Baseball America’s Top M’s Prospects Released

December 5, 2014

Baseball America is the king of the prospect ranking game – they’ve been doing it the longest, and have been copied by many outlets.

Today they web-published their Mariners Top 10 Prospects package. Most of it requires a free online registration, but they do release the list and an overview article without registration. Here is their ranking:

  1. Alex Jackson, OF
  2. D.J. Peterson – 3B
  3. Ketel Marte – SS
  4. Patrick Kivlehan – 3B/1B
  5. Austin Wilson – OF
  6. Edwin Diaz – RHP
  7. Gabriel Guerrero – OF
  8. Luiz Gohara – LHP
  9. Ryan Yarbrough – LHP
  10. Carson Smith – RHP

And this is the link to their free system overview. If you have registered, the rest of the Top Ten will appear with scouting reports and you will also have access to a Mariners-only prospect chat.

A few thoughts on the list:

  • The top five are all position players. When was the last time that happened in the Mariners system?
  • They are quite high on Ketel Marte, who looked impressive in his first taste of Triple-A baseball at the end of last season.
  • Carson Smith is down the list because Baseball America values starting pitching prospects over relievers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith spends the entire 2015 season in Seattle – although he could ride the Tacoma-to-Seattle shuttle.
  • Marte, Patrick Kivlehan, and possibly Smith should be Rainiers on opening day. I think D.J. Peterson opens the season in Double-A but I’ve been wrong a hundred times before, so…
  • Baseball America is still quite high on Luiz Gohara, an 18-year-old lefty from Brazil who is built like CC Sabathia. Gohara really struggled in Everett last year but he was much younger than the hitters he was facing. We’re talking three-to-five years younger in most match-ups.
  • I find it interesting that they have Austin Wilson ahead of Gabriel Guerrero. Wilson is a year-and-a-half older than Guerrero and a level behind him in the system. They must think that Wilson has the proverbial “higher ceiling.”

This is the first of the “big three” Mariners prospect rankings. Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels will have their rankings later in the off-season.

Surely you’ve heard by now that on Wednesday afternoon the Mariners officially announced the Nelson Cruz signing, and also announced that they traded outfielder Michael Saunders to the Toronto Blue Jays for left-handed starting pitcher J.A. Happ.

The Saunders trade was imminent – it’s been clear since the end of the season that there was some sort of disconnect there, and the only question was a matter of where to and for who.

Getting Happ helps the starting pitching depth, which was a weakness. They currently have six starting pitchers, which is good because it (almost) never fails that there will be injuries in spring training.

It’s sad to see Saunders go, as he is truly a classy guy to have on the team. We watched him grow since he first showed up in Tacoma in 2008. Including rehabilitation assignments, he wore a Rainiers uniform for at least three games in seven of the last eight years!

I’ve heard that Saunders is pleased with this trade – he couldn’t control the destination, of course, so it was surprisingly cool for a Canadian to join a Toronto team that is making moves to try to win the AL East

Hopefully this trade will work out for both teams.

The Winter Meetings start on Sunday and will go on most of next week. The meetings are in San Diego this year – a huge improvement from the recent locations.

The Rainiers will have a contingent of five or six people who will participate in league meetings, canvass the Baseball Trade Show, meet with Mariners officials, and perhaps hire a staffer or two.

I will not be there, but I’ll be following the MLB player news/rumors from my North End Office. I’ll pass along the Mariners and Rainiers-related tidbits here on the blog.

Links:

Winter Meetings week coming – it’s like Christmas for those of us who like to follow the off-season rumors!


Name Change In Oklahoma City

December 3, 2014

We’ve got a name change in the Pacific Coast League.

The Oklahoma City RedHawks are no more. The new team name is the Oklahoma City Dodgers.

We had a feeling this might happen ever since the affiliation changes went down back in late September. The Oklahoma City affiliation change (from Houston Astros to Los Angeles Dodgers) occurred because one of the major league Dodgers part-owners – Peter Guber – bought the Triple-A team.

