Image credit: Mallex Smith (Photo by Denis Peroy/Getty Images)
Our latest bi-monthly look at all the baseball news and happenings out West.
The Mariners enter May near the top of the standings in the American League West. In order to stay there, they are going to have to turn things around defensively.
The Mariners have committed a MLB-high 37 errors through 32 games this season, putting them on pace for 182 errors. That would be the most errors by any team since the 1979 Braves had 183, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Further, it puts the Mariners uncomfortably close to the American League record for errors in a 162-game season. The 1961 Angels hold that distinction with 192 errors. The major league record for a 162-game season is 210 errors, accomplished by the 1962 and 1963 Mets, per the Elias Book of Baseball Records.
Both the 1961 Angels and 1962 Mets were expansion teams.
Shortstop Tim Beckham has been the primary culprit with 11 errors, followed by third baseman Ryon Healy (five), left fielder Domingo Santana (five), utilityman Dylan Moore (three) and catcher Omar Narvaez (three).
The good news is things stand to get a little better.
Former Gold Glove third baseman Kyle Seager is making progress in his rehab from hand surgery. His return will allow Healy to shift back to first base, where the latter is better suited and a likely improvement over current primary first basemen Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce. On Tuesday, the Mariners recalled Braden Bishop, long touted as a potential Gold Glove center fielder by scouts, from Triple-A while sending down Mallex Smith, whose defense had taken a surprising turn for the worse along with his offense.
Shortstop J.P Crawford has been much more sure-handed at Triple-A this year than during his stints with the Phillies last year, a step in the right direction toward fulfilling his prospect projection as an above-average or better defensive shortstop. If Crawford maintains his solid play, he becomes a viable upgrade at shortstop if Beckham’s 59-error pace becomes to much to bear. The path for shoring up left field and catcher is less clear, although Santana and Narvaez are hitting enough to live with their defense, provided everyone around them isn’t committing errors at a historic rate.
However they choose to handle it, the Mariners need to start showing improvement. Otherwise, they’ll go down as the most error-prone team in 40 years.
Visalia Wins 14 Straight
Visalia, the D-backs’ high Class A affiliate, ran off a franchise-record 14 game win streak that came to an end on April 26. The franchise had never previously won more than 12 straight games in 73 years of existence.
An impressive characteristic of the streak was the Rawhide’s ability to win close games. Five of their wins came by one run and three came by two runs.
A stout bullpen was a big reason why. Righthanders Luis Castillo (1.93 ERA, 18 K in 14 IP), Matt Brill (1.74, 20 K in 10.1 IP), Kyler Stout (25 K in 13 IP) and West Tunnell (3.38 ERA, 3 SV) have joined lefthander Junior Garcia (2.57, 20 K in 15 IP) to lead a stingy relief corps all season, each playing integral roles during the streak.
With that bullpen leading the way, Visalia has the second-best ERA in the California League this season (3.38) despite playing in one of the league’s most hitter-friendly home parks. Righthanders Cole Stapler (1.96 ERA, 26 K/1 BB in 23 IP), Josh Green (2.25 ERA) and Jeff Bain (1-1, 3.97) have the led the starting rotation.
Connor Lunn Takes To Starting
Connor Lunn began the year well-regarded as Southern California’s closer. Since moving to the starting rotation in mid-March, he’s raised his stock to a new level.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior righthander has assumed USC’s Friday night role and flourished. He is unbeaten in his last five starts, including victories over No. 1 UCLA and then-No. 7 Arizona State in back-to-back weeks, and he has allowed only one earned run in his last 21 innings pitched. He threw a complete-game shutout against Washington State on April 18 in just his seventh career start and followed up with six innings of one-run ball at Cal Poly last week. Overall, he is 6-1, 2.23 with 37 hits allowed, 24 walks and 54 strikeouts in 60.2 innings pitched.
Lunn has been succeeding with a fastball that sits 90-93 mph with natural cut and a high spin rate that generates lots of swings and misses at the top of the strike zone. He tunnels his breaking ball well off his fastball and stays off the barrel to avoid damage.
From a draft perspective, some evaluators believe Lunn still has room to grow and will throw even harder in pro ball. That projection, combined with his continued success a starter matching up against the opponent’s best arms every week, has Lunn rising steadily higher as a potential pick on the draft’s second day.
Curialle Approaches Lewis’ Record
Michael Curialle followed Royce Lewis as JSerra (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) High’s starting shortstop. He is now on the cusp of reaching one of his decorated predecessor’s records.
Curialle is two hits away from tying Lewis’ school record of 44 hits in a single season. He’s at 42 and counting, with JSerra set to open the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Thursday. It’s a hallowed record considering the program’s list of alumni, which includes Lewis and Padres catcher Austin Hedges playing professionally as well as UCLA infielder Chase Strumpf and Baylor infielder Davis Wendzel both projected to be high draft picks this year.
Curialle, a UCLA signee, was on evaluators’ radars before the season and has steadily improved his draft stock as the year has progressed. Strong and athletic in his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, he is currently in third- to fifth-round consideration for some teams.