The song plays, with confidence and ice water in the veins, number four steps into the batter’s box. The man on the mound knows all too well who he’s facing and the repercussions of a single mistake. The pitcher goes through his motion, the slugger acknowledges with his, then the entire stadium hears the loud crack of the bat. Fans up on their feet watch in amazement as Tyler O’Neill sends another ball into the Tennessee sunset.
The Mariners’ No. 2 prospect Tyler O’Neill has definitely opened some eyes this season and home runs have had little to do with it. Coming full circle, the 2015 Cal League homerun champion came into the 2016 season with the Double-A affiliate Jackson Generals with high hopes of continued success. Ending his 2015 campaign batting .260/.316/.558 with 32 long balls and 87 runs batted in, the Canadian slugger was awarded MiLB.com Organization All-Star, Post-Season All-Star, and the MiLB Joe Bauman Home Run Awards.
This phenomenal young man has had a tremendous and impactful season. Showing he’s more than just a home run hitter, O’Neill has led the Southern League in multiple statistics this season. Putting up some very impressive numbers in his first year in Double-A ball, the former third round pick batted an astonishing .293/.374/.508 with 24 homers (2nd), 26 doubles (2nd), and 102 runs batted in (1st). Definitely not the same kid we seen last year in Bakersfield, receiving a multitude of awards to add to his minor league resume including, but not limited to:
· -- Mid-Season All-Star
· -- Post-Season All-Star
· -- MiLB.com Southern League Player of the Month (5/2016)
· -- MiLB.com Player of the Week (5/29/2016)
· -- Southern League Most Valuable Player
· -- Baseball America Double-A Player of the Year
· -- Southern League Championship Series Most Valuable Player
O’Neill has matured beyond his years in the batter’s box helping his team win the first half Southern League North Division title, securing their spot in the playoffs. Tyler is a humble guy considering his skill set, always giving credit where it’s deserved and his constant use of the statement, "For the boys," he knows the success isn’t just about him.
Like the team, he thrives in clutch situations, battling and overcoming in positions that most would succumb to. Most recently hitting a walk-off three-run shot to win game 1 of the semi-finals against the Montgomery Biscuits. Tyler said, "We thrive in pressure situations, coming into the post-season we molded and united again and the statistics show that."
Destroying the opposition, Tyler batted .448/.515/.828 with three dingers and nine runs batted in his first post-season. He led the Generals to a 3-0 sweep in the Championship series against the Mississippi Braves and was named Southern League Championship Series MVP. It’s the Jackson Generals’ first championship since 2000.
"I couldn’t have written a better script," O’Neill told MiLB.com "This was a great year for us and we really wanted to show that we are the best team in the league and we did that."
There’s no denying this kid has evolved into a stellar athlete, mentally, physically, and skillfully. Locking himself into every at bat, poised like a seasoned veteran, ready to do whatever it takes to win. Like Tyler would say, "For the boys!!!"
When asked to tell O’Neill fans what to expect from him next season, the MVP said, "I assume I’ll start the year in Triple-A with the Tacoma Rainiers and then anything is possible. It all depends on my ability to perform."
As the 2016 MiLB season comes to a close and the exceptional season O’Neill has had, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it, this kid will be suiting up in a Seattle uniform in 2017.