It probably would’ve been an understatement to say the Everett AquaSox were red-hot heading into this past week’s series in Spokane.
They had won eight consecutive games and were fresh off a dominant six-game sweep of Tri-City, having outscored the Dust Devils by a whopping 65-16 combined margin. That included routs of 20-3, 15-1 and 13-3 — with their 20-run explosion in the series finale marking Everett’s most runs in a single game since 2009.
But this past week, the AquaSox fell back down to earth.
Everett (12-6) went 2-4 in its series against the Spokane Indians, including losses in each of the first three games. It was the Sox’s first series loss of the young season.
Here is The Herald’s weekly AquaSox update:
BATS COOL OFF… TEMPORARILY
After obliterating Tri-City pitching in the previous series, Everett’s bats suddenly went cold against Spokane. During their three-game losing skid to open the series, the AquaSox managed just seven runs combined.
But in the latter half of the series, Everett’s lineup regained its form. The AquaSox plated 24 runs over the final three games, including 11 runs in Sunday’s win. It was already the fifth time in 18 games this season that Everett has scored double-digit runs.
The AquaSox have totaled 125 runs this season, which is 25 more than the next-closest team in the six-team High-A West. They also lead the league in batting average (.253), on-base percentage (.370), slugging percentage (.459), home runs (23) and extra-base hits (76).
Julio Rodriguez, ranked by Baseball America as the sport’s No. 3 overall prospect, entered Spokane on the heels of a sensational series the previous week against Tri-City.
During that May 11-16 homestand at Funko Field, the 20-year-old phenom from the Dominican Republic showcased why he’s considered one of baseball’s most prized young talents. He blasted five home runs and three doubles in those six games and finished the series 11-for-26, making him a no-brainer pick as the High-A West player of the week.
But just when it seemed like perhaps he’d already outgrown this level of the minor leagues, Rodriguez appeared mortal this past week.
The highly touted AquaSox outfielder went just 5-for-25 against Spokane, with no extra-base hits and nine strikeouts. Rodriguez has a 25.3% strikeout rate this season, with 22 strikeouts in 87 plate appearances. That’s undoubtedly an area the Seattle Mariners want to see their potential right fielder of the future improve on.
Overall, Rodriguez still has a strong stat line this season. He is batting .303 with five home runs, one triple, five doubles, a .391 on-base percentage and a .592 slugging percentage. He ranks fifth in the High-A West in batting average and third in slugging percentage.
LARSEN CONTINUES HOT START
Jack Larsen continued his impressive start to the season with another strong series. The AquaSox outfielder, a 26-year-old former undrafted free agent out of the University of California-San Diego, went 7-for-23 this past week with three home runs and two doubles.
Larsen leads the High-A West in both batting average (.355) and slugging percentage (.661), and ranks third in on-base percentage (.429). He has 11 extra-base hits, with four home runs and seven doubles.
Larsen’s production at the plate this season is a major uptick from his last minor league season with Advanced-A Modesto in 2019, when he posted a .237 batting average, .335 on-base percentage and .402 slugging percentage.
Emerson Hancock: The No. 6 overall pick in last year’s Major League Baseball draft had another nice outing last Thursday. In his third start of the season, Hancock allowed only one unearned run and one hit in 4 2/3 innings pitched, while striking out four batters and walking two. It was the longest appearance of the season for Hancock, who has gradually seen his workload increase with each start. For the season, he has a 0.96 earned-run average in 9 1/3 innings, with 11 strikeouts, four walks and a .133 opponents’ batting average.
Isaiah Campbell: The 2019 second-round draft pick tossed 5 2/3 strong innings of relief Sunday in his third appearance of the season. He allowed just one run and two hits, while posting four strikeouts and one walk. For the season, he has a 1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 innings pitched, with 15 strikeouts and just three walks. He has a 0.73 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and a .149 opponents’ batting average.
Brendan McGuigan: The 25-year-old former undrafted free agent allowed his first run of the season this past week, but still hasn’t yielded a hit in nine innings pitched this year. McGuigan has struck out 16 of the 29 batters he’s faced and has allowed just two walks.
Austin Shenton: The Bellingham High School alum had a massive performance in Sunday’s victory, with a grand slam, two doubles and five RBIs. He went 9-for-25 in the series and is riding a seven-game hitting streak. For the season, he is batting .258 with one home run, one triple and eight doubles.
George Kirby, the Mariners’ 2019 first-round draft pick and the No. 78 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, didn’t pitch this past week for the AquaSox. Kirby had started the Friday games of Everett’s first two series. He was brilliant in his most recent start on May 14, when he tossed five scoreless innings of no-hit ball and retired 14 of the 15 batters he faced, while posting eight strikeouts and only one walk.
Through the first 18 games of the 120-game season, the AquaSox are in a three-way tie with the Eugene Emeralds and Vancouver Canadians atop the High-A West. The three teams are each 12-6, which is five games better than the next-closest team in the six-team league.
The AquaSox continue their 12-game road trip with a six-game series against Vancouver that runs Tuesday through Sunday. The series will be held in Hillsboro, Oregon, which is where Vancouver is playing its home games due to the U.S.-Canada border being closed to nonessential travel.
After that, the AquaSox return to Everett for a 12-game homestand at Funko Field that begins June 1.