New PCL Team Name & Logos Revealed

November 18, 2019

The newest Pacific Coast League team announced its name late last week. Welcome to the PCL, Wichita Wind Surge.

The Wind Surge are formerly the New Orleans Baby Cakes. The New Orleans franchise relocated to Wichita, where construction of a new downtown ballpark is nearing completion. They will be the Miami Marlins affiliate this year.

The nickname of the team will be shortened to Surge, I suspect, in most instances. Primarily because “Wind Surge” is kind of hard to say – it doesn’t just roll off the tongue. Go ahead and say it out loud. It’s hard to make it flow smoothly.

These are the main and alternate logos.

wichita wind surge

The Surge will make its first visit to Cheney Stadium for a four-game series August 8-11, 2020. Tacoma should take its first road trip to Wichita in 2021.

The Rainiers announced they will be participating in Minor League Baseball’s Copa de la Diversion initiative once again, as Familia de Tacoma. A new design was released via the team’s social media, if you missed it.

The Rainiers are doing a cool local fundraiser, helping the kids at Jason Lee Middle School raise money to install solar panels at the school. Five dollars from every hat purchased at the Rainiers Team Store this month is being donated to the project. More info can be found here.

Do some early holiday shopping for a loved one (or yourself) and pick up a hat or two this month.

Links:

  • Here’s the news story from Wichita on the team name reveal, which includes reaction from fans.
  • The M’s have signed a Double-A outfielder named Connor Lien, according to MLB.com’s Greg Johns. His statistics suggest he was signed to help Arkansas, but we’ll see how it shakes out in spring training.
  • Multi-positionist Kristopher Negron announced he is retiring as a player. Negron played for Tacoma and Seattle in 2019.
  • MiLB.com looks at the Park Factors for the Triple-A ballparks, which show the new Las Vegas Ballpark as the new No. 1 hitter’s park in the PCL. For the statheads, Baseball America has a post breaking down the numbers into sub-categories. As usual, Cheney Stadium played as a pitcher’s park by PCL standards. Of note: the Mariners Double-A Arkansas ballpark maths out as the most extreme pitcher’s park in all of minor league baseball, so keep that in mind when looking at the stats of Mariners pitchers (and hitters!) coming up from Double-A.
  • The Mariners are catching up to the Astros simply by watching the Astros self-destruct, Larry Stone writes.
  • More information on MLB’s plan to contract 42 minor league teams is starting to leak. Again, this is all a step in negotiations at this point in time, and Tacoma is not involved. Here is a list of the potentially contracted teams.
  • This year’s Hall of Fame ballot is out, and three former Tacoma players are on it: Jason Giambi (Tacoma Tigers 1994), Raul Ibanez (Rainiers 1996-2000 with a rehabilitation assignment in 2004), and JJ Putz (Rainiers 2002-2004, rehab 2008). Another player, Cliff Lee, pitched in a rehab game for Tacoma in 2010. None are likely to be elected to the Hall, but a significant MLB career is required to appear on the ballot.

Many 2019 Rainiers Players Declare Free Agency

November 7, 2019

Today Baseball America released the complete list of minor league (or so-called “six year”) free agents. Any player who has at least six full seasons of minor league experience and is not on a major league 40-man roster can become a free agent. Also, players who have previously been released by one organization and signed by another become free agents after the season, without needing six years.

A large number of players who finished the season with Tacoma qualify as free agents. Copy-and-pasted from Baseball America, here is the full list of Mariners:

Seattle Mariners

RHP: Chasen Bradford (AAA), Matt Carasiti (AAA), Nabil Crismatt (AAA), Brian Ellington (AAA), Aaron Northcraft (AAA), Pablo Santana (DSL)
LHP: Elniery Garcia (AAA), Sean Nolin (AAA), Matt Tenuta (AA)
C: Alexander Capriata (AAA), Brennon Kaleiwahea (SS), Jordan Pacheco (AAA)
2B: Kelby Tomlinson (AAA)
3B: Mike Ahmed (AA)
SS: Orlando Calixte (AAA), Daniel Castro (AAA), Ryan Court (AAA)
OF: John Andreoli (AAA), Jaycob Brugman (AAA), Aaron Knapp (AAA), Ariel Sandoval (HiA)

A couple of notes:

  • These are free agents, so the Mariners can re-sign them. They may do that with a few players.
  • Andreoli has been signed by the Mariners as a minor league free agent twice already. Could we see a trifecta? He recently finished playing for Team Italy in a European tournament that served as an Olympic qualifier (Israel won the bid).
  • The hard-throwing relievers (Carasiti and Ellington), along with the submariner Northcraft, all seem like candidates to be re-signed.
  • Brugman was a really nice mid-season find and will probably receive interest from many teams.
  • Tacoma bullpen catcher Alexander Capriata appears on the list every year. For some reason he gets listed as being on a player’s contract despite being treated as a coach.
  • The full list of free agents from all 30 teams can be found right here.

