More Prospect Lists

January 27, 2014

The media build-up to the Super Bowl is really going to increase this week, but in the meantime there are a bunch of baseball items of note to pass along today.

The Mariners held their FanFest this past weekend, as some good stories came from it – they are available in the links down below.

You can add another name to the ever-growing list of potential Rainiers players. On Friday the Mariners announced they are bringing oft-injured yet intriguing pitcher Mark Rogers to spring training on a minor league deal.

Rogers was the 5th player chosen in the first round of the 2004 draft, and he has spent a ton of time on the disabled list since then. Shoulder injuries have been the culprit – yet when healthy, he flashes enough potential to keep teams interested.

Rogers spent most of 2013 rehabilitating his latest shoulder injury. If he is healthy in spring training, he could make the Tacoma roster.

A wave of prospect lists came out today, with more on the docket for later this week.

Baseball America released their Mariners Top-10 Prospects list, and Baseball Prospectus came out with their Top 101 Prospects in the game (links are below, of course). Later this week, ESPN Insiders will get Keith Law’s annual prospectpalooza.

I enjoy these prospect lists, but don’t put too much weight on them. Lists like these are merely fun diversions – players need to perform. Baseball is full of players like Abraham Almonte, who was on nobody’s prospect list last year and ended up being Tacoma’s MVP and finishing the season with an impressive run in the majors.

On to the links:

  • Baseball America’s Top 10 Mariners Prospects list came out today. This link is the free list and a round-up, and if you are a subscriber you can get their scouting reports right here.
  • The Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects is right here – it’s just a list; the full write-ups are in their annual book which has just been released. Three Mariners (two 2013 Rainiers) make the list.
  • Bob Dutton caught up with Robinson Cano at FanFest, and he also has a report on the health of Corey Hart.
  • Dutton’s notebook from FanFest incudes a visit with new Mariner Logan Morrison.
  • The curveball drove Russell Wilson to stardom – in football, says the Denver Post. The story has some good quotes from current Rockies and Sky Sox players who were teammates with Wilson.
  • Former Rainiers manager Dave Myers was announced as the hitting coach for the Durham Bulls – his sixth season as the Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A hitting coach.
  • Here’s a fun story from the SF paper on former PCL player Neill Sheridan, who once hit a 613-foot home run for Sacramento.
  • After I was done reading the previous story on Sunday afternoon, I fell into a fun non-baseball wormhole and now I’m going to suck you in, too: photos from the big wave surfing contest. Enjoy.

Coming Wednesday: we start our position-by-position spring training series by looking at the potential Tacoma catchers.


Mariners Have A Manager, What About Rainiers?

November 6, 2013

Yesterday the Seattle Mariners named Lloyd McClendon the 16th “fulltime” manager in franchise history. McClendon has previous managing experience with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and most recently he was Jim Leyland‘s hitting coach in Detroit.

I don’t really have an opinion on McClendon’s hiring. The Mariners struggles in recent seasons have had nothing to do with the manager, and everything to do with the talent on the field – which the manager does not control.

There is lots of stuff to read about McClendon in the links down below.

Now that the Mariners have filled the top spot, they have work to do in the minors. The Rainiers don’t currently have a manager – let’s take some guesses, and handicap the field.

Tacoma Manager Candidates

Jim Pankovits – the manager of the Mariners Double-A Jackson affiliate has been there for three years, and he’s in line for a promotion. Odds: 3 to 1.

Daren Brown – the man who has started the past seven seasons as Tacoma manager keeps getting promoted mid-season. I was hoping he would get the Mariners manager job, and now I’m hoping he gets a spot on the major league coaching staff. However, if that doesn’t happen he could be right back in his office at 2502 S. Tyler. Odds: 9 to 2.

The Field – this is everybody not listed, or alternately “some former Mets or Brewers employee who Jack Zduriencik trusts.” This is one of the most important parts of the Triple-A manager’s job: Jack Z has to trust the opinion of the skipper, when it comes to determining if a player is ready to get called up. Brown told me when he was Tacoma manager he talked to Jack Z almost every day – and when he was major league third base coach, he hardly ever talked to him. Don’t be surprised if the next Rainiers manager comes from outside the organization. Odds: 5 to 1.

John Stearns – the Rainiers “interim” manager after Brown was promoted last year, Stearns told me after the season he was going back to his previous duty as roving catching instructor. However, he could be asked to manage Tacoma again. Odds: 8 to 1.