Dodgers is a classic baseball name and it will fit well in Oklahoma City. That being said, I actually liked RedHawks (other than the disgusting mid-word capitalization). It was a unique minor league team name that was not cartoonish or ridiculous.

Check out the new logos:

OKC Dodgers

What do you think?

I like the home plate version – I think it has a classy look. I’m not sold on the OK/LA logo combination (is it off-balance?) but it might grow on me.

The official Minor League Baseball free agent tracker was updated yesterday and it shows former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Blake Beavan as having signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I texted Blake today and he confirmed it. Hopefully Arizona will be a good opportunity for him to return to the major leagues.

Yesterday was the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players and the Mariners did not offer a contract to Carlos Rivero – who they claimed off waivers exactly one month ago. That means Rivero is a free agent.

Rivero, we never knew you.

One player who I’ve hoped the Mariners would sign for Tacoma the last two years is available again: veteran outfielder Andrew Brown was non-tendered by Oakland.

Brown and the Mariners would be an ideal fit for a minor league contract with a big league spring training invitation. He crushes Triple-A pitching and has played in the majors for parts of the last four years.

He’s a right-handed hitter who would fit the same role Cole Gillespie had for Tacoma at the start of the 2014 season.

Links:

  • We’ll start with the official MiLB.com story on the Oklahoma City name change.
  • Larry Stone had a Tuesday column on the Nelson Cruz signing, in which he writes that despite the age of the player and the size of the contract this was something that the Mariners desperately needed.
  • Dave Boling wrote that the Cruz signing indicates that the Mariners are trying to win now.
  • The Mariners officially announced the Kyle Seager contract extension. This story has the salary breakdown.
  • Jeff Sullivan tried to determine what kind of trade value Taijuan Walker might have. It seems like keeping him would be the best bet.
  • In the PCL, the Nashville Sounds announced their coaching staff and Steve Scarsone is the manager. Former Tacoma Tigers infielder Webster Garrison is the hitting coach. Remember: Nashville is an Oakland A’s affiliate now.
  • Before the Colorado Rockies existed, the New Orleans Zephyrs were the Denver Zephyrs. They had a famous Triple-A slugger named Joey Meyer and he once hit a 582-foot home run at Mile High Stadium. <<< good story alert!
  • Congratulations to the man in charge of the Iowa Cubs. Sam Bernabe has won Baseball America’s Minor League Executive of the Year award.

We’ll be back with a new entry on Friday when Baseball America posts its annual Mariners Top Prospects package. Much of it will be subscriber-only but the list will be available to all.


M’s Reportedly Sign Nelson Cruz

December 1, 2014

We’re back from the Thanksgiving break and things are immediately rolling.

Early today baseball reporters in the Dominican Republic broke the story that the Seattle Mariners have reached an agreement to sign slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz to a four-year contract.

This is still unconfirmed by the Mariners themselves, who never announce any big-money deals until the player passes a physical examination and signs on the dotted line. Cruz is supposedly on his way to Seattle to meet with team doctors now.

Cruz is 34 years old and it is apparently a four-year contract. He will likely serve as the Mariners designated hitter.

He hit .271 with 40 home runs and 108 RBI for Baltimore last year, slugging .525 in the process. Those numbers will come down with 81 home games at Safeco Field instead of HR-friendly Camden Yards, but he’ll still be a huge upgrade to a Mariners offense that was desperate for right-handed hitters last year.

This is a big move for Seattle – and they aren’t done yet. The Winter Meetings begin this Sunday and the Mariners will continue to be active (the first link down below has more on that).

I suppose we should rehash Nelson Cruz’s Cheney Stadium Moment – even if it was decidedly unpleasant when it actually occurred.

Cruz was with Nashville (then a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate) in 2005 when Tacoma faced the Sounds in the PCL Championship Series.

Tacoma went to Nashville and lost the first two games of the best-of-five series, which moved to Cheney Stadium for Game Three.

