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Notes from the Arizona League: AZL Mariners Edition

LHSP Ryan Yarbrough looked dominant in his latest outing while OF Gareth Morgan shows some growth from Year 1 to Year 2 in the AZL.

Mariners OF Gareth Morgan in the AZL.
Mariners OF Gareth Morgan in the AZL.
Jake Rashkow

The Arizona League can often house some very potent prospects, and can also feature top tier prospects on rehab assignments. It makes the league very exciting, especially if you are in the right place at the right time. Last night I was able to catch LHSP Ryan Yarbrough on his 3rd rehab start for the AZL mariners. In addition, I checked in on AZL regular OF Gareth Morgan.

Gareth Morgan is a prospect who just falls out of the top 20 Seattle Mariners prospects according to our own John Sickels. However, when it come to other sources such as MLBPipeline.com, he is ranked at #11. There is a bit more of a consensus when it comes to pitching prospect Ryan Yarbrough. Mr. Sickels ranks him at   #11, whereas the folks at MLBPipeline rank him at #9.

CF Gareth Morgan

OF Gareth Morgan hails from Canada and received a two million dollar signing bonus to stay away from NC State. Morgan has a big frame for a 19 year-old standing six feet-four inches and weighing at 220 lbs. He was drafted in the Comp B round (74th overall), which is the sandwich round between rounds two and three. Quickly after signing he was assigned to the AZL. Morgan had an absolutely awful first minor league season.

In 2014: 155 AB, 23 H, 15 R, 8 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 73 K, 16 BB, .148/.244/.252. Morgan struck out 47% of the time in his first professional season and showed very raw power.  He showed a little bit of plate discipline by garnering 16 walks but, his slash line was terrible. Morgan played in 45 of the 56 game schedule and only had 3 errors in the field. Defensively, Morgan can hold down the outfield he just needs to focus on improving his bat. In 2015, the AZL season is approaching the halfway point and Morgan is doing incrementally better.

Through 27 games: 25 H, 109 AB, 10 R, 6 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 14, RBI, 46 K, 4 BB, .229/.261/.385. Morgan's K rate is still quite abysmal at 42% but, these numbers are encouraging.  Morgan has reached most of his season total in stats from 2014 with another 30 games to go in 2015. Morgan to me is a true enigma, he has raw power and the body of a big leaguer. I think if he continues to strikeout at or above the 40 % mark he will fall out of most top 20's in the coming year.

LHSP Ryan Yarbrough

LHP Ryan Yarbrough is an interesting pitching prospect. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. Essentially, after spending two million dollars on Gareth Morgan the Seattle Mariners wanted to draft a couple of seniors. One of those was Yarbrough out of Old Dominion University. He's a big kid, listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. Once drafted, Yarbough received a meager $40,000 bonus and was assigned to the Northwest League. Yarbough touched 95 MPH in one of his starts, which is 3 MPH faster than he ever threw at ODU.

In 2014, Ryan dominated the NWL with the Everrett Aquasox. In the NWL: 38.2 IP, 1.40 ERA, 53 K, 4 BB, 0.75 WHIP, 25 H, 7 ER. Yarbrough did so well that in 2015 the Mariners believed he was ready for full season ball with the High-A Bakersfield team. He was inserted into the rotation to begin the year in the California League. However, in his first full season in professional ball, he ran into some struggles.

So far in 2015: 55.1 IP, 4.23 ERA, 40 K, 12 BB, 1.37 WHIP, 64 H, 26 ER. Yarbrough suffered an injury in June and assigned to the Arizona League in the middle of the July to begin his rehab. Since joining the AZL Mariners he's thrown six shut out innings with eight strike outs, no walks, and just four hits allowed. He's started 3 games for the AZL Mariners and has picked up where he left off each time. Yarbough's arsenal features a fastball that touches the mid 90's, a good offspeed pitch, and a plus curveball. Yarbrough's curveball might be his best pitch and he uses it as his out pitch with a ton of success.

I expect Ryan Yarbrough to move through the system at a steady pace as a solid lefty with good stuff. He should return to Hi-A Bakersfield soon with a shot at AA next season. Gareth Morgan is likely to stay in the AZL this year with a trip to the instructional leagues in the fall. He could possibly return to the AZL for a third year due to his age, or advance to Everett. Morgan could also be a potential candidate for Team Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He has the raw tools scouts drool over, its just a matter of putting it all together on the diamond.