The Everett Aqua Sox opened their season with a 2-1 road win over Tri-Cities on Friday night, and the winning pitcher might be the next big thing in the Seattle farm system.
Victor Sanchez drew the opening day start, and the right-hander delivered six innings of two-hit ball. He allowed one run, walked two and struck out four.
But the most impressive number next to Sanchez’s name was 17 – his age.
Sanchez was considered the top free-agent pitching prospect in Venezuela last July. International players become free agents on July 2 of the year after they turn 16 years old, and Sanchez was free to sign with anyone last summer.
A 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Paez, Sanchez is able to reach the low-90 mph range on the radar gun as a teenager, and scouts project more velocity for him as he matures. Sanchez was the highest-profile signing by Mariners international scouting wizard Bob Engle last summer.
The assignment to Everett was an aggressive one for Sanchez: most players in the Northwest League are 21-year-old products of college baseball.
Everett’s opening day roster includes several 2012 draft picks. Fourth-rounder Patrick Kivlehan from Rutgers, fifth-rounder Chris Taylor of Virginia, seventh-rounder Taylor Ard of Washington State, and ninth-round pick Jamodrick McGruder from Texas Tech are all infielders with the Aqua Sox.
Another player to watch is catcher Marcus Littlewood. A second-round pick as a shortstop in 2010, Littlewood was converted to catcher this winter by the Mariners. He’ll get regular repetitions behind the plate for the Aqua Sox.
Left-hander Danny Hultzen continues to dominate the Double-A Southern League. He tossed five more scoreless innings on Wednesday, extending his shutout streak to 272/3 innings.
He hasn’t allowed a run since May 23 and has allowed just two runs in his past 442/3 innings (0.40 ERA).
Hultzen (8-3, 1.19 ERA) will represent Jackson as the starting pitcher in the Southern League All-Star Game on Tuesday in Knoxville, Tenn.
FRENCH FINDS WORK
Former Rainiers and Mariners left-hander Luke French is trying to get back to big league baseball through the Minnesota organization. He’s pitching in the starting rotation of the Twins’ Triple-A Rochester affiliate.
French has made eight starts for Rochester, going 1-1 with a 4.57 ERA. He’s keeping the ball in the ballpark, allowing just three home runs in 41 innings pitched.
Home runs were a big problem for French in Tacoma last season, when he gave up 30.
French last pitched in the majors for Seattle in 2010, going 5-7 with a 4.83 ERA in 16 games.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.