Over 5,000 Rainiers fans settled in to watch a tense game that was tied 2-2 after nine innings. Nobody scored in the 10th. Or the 11th. Or the 12th. We went to the 13th still tied.

In the top of the 13th, a walk and an error brought Cruz up to the plate with two on and two outs. Tacoma’s Cha Seung Baek left a pitch up in the strike zone, and Cruz hit one of the longest home runs I’ve ever seen in Tacoma.

The ball was struck to left field, and it appeared to still be on the rise as it passed the light standard. There was no question from the moment of contact that the ball – and the series, as far as Tacoma was concerned – was gone.

Nashville won the game, 5-2, and Cruz was named Most Valuable Player of the PCL Championship Series. Cruz went 6-for-13 with three home runs and eight RBI in the three-game sweep.

Ten years later, we can cheer for him.

The Cruz signing was part of a Thanksgiving weekend that saw big change in the AL West.

Mariners division rival Oakland made a curious move, trading their best player Josh Donaldson to Toronto for four players: Brett Lawrie and three prospects.

This could be a good long-term deal for Oakland if the prospects work out (or are traded for players who help in the big leagues), but it was strange to see a current playoff team make a trade like this.

I’ve linked to some analysis of this deal below.

Links:

  • In his story on the Nelson Cruz signing, Bob Dutton also takes a look a what is next for the Mariners.
  • This post from Ryan Divish looks at how Cruz has hit in the ballparks of the AL West.
  • Keith Law thinks that the Cruz deal is good for 2015, but a potential disaster for 2016, 2017, and 2018 (subscription required).
  • Dutton got new Rainiers manager Pat Listach on the phone and filed this story.
  • In this column from Sunday, John McGrath writes that he thinks Jack Z and the Mariners are about to pull off a big move. This pre-dated the Cruz signing by 24 hours, so I guess he was right!
  • Regarding the Josh Donaldson trade, Rob Neyer wrote that the Oakland A’s are not necessarily in rebuilding mode.
  • Dave Cameron wonders what the A’s are doing.
  • Bay Area baseball guru John Shea doesn’t get the trade.
  • Geoff Baker explains the logic behind the Mariners signing Kyle Seager to a long-term extension, and suggests that the size of Seager’s contract may have helped the A’s decide to part ways with Donaldson.
  • Owners of the Mariners new Class-A affiliate in Bakersfield are still trying to get a new ballpark built in Salinas despite a recent setback.
  • Highly entertaining Reno Aces (and briefly Salt Lake Bees) slap-and-dasher Tony Campana jumped to the IL, signing a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox.
  • Jamie Moyer has quit the Philadelphia Phillies TV broadcast team. Ex-players: send in your resumes.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!


Breaking Form For A Crazy Deal

November 26, 2014

We created this blog about five seasons ago with the intent for it to be a place to get information about the on-the-diamond Tacoma Rainiers. Information about things the Rainiers are selling can be found elsewhere and we don’t do that in this space.

Except we are today, because this “We R Family” deal that the team is currently marketing is amazing.

For a total of $250, you get as many as eight tickets for every Monday-through-Thursday game during the 2015 season.

There are 36 weekday games on the schedule, but a family of four only needs to attend five games to break even on the total cost. Attend more than five games and you are saving money on the get-in price.

On top of that, the 2015 schedule is very family (and weather) friendly this season: only nine of the midweek games are during April and May when school is in session – meaning that 27 of the available dates for this plan are in June, July, and August.

Up to eight people, for as many as 36 games, for a flat fee of $250.

That is a crazy deal. More information is here.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish blogged about the Kyle Seager contract extension and shared his opinion on a Mariners trade rumor.
  • At USS Mariner, marc w has a post about the development of Seager which evolves into interesting thoughts on player development.
  • Mariners catching prospect Steve Baron is ranked by Baseball America as one of the ten most likely players to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Several other lower-level Mariners prospects are noted in this article.
  • Greg Johns runs through the available right-handed hitters still on the market.
  • Jon Heyman also looks at Mariners right-hand hitter options.
  • Head into Thanksgiving Weekend with this list of the nine worst baseball movies.

