We’ll start our around-the-diamond preview of the 2012 Tacoma Rainiers today, with a look at the catching position.
This series will continue weekly on Wednesdays. On February 8, we’ll look at the corner infielders. But check back before then – I’ll still update the blog with other notes throughout the week.
So, on to the backstops!
It seems all but certain that the Mariners are going to break camp with three catchers: Miguel Olivo, John Jaso, and Jesus Montero. Montero is a catcher mostly in name – he’ll probably see the majority of his time at DH, with the occasional start behind the plate as the Mariners observe and try to determine if he can handle a big workload back there.
The Tacoma catching situation is a more fluid. Injuries last year revealed a lack of depth at the position in the Mariners system – a problem which the organization has addressed, through draft picks and free agent signings.
Four of the Mariners first 17 draft picks in 2011 were spent on catchers, and those players are going to take regular spots in the low minor leagues.
For the upper levels, the Mariners signed an experienced free agent and have a player coming back from injury to compliment two returning catchers. Let’s look at the quartet of players.
Adam Moore: Moore, once one of the top prospects in the Mariners system, missed the entire 2011 season after severely injuring his knee in his second game of the season. He’s healthy now – he caught in the Arizona Fall League in November, and is on track for spring training. Look for Moore to get regular reps behind the plate in Tacoma, as he attempts to get his career moving forward once again.
Guillermo Quiroz: The Mariners once again signed veteran catcher Quiroz, who was a minor league free agent. Quiroz is in his third go-around in the Mariners system – he played for both Tacoma and Seattle in 2006, and 2009-2010. Last year he was with Tucson, the Padres Triple-A affiliate. Quiroz is exactly the type of veteran receiver with MLB experience that the Rainiers needed last year when the injuries started to mount.
Chris Gimenez: It’s hard to get a handle on Gimenez right now. First of all, he’s not just a catcher: he can also play first base, third base, and corner outfield. He’s on the Mariners 40-man roster, but I believe he has an option left and could be sent to Tacoma. We know he’s a favorite of Eric Wedge. If he does join the Rainiers, I don’t think it would cost either Moore or Quiroz a spot in Tacoma – because of Gimenez’s positional flexibility, Daren Brown could find a way to get him regular at-bats.
Ralph Henriquez: After opening the 2011 season at Class-A High Desert, Henriquez was forced to Double-A and then Tacoma due to the rash of injuries to Mariners catchers last year. Henriquez showed he could handle Triple-A, hitting .256 in 37 games and doing a respectable job behind the plate. The youngest of the group - he doesn’t turn 25 until April 7 – Henriquez could open the season at Jackson, and be ready to report to Tacoma once the inevitable need arises.
Another name to know is 23-year-old Jesus Sucre, who played in 72 games at Double-A last year. Sucre was invited to major league spring training by the Mariners – although that is not as significant for catcher, because the club needs to invite extra receivers to catch all of the pitchers in spring training. Still, it does mean that the organization likes him.
So that is the catching situation, going into spring training. If there are no injuries we’re in great shape – but that’s a big “if” with catchers!
- The Mariners have brought back former Rainiers and Mariners infielder Carlos Guillen on a minor league contract. He hasn’t donned a Rainiers uniform since a four-game rehabilitation stint in 2003. He was with Tacoma on regular assignments in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Now 36 years old, Guillen has 14 years of MLB statistics on the back of his baseball card. Will he be with the Rainiers in 2012? It seems unlikely. I’ll explain why when we get to the corner infielders, next Wednesday.
- Two Mariners bloggers wrote about Guillen: Dave Cameron and Jason Churchill.
- Spring training is indeed right around the corner: yesterday was Truck Day at Safeco Field. Greg Johns really shows his reporting chops by getting the truck driver’s name.
- Members of the Mariners front office went bowling, so they put pictures on their blog. Why did I link to this? Former Rainiers staff members Cory Carbary and Jan Plein made the slideshow.
- Inspired by the retirement of #1 overall draft pick Pat Burrell, John Sickels looked back at the 1998 draft. You may remember how controversial the Mariners selection of Matt Thornton was at the time - history shows that was a very good pick.
- Here’s a neat note: Wilson Ramos, the Washington Nationals catcher who was kidnapped in Venezuela in November, went 9-for-20 over a six-game series to lead his Venezuelan Winter League team to the league title and a spot in the Caribbean Series.
- Think you have seen all of the baseball movies? Baseball Prospectus has a (free) list of ten quality yet obscure baseball movies.
- If you ever liked baseball cards, you must read Jim Caple’s piece on 20 “Weird, Bad and Ugly” baseball cards. He even got quotes from some of the subjects, including Oscar Gamble and Mickey Hatcher.
Check back later this week, I have something kind of fun in mind…