Big Wednesday

November 10, 2010

Two off-season “events” I look forward to every year both occurred today – just in the nick of time, as I’m leaving for my annual Las Vegas poker trip, and will not be blogging again until next week.*

In one corner, we have Baseball America’s list of minor league free agents. And in the other corner, Baseball Prospectus released their “Top 11 Mariners Prospects” list. We’ll discuss both.

Minor League Free Agents

Players who have six full seasons of experience in the minor leagues, and are not protected on the Major League 40-man roster, can elect to become minor league free agents. In the industry, these are called Six-Year Free Agents.

Every year, the Mariners sign a few of these players – and often they end up getting called up. For example, David Pauley signed as a six-year free agent last year, and he ended up being the Mariners #5 starting pitcher.

Six-year free agents are crucial for fielding a good Triple-A team. Not only do you look for these players to perform well on the field, but they also provide veteran leadership to help nurture the younger players. In 2011, the Rainiers are going to have a very young team by Triple-A standards. It will be the job of Jack Zduriencik, Pedro Grifol, and Daren Brown to identify and sign a couple of veteran players to balance out the squad.

Of course, the Rainiers and Mariners lose some players to free agency, too. Baseball America always posts the complete list of free agents, and here it is. Below is the list of players who were in the Seattle Mariners organization last year, and are currently free agents. 

Seattle Mariners (26)
RHP:
 Andy Baldwin (AAA), Steve Bray (AA), Domingo Brazoban (DSL), Yunior DeJesus (DSL), Aaron Jensen (AA), Wes Littleton (AA), Luis Munoz (AA), Scott Patterson (AAA), Yusmeiro Petit (AAA), Steven Shell (AAA), Levale Speigner (AAA), Marwin Vega (Hi A), Sean White (AAA)
LHP: Ryan Feierabend (AAA), Chris Seddon (AAA)
C: Juan Fuentes (R), Blake Ochoa (Lo A)
1B: Brad Nelson (AAA)
2B: Jeff Dominguez (AAA), Tug Hulett (AAA)
SS: Terry Serrano (SS)
OF: Dwight Britton (SS), Eddy Martinez-Esteve (AA), Maximo Mendez (AA), David Winfree (AAA), Mike Wilson (AAA)

Not on this list, but also free agents, are 2010 Rainiers players Ian Snell, Eliezer Alfonzo, and Guillermo Quiroz (these players have enough major league service time to fall into a different category and not technically be considered minor league free agents).

As you can see from the list, if the Mariners don’t re-sign any of their own free agents, they’re going to need to pick some up: specifically, Tacoma will need a mashing DH/1B (its been a long time since we’ve said that!), a starting shortstop, at least one everyday outfielder, a catcher, and about 1/3 of a pitching staff.

They can still attempt to re-sign their own free agents. For example, I know that many in the M’s organization really want to keep David Winfree, who was one of the heroes of the Rainiers PCL Championship squad last year and is only 25 years old. But that’s a two-way street – Winfree will listen to all offers, and he will sign with the team that he thinks will give him the best opportunity to play in the majors.**

I’ll pass along any news of signings that I hear about, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. The Mariners don’t announce the majority of their minor league free agent signings until right before spring training, so I usually hear about them from my own contacts. And even with that, every year I show up for spring training and see someone out on the back fields and say “Wait a minute – when did we sign that guy?”

Top 11 Prospects

There are three Mariners prospects lists I look forward to every year, and the first one came out today: Baseball Prospectus released their Top 11 Mariners Prospects, which is actually a top-20 (I have no idea why a list of 20 is billed as a list of 11, but I’m not complaining).

Baseball Prospectus is a subscription service, and this list with the write-ups is behind the subscriber wall. I contacted them and got permission to list the names, with a link to the article for those of you who subscribe. If you are not a subscriber, they are running an 11% discount right now as they have just started releasing their “Top 11s.” Here is the link to the story, which has complete capsules on the players and you can ask questions there if you want. Here is the list of names:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Michael Pineda, RHP
2. Dustin Ackley, 2B
Four-Star Prospects
3. Nick Franklin, SS
4. Guillermo Pimentel, OF
Three-Star Prospects
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP
6. Mauricio Robles, LHP
7. Dan Cortes, RHP
8. Kyle Seager, 2B
9. Blake Beavan, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
10. Johermyn Chavez, OF
11. Alex Liddi, 3B

Nine More:
12. Ramon Morla, 3B
13. Maikel Cleto, RHP
14. Marcus Littlewood, SS
15. Josh Lueke, RHP
16. Greg Halman, OF
17. Ji-Man Choi, C/1B
18. James Jones, OF
19. Carlos Peguero, OF
20. Jordan Shipers, LHP

I enjoy reading the prospect lists. They are fun, but I don’t really have much commentary about them. I’m not a scout, I’m just a radio guy.

Here are today’s additional links:

  • As I’m sure you have heard by now, Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez won Gold Glove Awards. And thus ends the 2010 Seattle Mariners Award Season. (I can’t believe I forgot about that – sorry, Felix!)
  • At The News Tribune, Larry LaRue has an interesting post about the only openly gay player in major league history, who is subject of an upcoming documentary.
  • Larry Stone commented on the Top-11 prospects.
  • This guy is definitely setting the record for Most Ink Generated By A 26-Year-Old In A-Ball.
  • The prolific Kirby Arnold caught up with new M’s executive Ted Simmons, and there are tons of M’s nuggets at the end of this post – I follow Adam Jones on twitter and he’s loving that trip to Holland. Yesterday, Kirby wrote about outfield prospect (#10!) Johermyn Chavez.
  • Jeff Sullivan riffed on the minor league free agent list.

OK, hopefully that was enough to keep you busy until next week. I’m off to Las Vegas for my annual degenerate poker weekend. I go there with the team twice every year, but those are work trips that leave little time for tomfoolery. This trip will be… different. And if I do as well as this guy, there will be no more blog posts from me – even if my island has internet.

* this is my last trip of the off-season – I did a poor job of spacing out my vacations this year. But this is probably a good year for it, considering how busy we’ll be moving back into Cheney Stadium before the season starts.

** a quick glance at the entire list of free agents leads me to believe that Winfree will be getting calls from many, many teams this winter.


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