Have a great holiday weekend!


Stayings & Goings

November 24, 2014

Someone turned the Hot Stove League up to eleven as we have all kinds of things going on now.

First and foremost, there are multiple reports from all kinds of sources (but not the Mariners themselves) that Seattle extended Kyle Seager‘s contract for seven years – reportedly to the tune of roughly $100 million. That’s Panda Money right there – which makes sense, since Seager is better and younger than Sandoval right now.

The deal covers Seager’s final three seasons of arbitration eligibility and his first four years of free agency. More details can be found in the links below.

On the minor league front, 2014 Tacoma Rainiers Pitcher of the Year Logan Kensing signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox. It’s a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training.

Kensing was a PCL All-Star and had a great year for Tacoma. His only problem was that the Mariners bullpen was so good this year that he never got a chance to be called up. Going to the White Sox is a smart move for the veteran: their bullpen was awful in 2014, so maybe Kensing can make the team in the spring.

Two former Rainiers signed with the San Francisco Giants.

Catcher Guillermo Quiroz re-signed with San Francisco on a minor league deal. A former Mariners and Rainiers receiver, the friendly Quiroz was with the Giants throughout their World Series run and was there for the celebration despite not being on the active playoff roster. He was essentially an insurance policy: if one of the Giants two catchers was injured during a playoff game, Quiroz was there and ready to go for the next game.

The Giants also signed ex-Rainiers infielder Carlos Triunfel – who was a free agent for the first time in his career. Both Triunfel and Quiroz are likely to play for Triple-A Fresno Sacramento in 2015.

Our division rival Reno was active adding PCL veterans over the weekend.

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed PCL bats Nick “Chili” Buss and Jamie Romak to Triple-A contracts. Both are hitters who should thrive in the high-elevation of Reno.

Buss had an all-star season for Albuquerque in 2013, driving in 100 runs. His numbers came back to earth at pitcher-friendly Sacramento last year.

Romak hit 22 homers for Memphis in 2013 and 24 more for Albuquerque in 2014, and he made his MLB debut in 2014.

Links:

  • We’ll start with Ryan Divish’s story on the Kyle Seager contract extension.
  • Dave Cameron analyzes the Seager deal.
  • Buster Olney ranked Seager as the 4th-best third baseman in MLB.
  • The Mariners were granted a rare fourth option year on Danny Hultzen, Bob Dutton reported in a Saturday notebook. That means Hultzen can pitch in the minor leagues in 2015.
  • Shannon Drayer has a blog post on Tacoma catcher John Hicks, who was added to the 40-man roster last week.
  • In his always-entertaining Sunday notebook, David Laurila at Fangraphs includes an anecdote about new Rainiers manager Pat Listach hitting his first Major League home run.
  • A week’s worth of minor league transactions are right here. The Mariners signed Jim Leyland‘s kid Patrick Leyland, who was let go by the Tigers – he’s a Class-A catcher.
  • The Hall Of Fame ballot was revealed today, and former Mariners Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson are on it. This is Johnson’s first appearance on the ballot – which is so loaded that Rob Neyer is calling it the Hall Of Fame Megaballot.

Check back Wednesday for a post leading into the Thanksgiving weekend.


Mariners Make Moves

November 21, 2014

We’ve got a whole lot of player news today, so let’s jump right into it:

The Mariners had to set their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft by 9:00 pm yesterday, so that caused a bunch of moves to be made.

The team added prospects John Hicks, Ketel Marte, and Mayckol Guaipe to the 40-man roster.

Hicks and Marte finished last season with Tacoma and will probably return to the Rainiers in 2015. Guaipe is a relief pitcher who had good numbers at Double-A Jackson in 2014 and I suspect we’ll see him in Tacoma next year, too.

