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Outfield prospect Chiang hitting stride in AFL

Outfield prospect Chiang hitting stride in AFL

Outfield prospect Chiang hitting stride in AFL
Chih-Hsien Chiang, the young outfielder from Taiwan acquired by the Mariners in the Erik Bedard trade last July, has heated up in the Arizona Fall League this past week.

Chiang, 23, hit his first home run of the AFL season in the 10th inning of Wednesday's 10-7 loss for the Peoria Javelinas, then went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs on Thursday in a 9-5 setback to Salt River.

Chiang is an interesting prospect for Seattle, having been obtained along with Trayvon Robinson in the Bedard deal. He was just named Eastern League Player of the Year for his efforts for Portland (Maine), the Red Sox's Double-A affiliate, after hitting .340 with 18 home runs and 76 RBIs in 88 games prior to the trade.

But the youngster couldn't keep that up with the Mariners' Double-A Jackson squad, batting .208 with no home runs and 10 RBIs in 32 games. Thus there is intrigue with how the left-handed hitter fares in the AFL and he's now batting .297 (19-for-64) in 17 games.

Baseball Prospectus just ranked Chiang as Seattle's No. 10 prospect with a possible Major League arrival time of 2013 and offered this analysis:

"The Good: Chiang has a quick bat with average power. He attacks balls in the strike zone and features solid average power to all fields. He projects to hit .280-plus in the big leagues with double-digit home runs. He has no extreme weakness at the plate, and hits left-handers well.

"The bad: Chiang doesn't have star-level tools. He doesn't run, and his arm is no more than average. He can get aggressive in his approach, which caught up to him at the end of the year with Seattle, where he also looked tired."

With a fresh start, Chiang now appears to be hitting his stride again in the AFL, which is certainly a welcome sight for the Mariners.

Another positive out of Peoria -- besides the strong showing of top Draft pick Danny Hultzen -- has been the recent surge by catcher Adam Moore. Coming back from knee surgery, the Mariners backup has put together a five-game hitting streak during which he is 7-for-17 with three RBIs, raising his average to .233 in 12 games after a slow start.

On the flip side, reliever Forrest Snow proved human on Wednesday as the fast-rising Mariners prospect gave up his first earned runs of the AFL season.

Snow, a University of Washington product, opened a lot of eyes by tossing 11 2/3 scoreless innings in his first seven AFL appearances. He got touched for the first time Wednesday, when he allowed three hits and two runs in the eighth inning of what turned into a 10-7 loss to Surprise in 10 innings.

Snow's ERA now stands at 1.42. He allowed a double and triple among his three hits Wednesday after surrendering just two hits in those first seven outings.

Meanwhile, in the Venezuelan Winter League, Erasmo Ramirez made his fifth start for Lara last weekend and threw five innings of one-run ball on three hits in a no-decision against Caribes. That leaves Ramirez at 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 25 2/3 innings. But the most impressive thing with Ramirez continues to be his control. He had five strikeouts and no walks, putting his Winter League totals at 17 and one.

Ramirez had 116 strikeouts with 32 walks in 152 2/3 innings for Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma this past season, so that strike-throwing ability is certainly a big part of his game.

Big first baseman Luis Jimenez has cooled off for Lara after a torrid start when he ripped five home runs in the first two weeks. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder has hit .188 (6-for-32) with no home runs and two RBIs in his past 10 games, putting his season totals at .276 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 24 games. Jimenez, 29, had 16 home runs and 75 RBIs last year while splitting time between Jackson and Tacoma.

Outfielder Michael Saunders continues struggling at the plate for Lara, going 0-for-9 in his last three starts to leave his batting average at .148 in 54 at-bats.

Francisco Martinez, the young third baseman acquired in the Doug Fister trade from the Tigers, returned to play after a nine-day absence due to a hand injury. After an 0-for-3 return, he went 2-for-4 with a walk on Wednesday and is now batting .313 for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan League.

Outfielder Mike Wilson, who spent a brief time with the Mariners last season, hit his fourth home run of the season for Caribes de Anzoategui in his only at-bat Wednesday. He's batting just .194 (12-for-62) in 19 games, but snapped a 2-for-14 slump with his long ball against Magallanes.

In Dominican League play, outfielder Carlos Peguero owns a seven-game hitting streak as he continues raking for Gigantes del Cibao. Peguero, 24, is 10-for-27 (.370) over that stretch. For the season, he's batting .355 with a league-leading six home runs, seven doubles, 15 runs, .758 slugging percentage and 1.178 OPS in 16 games.

He's also tied for the league lead with 21 strikeouts, which is something the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder still needs to work on in order to contend for a spot in the Mariners' lineup, either in left field or designated hitter.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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