Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Paxton's week could be a building block

As we do every Monday at SeattleClubhouse, delivering the best and worst performances from around the Mariners minor leagues over the past seven days with Three Up, Three Down.

Each Monday during the 2013 minor league season, I will again give our readers a rundown of the best and worst from the minor league week that was within the Seattle Mariners system. The goal is to concentrate only on true prospects (age 26 and under and not on the big league roster), but if any player has an exceptionally noteworthy good (or bad) week, he could appear here as well. The goal is to not only keep you up to date on the goings on, but to try and give you a better look of what talent is in the system by spreading the coverage around.

With the All-Star break here at the major league level as well as at Triple-A and Double-A, this Monday serves as a good checkpoint on the year. Who is struggling? Who is excelling?

We take a look at three players on either side of the spectrum today with this weeks installment of Three Up, Three Down.

THREE UP

James Paxton - SP, Tacoma Rainiers: 1-1, 1.69 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 16 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO, .211 oAVG
Paxton threw his first career complete game and shutout to start the week off then followed that up with probably his second best outing of the year on Saturday, throwing seven innings and striking out six batters without walking anyone in a tough loss. The big left-hander had a slow start to his season but has now been very good in five of his last six outings and has lowered his ERA from 5.70 to 4.58 in the process. The 24-year-old has also been more efficient of late, going six or more innings in four of his last six starts and cutting his pitches per inning down to 15.3 from 19.1 in that span.

Command is always the key with Paxton -- who has touched 96 or 97 late in games in each of his last two starts -- as his stuff is plus. But the command can wane when his mechanics get out of whack, and that has happened a lot this year. If he stays on track in the second half for Tacoma then he very well could see Seattle before the year is out.

Tyler Olson - SP, Everett Aquasox: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.22 WHIP, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO, .036 oAVG
Olson was brilliant in his fifth start in Everett as he allowed just a sixth inning single and walk on his way to the first shutout in the Northwest League this season and his first win as a pro. He went five no-hit innings in his second outing of the season but got a no-decision in that game. The 10 strikeouts in Wednesday's start gave him the high-water mark for the week in the league, despite there being a number of pitchers that saw more than one start. The 6-foot-3 lefty out of Gonzaga was Seattle's 7th round pick in this June's draft and he's pitched very well for the Frogs so far.

The 23-year-old threw five CG and had one shutout in his 16 appearances for Gonzaga this past year on his way to being named West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year for the Zags. He uses a three-pitch mix with decent velocity and plus command to keep hitters off-balance.

Tyler Smith - SS, Pulaski Mariners: .393/.485/.571 (11-28), 3 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 3 SO, 2-3 SB
Smith was Seattle's 8th round pick out of Oregon State this June and got a bit of a late start to his pro career as the Beavers played into the College World Series. But Smith has been hitting since he arrived and he was a force this past week for Pulaski. Starting 6 games at shortstop, the 22-year-old collected the 2nd most hits in the Appalachian League while showing good patience and excellent pop from the right side.

Praised as a natural leader at Oregon State, the college leadoff hitter has found himself hitting in the middle of Pulaski's order since he arrived in Virginia. He doesn't flash plus tools but is a sound player with good contact skills and a compact swing.

THREE DOWN

Justin Seager - 1B/3B, Everett AquaSox: .000/.160/.000 (0-21), 2 BB, 9 SO
Coming off a stretch where he collected six hits and his first pro home run in three games, the middle of the Seager baseball brothers has hit an epic slump, going hitless in his last 21 at bats for Everett, punching out nine times in the process. The M's 12th round pick and Atlantic 10 Conference Co-Player of the year at UNC Charlotte, the lone right-handed hitting Seager has been a key contributor for Everett in the early going as a fixture in the middle of their lineup, but he has 24 strikeouts and only four walks through his first 23 pro games, showing a clear area where improvement is needed.

Drafted as a first basemen, it is worth noting that the 6-foot-4, 21-year-old has played four errorless games at third for the AquaSox already this season. Any positional flexibility that he can offer of course only strengthens his prospect profile going forward, but plate discipline should be the area of focus in watching how Seager progresses over the rest of this season in the Northwest League.

Steven Proscia - 1B/3B, Jackson Generals: .048/.167/.048 (1-21), RBI, 3 BB, 10 SO
Proscia led the entire organization in home runs *(28) and RBI (103) a season ago, but the organization's 7th round pick in 2011 has struggled from the opening gun in 2013. Strikeouts have been a big part of his problem as his K% has jumped from 20.4% a year ago to 27.7% this season, and the 10 whiffs from this latest week for Steven continued the trend. He's now under .200 on the year for the Generals and has had only one month (April, .783) with an OPS better than .665 so far.

Proscia is a very good fastball hitter, but he isn't seeing very many hittable fastballs right now as the league has found his weakness, attacking his aggressiveness with a steady diet of offspeed pitches. Steven's ISO is down almost .100 from a year ago, too, and it is starting to look like 2013 may be a lost season for the Virginia product.

Anthony Fernandez - SP, Jackson Generals: 0-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 4 BB, 4 SO, .118 oAVG
It's been a struggle so far in 2013 for Fernandez. The hits allowed in this last start weren't what hurt him, even though both of those hits went for home runs and the lefty has now allowed nine in 66 2/3 innings (1.2 HR/9) this season after allowing only 26 in 527 2/3 IP (0.4 HR/9) prior to this season. Fernandez just continues to struggle with his conmmand and three of his four walks came around to score in this latest outing. That inconsistent command is what is leading to the homers, too, but Fernandez isn't a pitcher that can survive when he gives up a bunch of free passes.

Fernandez had been much better in six of his eight outings before this loss to Tennessee, but he isn't pitching with the consistency in 2013 that helped him to climb up prospect rankings and onto the Mariners' 40-man roster over the last several seasons.

. . . . . . .

Carlos Peguero, Brian Moran, Julio Morban (injured, not playing), Roenis Elias and James Jones are each All-Stars this week in the Mariners organization, and while the big league team is seemingly hitting it's stride at their All-Star break, the rest couldn't come at a better time for Tacoma and Jackson. The Rainiers have scored one or zero runs in eight of their 17 games since Brad Miller was promoted to Seattle and they ended their first half being swept at home by the PCL's last place club while scoring only three runs total in the four-game set. Jackson, the defending Southern League North Division Champs, hit their break with a 39-51 record, a full seven games under their projected record. They also had their final game of the first half cancelled due to weather, a common theme from this season that has seen 13 games fall victim to rain and 14 double headers as a result.

There will be a lot to watch throughout the organization in the second half, and we'll have it all covered here at SeattleClubhouse -- including bringing you Three Up, Three Down every Monday. So check back often with us for the latest on Mariners prospects.

Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.

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