The Mariners announced their major league coaching staff for 2020.

The new pitching coach is Pete Woodworth, who is being promoted from Double-A Arkansas. Former minor league field coordinator Carson Vitale – a frequent visitor to Cheney Stadium in recent years – has been promoted to the major league staff. Manny Acta has been moved to third base coach.

Here’s the full list:

Links:


The Rainiers Have A New Pitching Coach

November 4, 2019

We knew Tacoma would have a new pitching coach in 2020, once Lance Painter and the Mariners parted ways after four years in Tacoma.

Class-A Modesto pitching coach Rob Marcello has earned a two-level promotion in the farm system, and will be joining Tacoma for 2020. Marcello made the announcement on his twitter account.

Marcello won the Dave Henderson Minor League Staff Member of the Year award for his work at Modesto this year, with his pitching staff ranking second in the California League in ERA (3.36) and strikeouts (1442 in just 1222.1 innings). Modesto broke the California League record for most strikeouts in a season – but so did Rancho Cucamonga, which finished a few K’s ahead of Modesto.

The 29-year-old was in his first season as a professional pitching coach this year, after the Mariners hired him out of a pitching academy in Orlando, Florida. He’s an example of the new trend in player development that many teams are now following, in which instructors without the traditional background (eg: ex-players) are hired because of their knowledge of the latest technologies and ability to translate the numbers into effective teaching. His former academy – Top Level Athletes, or TLA – presents itself as a destination for “data influenced training.”

Marcello did briefly pitch professionally. He was drafted in 2013, as a 17th round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies, and he spent one season with their Williamsport affiliate in the New York-Penn League. He then moved into coaching, with the academy and at a couple of small colleges, before being hired by Seattle.

He had a very successful season in 2019 with the Modesto group. Triple-A will be a different challenge for Marcello, with the revolving-door pitching staff made up of guys who are new to the organization and often older than him. Hopefully he can help generate some strong results, and bring Tacoma back to being one of the better pitching clubs in the PCL as we have traditionally been.

With the World Series over – congrats to the Nats, thanks for beating the Astros, and thanks for making my Sure-To-Be-Wrong Predictions wrong once again after that embarrassment in 2018 – it’s now roster change season in baseball.

The Mariners have already made a handful of moves, “cleaning up” the 40-man roster, activating players who were on the injured list and deciding what to do with them. They even claimed a pitcher off waivers who might be a Rainiers starter next year. These moves are detailed in the links below.

We’ll follow the player moves and any PCL news all winter, so be sure to check in every once in a while.

Links:

  • The Times has a story on Felix Hernandez becoming a free agent, and the article includes a list of all of this year’s free agents. Wade LeBlanc is added to the list since the Mariners opted out of his 2020 contract.
  • The Mariners outrighted three players off the major league roster to Tacoma, in Ryon Healy, Chasen Bradford and Connor Sadzek. All three are dealing with serious injuries and it is not clear if any of them will be able to play in 2020. Healy has elected to become a free agent. The M’s also let a couple of relief pitchers go via waiver claims.
  • The M’s claimed RHP Phillips Valdez off waivers, and he looks like a potential Tacoma pitcher for 2020, or a possible up-and-down guy. He spent most of the 2019 season with Nashville, but also made his MLB debut with Texas..
  • The News Tribune has a Mariners roster tracker to follow the offseason moves.
  • USS Mariner looks at minor league players the M’s might consider adding to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. It’s a brief list, since most of the players that fall into this category were already added to the 40-man roster during the September call-ups.
  • Ron Fairly passed away at age 81. He spent 50 years in the game as a player and broadcaster. Larry Stone has several great stories about Fairly in this remembrance. Shannon Drayer remembers her first time meeting Fairly.
  • Former Rainiers outfielder Michael Saunders announced he is retiring from pro baseball (but still suiting up for Team Canada) and has been hired to manage an Atlanta Braves rookie-level affiliate.
  • Baseball America posted a Q&A with out-of-nowhere Mariners pitching prospect Penn Murfee, who secured a spot on the Team USA roster.