Not getting protected on the roster was Tacoma’s 2014 standout pitcher Jordan Pries. The team must believe that they won’t lose him in the Rule 5 Draft – we’ll find out next month.

We lost one of our stalwarts when the Mariners traded infielder Ty Kelly to the St. Louis Cardinals for Double-A starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio.

Kelly played very well in his one-and-a-half seasons with the Rainiers, but there wasn’t much opportunity for him in the big leagues with Seattle – hopefully he’ll get a better chance with the Cardinals. The Cardinals added Kelly to their 40-man roster, so that’s a good sign.

Gaviglio is a right-handed starter out of Oregon State – he was the Cardinals 5th round draft pick in 2011. He pitched for AA-Springfield last year, going 5-12 with a 4.28 ERA in 24 starts. Two stats stand out on his page: he had a 126-to-46 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 136 innings, and he surrendered only eight home runs. The Texas League is tough on pitchers so the stat line is pretty good (other than the dismal win-loss record, but he can’t control that).

Gaviglio will have a chance to make the Tacoma starting rotation out of spring training.

The Mariners claimed left-handed relief pitcher Edgar Olmos off waivers from the Miami Marlins.

Olmos split 2014 between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans last year. In the PCL, he appeared in 33 games and went 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA. He pitched twice against Tacoma in August, with the Rainiers handing him a loss in the 12th inning to finish a 4 hour, 48 minute game on the August 14th.

Olmos is bullpen depth. He is on the 40-man roster and he has one option year remaining, so he is a very strong candidate to be with the Rainiers next season.

Outfielder Xavier Avery is the first of the 2014 Tacoma players who was a free agent to sign with another club.

Today the Detroit Tigers inked Avery to a minor league deal and invited him to major league spring training.

Avery spent the entire 2014 season with Tacoma, appearing in 120 games. He batted .275 with ten homers and stole 31 bases. His most memorable part of the season came in El Paso at the end of June: after hitting just two home runs all season up to June 27, he launched four homers in three days against the Chihuahuas.

If Avery goes to Triple-A with the Tigers organization, he’ll be playing for the Toledo Mud Hens.

Two of my favorite Rainiers from the past were hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as minor league coaches.

Former catcher Pat Borders was named manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters of the short-season New York-Penn League. This is Borders first job in a non-playing capacity.

The Phillies also hired Brian Sweeney to serve as pitching coach for their rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. Sweeney will work with teenagers down there – many of whom will be in their first professional season.

Sweeney and Borders share a trait: both continued to play in Triple-A as they approached age 40 (or in Borders case, beyond 40), mostly for a love of the competition. These are the type of men who become good coaches.

Links:

  • Bob Dutton rounds up all of this news in his Mariners notebook.
  • Here is the report on Xavier Avery signing with the Detroit Tigers.
  • You will see a distinct ex-Rainiers flavor in the list of Phillies minor league coaches. The main reason: former Mariners front office folks Pat Gillick and Benny Looper are calling the shots in Philly.
  • The Salt Lake Bees have a new manager: former major league infielder Dave Anderson.
  • Want to get lost on the internet on a Friday afternoon? Enjoy Grantland’s MLB transaction trees. Credit Rainiers executive Jim Flavin for the solid link.
  • A fellow Rainiers executive – Ben Spradling – requested I link to this story. Please don’t click on it – you will regret it.

Have a great weekend!


Pat Listach – New Tacoma Manager

November 19, 2014

The Seattle Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers announced on Tuesday that Pat Listach will be the new Tacoma manager for 2015.

This marks the second year in a row that the Mariners have gone outside of the organization to hire a Triple-A manager. They did the same thing last year, hiring Rich Donnelly to manage the Rainiers – only to have plans change during spring training, with Donnelly ending up was the major league third base coach and Roy Howell taking over Tacoma.