Chris Woodward – the former Rainiers infielder retired after the 2012 season, and served last year as the minor league infield coach. Woody wants to manage and I think he’ll get the opportunity. However, he’ll probably have to start out in the low minors – although he has a ton of PCL experience and should be able to handle the players here. Odds: 12 to 1.

Scott Steinmann – served as Stearns bench coach after the mid-season shake-up last year. Steinmann has filled just about every role in the Mariners minor league system, but last season was his first in the upper levels of the organization. Odds: 15 to 1.

Jack Howell – currently the Mariners field coordinator, Howell oversees much of the Mariners minor league program. He’s a longshot simply because I’m not sure if he wants to manage – but we’ll list him, because he’s in the picture. Odds: 100 to 1.

Brian Sweeney – the consummate professional and ultimate Rainier, let’s bring in The PCL Dream as a player-manager! Odds: 2,500 to 1.

Roger Hansen – a former PCL player and longtime minor league instructor, the crusty Hansen has been working as a special assignment scout in the Mariners office. He could be asked to manage in Tacoma, which woild be quite a surprise. Odds: 1,000,000 to 1.

We should start to get a good idea which way this is going to go once McClendon’s coaching staff is announced.

The first Mariners Top Prospects list came out today, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. They are a subscription-based site and their list has a ton of information about the players, and a farm system overview.

If you are a subscriber, you can read it all right here.

Here is their Top-10:

  1. RHP Taijuan Walker
  2. 1B D.J. Peterson
  3. LHP James Paxton
  4. RHP Victor Sanchez
  5. RHP Edwin Diaz
  6. LHP Luiz Gohara
  7. SS Chris Taylor
  8. LHP Tyler Pike
  9. Tyler Marlette
  10. OF Gabriel Guerrero

It’s a big change from last year’s list, due to the graduation of upper-level prospects. Seven of the ten players could begin the 2014 season in Class-A. Only three have a chance of appearing in Tacoma next season: Walker, Paxton, and Taylor. Hopefully Walker and Paxton are in the big leagues instead – we’ll almost certainly see Chris Taylor in Tacoma.

The official list of minor league free agents was published by Baseball America, and several 2013 Rainiers players are currently on the open market.

They are: pitchers Brian Sweeney and Jonathan Arias, catcher Jason Jaramillo, infielder Leury Bonilla, and outfielders Joe Dunigan and Denny Almonte.

Links:

That’s it for this week – the next blog update will be on Tuesday.

* I disagree with their rankings – Green Chone Figgins is ranked way too low; that’s easily a Top-5 shirsey.


Rainiers Home For Prospect-Palooza

May 16, 2013

It’s great to be back in Tacoma to start an eight-game homestand this evening, with the prospect-laden Memphis Redbirds in town.

Tacoma wrapped up the road trip with a 4-2 win at New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon – a very nice win, because it salvaged the trip. Tacoma opened the trip by getting swept in Oklahoma City, but rebounded to win three-of-four at New Orleans. A 3-5 road trip is not good, of course, but it certainly wasn’t the disaster that it could have turned into.

The Rainiers host Memphis tonight, and this is a fact: seven of Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 Prospects will be at Cheney Stadium this weekend. If you like watching prospects, this is the series of the year.

However, there are some injury issues.

Memphis outfielder Oscar Taveras – ranked the No. 3 prospect in baseball preseason, and considered the top hitting prospect in all of the minors – is day-to-day with a sprained ankle suffered on Sunday. My spies with the Redbirds say he is unlikely to play until Saturday or Sunday – but that is not for sure, he is “day-to-day” in the truest form.

The St. Louis Cardinals are treating Taveras like the Mariners treated Danny Hultzen when his arm was “a little stiff” – very, very carefully, because he is a huge part of the future of their organization.

Hopefully we’ll get to see Taveras play; it’s fun watching these elite talents when they come through. It’s one of the most fun parts of minor league baseball. The memories can remain for years – I still clearly recall Prince Fielder lining balls of the tall old right-field fence when he was with Nashville in 2005, Tim Lincecum striking everybody out for Fresno back in 2007, etc, etc, etc.

Injury Update

Speaking of Hultzen, he should be working out with the Rainiers this week, and progressing on his return from the disabled list. Danny did not go on the last road trip, instead doing rehabilitation work with the specialists at Safeco Field. I’m not sure where things stand right now, but if we see him throwing early bullpen sessions this weekend, that would be a big step toward his return.

Tacoma will get some help this week: Mariners Josh Kinney (oblique) and Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) will begin rehabilitation assignments with Tacoma tonight. Both could be here for a while.

