The Everett AquaSox began the season with one of the most talented rosters in all of minor league baseball.
Highlighted by MLB.com top-100 overall prospects Julio Rodriguez, Emerson Hancock and George Kirby, the AquaSox were ranked No. 2 out of all 120 minor league teams on MiLB.com reporter Sam Dykstra’s preseason list of the “most loaded” minor league rosters, based on prospect talent and depth.
And with such a stacked team, Everett has spent most of the season dominating the High-A West. Near the end of July, the AquaSox had a staggering 47-23 record.
But over the last month or so, Everett has lost most of its top players to promotions.
A whopping 14 players from the AquaSox’s season-opening roster have been promoted to Double-A Arkansas this year — including 12 players over the past five weeks and eight players over the past three weeks.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Everett’s previously red-hot team has hit a skid lately.
The AquaSox lost their second consecutive series this past week, dropping four of six games to the visiting Vancouver Canadians at Funko Field. The previous week, Everett lost four of five games to the Spokane Indians.
Prior to these back-to-back series losses, the AquaSox (54-34) had lost just two of their first 13 series this season.
Everett had no problem scoring this past week, racking up 45 runs in the six-game series against Vancouver (41-49). But the AquaSox pitching staff struggled mightily, surrendering a total of 58 runs. Everett pitchers had a nightmarish 8.50 earned-run average in the series and allowed double-digit runs in four of the six games.
The AquaSox began the season with six of the Mariners’ top eight pitching prospects. But only one of those pitchers — Juan Then — is still on Everett’s active roster. Four of the others have been promoted to Double-A Arkansas, and AquaSox pitcher Isaiah Campbell is on the 60-day injured list.
Since the start of August, Everett’s pitchers have a league-worst 8.02 ERA. To hold off the Eugene Emeralds in the race for the High-A West title, the first-place AquaSox need their pitching staff to turn things around.
Everett holds a three-game lead over second-place Eugene and a 9.5-game lead over third-place Spokane in the six-team High-A West. Twelve of the AquaSox’s 30 remaining games are against Eugene, including a seven-game road series against the Emeralds this week.
Here are some players who stood out for Everett in this past week’s series against Vancouver:
Matt Scheffler: The Kirkland native and former Lake Washington High School star batted 7-for-12 with two home runs and two doubles in his first full series with the AquaSox. Since being promoted from Low-A Modesto, Scheffler is batting .344 with three homers and two doubles in nine games. Scheffler, a 23-year-old catcher out of Auburn University, signed with the Seattle Mariners last year as an undrafted free agent.
Kennie Taylor: The 24-year-old outfielder had a big series at the plate, going 10-for-18 with a home run, a triple, a double and seven RBIs. Taylor, a 2019 14th-round MLB draft pick by the New York Mets, signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners in May after being released by the Mets organization. Since then, he has split time between Triple-A Tacoma, Low-A Modesto and Everett. Since joining the AquaSox in late July, he’s batting .383 with two homers, one triple and four doubles in 14 games.
Victor Labrada: The 21-year-old outfielder from Cuba went 10-for-22 with a triple in the series. Since being promoted from Low-A Modesto last month, Labrada is batting .274 with two triples and a double in 21 games.
Connor Hoover: The 25-year-old infielder continued his turnaround at the plate by going 7-for-18 with two home runs and four doubles in the series. After hitting just a combined .148 in May and June, he’s batted .320 since the start of July. For the season, he’s hitting .233 with 12 homers, two triples and 18 doubles.
Jake Anchia: The 24-year-old catcher went 6-for-22 with three home runs, one triple, one double and six RBIs in the series. Anchia, a 2018 seventh-round draft pick, is batting .233 with 12 homers, one triple and nine doubles in 40 games with Everett this season.
Juan Then: After struggling for much of the year and being sidelined for more than a month, Then had a nice return to action last Tuesday. The 21-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out five of the seven batters he faced, while allowing one hit and one walk. Then, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 6 prospect in the Mariners’ organization, has a 5.97 ERA in 37 2/3 innings pitched this season, with 40 strikeouts and 17 walks.
M’S FARM SYSTEM MOVES UP TO NO. 1
The Mariners have the top farm system in baseball, according to Baseball America’s midseason rankings update that was released Monday. It’s the first time the Mariners have ever been No. 1 in the rankings, which Baseball America has been doing for 38 years.
The Mariners moved up from No. 2 in Baseball America’s preseason rankings in February, which matched their best-ever ranking. It’s been a massive turnaround in recent years for the Mariners’ farm system, which ranked dead-last at No. 30 in 2018.
The AquaSox face Eugene on the road in a pivotal seven-game series between the High-A West’s top two teams. The series runs Tuesday through Sunday, with a doubleheader slated for Saturday.