has been one of the standouts on the team. A strong defensive catcher with a good feel behind the plate, the development of his bat this season has many in the organization intrigued. He has been hitting cleanup and sports an outstanding .310/.425/.598 triple slash.
Austin Shenton, 3B
A 5th round pick in 2019, the righty was drafted for his ability to hit and mature approach at the plate. He is capable of driving the ball to all fields. The bat-first prospect could move quickly due to his age and advanced feel. Shenton receives praise for his makeup, but his athleticism leaves much to be desired. He is hitting .285/.393/.528 and could see Double-A this summer.
Kaden Polcovich, 2B
The 3rd round pick in 2020 out of Oklahoma State has shown a stronger hit tool than expected. Although he is a bit undersized, the switch-hitter’s ability to hit the ball to all fields and defensive versatility gives him a good floor. He broke out last week with 5 home runs and was named the High-A West Player of the week. (May 30-June 6)
Isaiah Campbell, RHP
The 74th pick in 2019 has been solid to begin the season. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he has the build to remain a starter. Like many of these players, we will get a better sense of his long-term outlook when Campbell faces more advanced competition. He profiles as an SP4 if he reaches his potential. His stuff could play up if the team ends up using him in a multi-inning reliever role.
Follow me on Twitter @MPRichards1981.