Kinney strained his oblique in spring training and was placed on the 60-day disabled list – meaning he’s not eligible to be activated until roughly May 31. As a pitcher, he’s allowed to rehab for up to 30 days.

Gutierrez could also be here for a while, based on the recent quotes from Mariners manager Eric Wedge. Paraphrasing rather than looking it up (because I am lazy), Wedge said that Gutierrez needs to prove he can play every day – like 4-5 days in a row – before being activated from the disabled list. As a position player, Gutierrez is limited to 20 days on a rehabilitation assignment.

Memphis Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate comes into Tacoma with a record of 20-17. They got hot in early April, went on a 6-1 stretch to move three games over .500 on April 18, and they’ve been sitting right there for the last month, playing .500 ball.

Memphis just had an eight-game homestand against Sacramento and Fresno. They beat Sacramento 3-of-4, then lost 3-of-4 to Fresno avoiding a sweep with a win on Tuesday.

Other than Taveras, Memphis features Top-100 prospects Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong.

Wacha will be the starting pitcher tonight. He’s the Cardinals version of Mike Zunino, at least in terms of the fast track: like Zunino, Wacha was a big star in college, was a 2012 first round draft pick, was rushed to Triple-A, and is holding his own. Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA, so this will be a tough one for the Rainiers tonight.

Wong is a 22-year-old Hawaiian second baseman who is receiving glowing reviews around the PCL. He’s hitting .309 and has ZERO errors in 35 games at the keystone in his first taste of Triple-A ball.

The Redbirds have one former Rainiers player: catcher Rob Johnson, who is of course a former Mariner, too. Johnson is currently on the 7-day disabled list with some minor ailment, he’s supposed to come off it and play this weekend.

Look for Memphis first baseman Brock Peterson to have a fan club at Cheney Stadium. He was born in Centralia, and attended W.F. West High School in Chehalis (Class of 2002, I believe). He played in the Twins system for a few years, ended up in independent ball, and then was rescued by the Cardinals late last season. Peterson is off to a good start for Memphis, hitting .276 with five homers and 17 RBI.

One other important note on Memphis: certified Rainiers Killer Justin Christian is on their team. Let’s see if Tacoma can get him out this time around.

Tonight’s Game

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it is Thirst Thursday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma starts LHP Jimmy Gillheeney (2-1, 2.37) against Memphis RHP Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.99). Catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM, or streaming online right here. If you are using an iPad, try this link.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from the final game of the road trip on Tuesday has reaction from Blake Beavan.
  • Raul Ibanez ripped the Yankees yesterday, with two homers and a grand slam.
  • Taijuan Walker is showing improved consistency at Double-A Jackson, Baseball America reports. If things continue to go well for Walker, I suspect we’ll see him in Tacoma in the second half.
  • Ryan Divish’s minor league report notes that outfielder Julio Morban is on a tear at Double-A Jackson. The oft-injured Morban always hits when he is in the lineup…
  • The PCL was off yesterday, but there are a few stories of note. For instance, the Colorado Springs mayor is checking to see if a downtown ballpark is feasible.
  • Construction has begun on the new ballpark in downtown El Paso, Texas. The Tucson Padres are moving there next year.
  • The Nashville newspaper is getting to know Scooter Gennett – one of my favorite names in the PCL; he’ll be here Monday.
  • Round Rock Express team president Reid Ryan is getting a big promotion to the Houston Astros. Huge move for Reid, but a big loss for the PCL, where Reid is one of the top executives.

It’s going to be a great weekend. See you at the ballpark!


BA Top 100

February 19, 2013

Today Baseball America released its Top 100 Prospects list, and here is where the Mariners prospects fall on the ranking:

  • 17 – Mike Zunino
  • 18 – Taijuan Walker
  • 29 – Danny Hultzen
  • 79 – Nick Franklin
  • 87 – James Paxton

What’s interesting about this is that we are likely to get three or four of them in Tacoma to start the season – and there seems to be a solid chance that we will have all five of them on the team at some point this season. That’s pretty amazing.

On Twitter, Chris Crawford set the over/under on these players to make the Rainiers opening day roster at 3.5. I’m taking the under, for now: I like the bottom three, with the top two perhaps arriving later in the season.

You can see the entire free version of the Baseball America list right here. The free version is just a list of names, you need to be a BA subscriber to get all of the added content.

Links:

Coming tomorrow: Rainiers corner infielders.


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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