Howell managed the Rainiers to a 74-70 record last year – and he’ll stay in the Mariners organization. He was supposed to be the Double-A hitting coach last year before the dominoes fell during spring training, and he ended up doing a fine job as Tacoma manager. I suspect he’ll go back to his prior role as hitting coach – possibly at Double-A Jackson, where he was expected to be last season.

Rainiers fans should be excited about Listach running the club.

Listach last managed in the Pacific Coast League in 2008, leading the Iowa Cubs to an 83-59 record and a first-place finish in the American-North (they lost to Oklahoma in the American Conference playoffs, three games to two). Listach was named the PCL Manager of the Year for his efforts.

At that time, Listach was considered to be a strong major league manager prospect. Lou Piniella was the Chicago Cubs manager, and he recommended Listach for a big league coaching job in Washington. Listach served as a third base coach for the Washington Nationals and manager Jim Riggleman for two seasons, 2009-2010.

Listach left the Nationals to take an opportunity as the Chicago Cubs bench coach under then-manager Mike Quade (bench coach is considered a better job than third base coach for aspiring managers). Listach survived two tumultuous and ultimately very Cub-like seasons in Chicago before being let go after the 2012 season.

The Dodgers hired Listach to work with their minor league infielders during the 2013 season, and then he returned to the big leagues as Houston Astros third base coach in 2014. That lasted one season, as the Astros manager and staff were flushed out, and now Listach will be managing in Tacoma.

That’s a lot of stops over a short period in the big leagues, but a theme can be seen: Listach has been a coach for three poor teams that had no chance of winning right away, and twice when changes were made he was one of the guys looking for a new job. That’s the way it goes on the big league coaching carousel.

The revolving door of managers and coaches is exactly how Listach got his first managerial opportunity: he was serving as the Iowa Cubs hitting coach in 2002 and had never managed before. The Chicago Cubs made a mid-season move, firing manager Don Baylor and promoting Iowa manager Bruce Kimm to big league skipper. They asked Listach to stay with Iowa and manage the rest of the season – and he went 27-28 the rest of the way, decided he liked it, and a few years later was managing at the Double-A level in the Cubs system.

Listach is only 47 years old, and he still has a chance to be a major league manager. Being in charge for another season – even if it is at the Triple-A level – can get him back on that path.

The remainder of the 2015 Rainiers coaching staff will be announced soon – but as a preview, I’m not expecting any changes. In the meantime, let’s welcome Pat Listach to the Tacoma Rainiers family!

Links:

  • We’ll start with the The News Tribune’s story on the Pat Listach hire. Included is a list of all Tacoma managers since the city fielded a PCL team in 1960.
  • Listach was a finalist for the Texas Rangers third base coach job, but when that didn’t work out he accepted the Mariners offer.
  • Like all Tacoma managers, Listach will also coach third base. This 2009 story from the Washington Post details his strategy.
  • Listach has a reputation as a terrific coach of infielders. When Listach was let go by the Chicago Cubs, second baseman Darwin Barney gave Listach a lot of credit for his record-setting errorless streak.
  • As a player, Listach is most known for winning the 1992 American League Rookie of the Year award. As detailed in this story, he was given an unexpected opportunity due to an injury, and he took advantage of it. The story includes some personal details on Listach.
  • Thursday is a big day in the off-season maneuverings of MLB teams: it’s the deadline to set the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft. Bob Dutton has a look at the Mariners players who may need to be protected.
  • Ryan Divish thinks that Braves outfielder Justin Upton may be available via trade, and he notes that the Mariners could be in play this time around.
  • Sad news: a historic stadium in the Dominican Republic was destroyed by fire. This is the home of Aguilas Cibaenas – currently Mariners Minor League Co-Player of the Year Jordy Lara is playing for this team.
  • Here’s an interesting story on the struggles top prospects are facing when they make the jump from Triple-A to the major leagues. The takeaway: video scouting seems to favor the pitchers when a hitter first reaches the majors.
  • They are putting together the broadcast team for the 2015 Chamber’s Bay US Open. I guess this thing really is going to happen, eh?

Our next blog update will come on Friday.


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