The Everett AquaSox’s first season at the High-A level ended rather unceremoniously.
The AquaSox’s slim High-A West title hopes were officially extinguished last week, as they lost the first four games of their season-closing series against the Spokane Indians at Funko Field. Rainouts on Saturday and Sunday then wiped out Everett’s final two games.
After a massive free fall over the final third of the season, the AquaSox finished third out of six teams in the High-A West. Everett (61-56) ended the year seven games behind the first-place Eugene Emeralds and 6.5 games behind second-place Spokane. Eugene (69-50) and Spokane (67-49) square off in this week’s High-A West championship series.
The AquaSox spent the first two-thirds of the season dominating the league with a roster chock-full of talented prospects. On Aug. 2, they were in first place with a scorching 51-26 record. At that point, they were leading Eugene by 7.5 games and Spokane by 14.5 games.
But as the season progressed, most of Everett’s top players got promoted. A whopping 14 players from the AquaSox’s season-opening roster got called up to Double-A Arkansas, including 12 players between July 11 and Aug. 11.
And in the wake of the mass exodus of prospects, Everett went just 10-30 over its final seven series — including nine losses in its final 10 games.
LEAGUE-BEST RUN DIFFERENTIAL
If it’s any consolation, the AquaSox had by far the best run differential in the High-A West.
Everett’s plus-140 run differential was 86 runs better than any other team in the league. Behind the AquaSox, the next two best run differentials belonged to Spokane at plus-54 and Eugene at plus-50.
Everett’s massive run differential was largely a product of a high-scoring lineup that lit up the scoreboard over the first two-thirds of the season. The AquaSox finished with an average of 6.55 runs per game, which was more than one run per game higher than any other team in the league.
As for the disparity between Everett’s exceptional run differential and a win-loss record that’s just five games over .500? Much of that is due to a slew of one-run losses. The AquaSox went 13-21 in one-run games, including 11 one-run losses over their final 40 contests.
Everett had a pair of tough one-run losses last week against Spokane. Last Tuesday, the AquaSox fell 5-4 in 10 innings after blowing a 4-0 ninth-inning lead. And last Friday, Everett lost 12-11 in a wild game. The AquaSox rallied for six runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a one-run lead, but then gave up a two-run homer in the top of the ninth that proved to be the difference.
Noelvi Marte, one of the top overall prospects in baseball, had a productive stint with Everett after being promoted from Low-A Modesto for the AquaSox’s final two series of the season.
Marte, a highly touted 19-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, batted .290 with four doubles in eight games with Everett. He also stole a base and committed just one error in 30 chances at shortstop.
Marte is ranked as the sport’s No. 10 prospect by Baseball America and the No. 11 prospect by MLB.com. Prior to being called up to the AquaSox, he batted .271 with 17 home runs, two triples and 24 doubles in 99 games with Modesto.
DOLLARD SPINS GEM
Taylor Dollard struggled for much of his time with Everett this season. But he sure capped the year on a high note.
Dollard tossed 6.1 scoreless innings last Tuesday and struck out 11 of the 25 batters he faced. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits, one walk and two hit batters.
Dollard, a fifth-round pick out of Cal Poly in the 2020 MLB draft, is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 25 prospect in the Seattle Mariners’ organization.
After being promoted from Low-A Modesto in late June, he posted a 6.15 earned-run average in 67.1 innings with the AquaSox. He totaled 74 strikeouts and 14 walks over that span.
WILLRODT GOES ON STRIKEOUT SPREE
In his lone outing for Everett this season, reliever Matthew Willrodt struck out nine of the 12 batters he faced while tossing three scoreless innings in relief last Thursday. He allowed two hits and one walk.
Willrodt, a 15th-round draft pick by the Mariners in 2018, spent nearly the entire season with Low-A Modesto. He posted a 6.02 ERA in 49.1 innings with the Nuts, along with 46 strikeouts and 28 walks.
BEST SINCE 2016
The AquaSox’s .521 winning percentage this season was their best since 2016, when they went 45-31 in the old Northwest League for a .592 winning percentage.