As World Series Begins, Let’s Get Caught Up On The News

October 21, 2019

The World Series starts on Tuesday, with the Washington Nationals facing the Houston Astros.

The Nats coasted past St. Louis in the NLCS and now have to face the class of the majors this season, in the Astros. Houston needed six games to dispose of the Yankees, winning two of them on walk-off homers including Jose Altuve‘s game-ending blast on Saturday to clinch the series.

Houston is a heavy favorite to win the series, according to the oddsmakers in Vegas. Yet the Nats still have outstanding starting pitchers to match-up against the Astros aces. Washington was able to negotiate around its inferior bullpen in the previous playoff games by using its starters in relief in key situations – it will be interesting to see if they continue with that strategy now.

It will be a fun one to watch if you love dominant pitching.

A huge story in the world of minor league baseball hit over the weekend, when it was revealed that MLB is looking to make massive changes to the structure of the minors when the two sides meet to renegotiate the Professional Baseball Agreement following the 2020 season.

The MLB owners want to streamline the player development process by staffing fewer minor league teams. They have additional concerns about quality of facilities and travel within the various leagues. MLB is facing an ongoing lawsuit regarding minor league player pay that would, if successful, ramp up its player development costs.

Baseball America has a story covering the initial proposal by MLB, which suggests extraordinary changes including the elimination of 42 minor league teams and restructuring leagues across the nation. It would bring extreme change to the minors, with much of the impact felt at the lower levels of the system.

The Athletic (a subscription site, but it’s the best story I could find that covers the other side) has the response from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner, who does not want to eliminate 42 teams.

These are just the early stages of what is going to be a long negotiation. Considering the extreme changes suggested by MLB in its opening salvo, it seems that the minors will have some sort of different structure in 2021. How different, and what those changes are, will be determined as the two sides talk over the course of the next year.

Personally, I doubt that Tacoma will be impacted by any league restructuring. With Tacoma’s proximity to the major league affiliate, strong fan support, and easy travel by PCL standards (direct flights out of SeaTac to all seven of the other Pacific Conference cities), it would be surprising if MLB was concerned about our franchise.

Links:

  • ESPN Insider’s Keith Law explains some of the big picture issues with the current MLB-MiLB agreement, and why changes are probably coming.
  • Really good stuff here from Ryan Divish, who looks at the Mariners preseason Top 15 Prospects list, reviews their season, and projects where they will play in 2020. We’ll have some hitting prospects coming our way next year, it seems.
  • Seattle Times columnist and longtime baseball writer Larry Stone spent a few days in Arizona recently, double-dipping on Huskies and Mariners coverage. He saw top prospect Julio Rodriguez in the Arizona Fall League and came away very impressed.
  • Double-A Arkansas shortstop Donnie Walton – who we expect will open the 2020 season with Tacoma – was honored with a Minor League Baseball Gold Glove Award.
  • Larry Stone watched the playoffs, and thought about the Mariners, and realized that the Mariners need to get some stars.
  • The Mariners made modern baseball history, in a not-so-fun way.
  • Former Rainiers first baseman Ji-Man Choi has become a fan favorite this postseason.
  • We’re four months from the start of spring training. Report dates were announced.
  • Dust off your resume: the M’s are hiring a video coordinator and a Baseball Operations intern.
  • After seven years as the manager of the Colorado Rockies Triple-A club – the last five in Albuquerque – Glenallen Hill is out as manager.

Ex-Rainiers In The MLB Playoffs & (Probably) Wrong Predictions

October 3, 2019

The Wild Card games are done – we had one thriller, and one firm win – and it’s time for my annual Sure To Be Wrong MLB Playoff Predictions. It’s that time of the year when you read the picks, and then bet your family fortune on the exact opposite results.

Except, here’s the thing… this sort of came out of nowhere, and I’m not sure how to handle it… but last year the Sure To Be Wrong MLB Playoff Predictions were, uh, not very wrong. Somehow I correctly picked three of the four division series, and nailed the Red Sox as World Series Champions.

So maybe hang on to that family fortune, and keep it invested in bitcoin or Microsoft stock or Mike Trout rookie cards or whatever. You never know what’s going to happen in these playoffs.

We’ll start with the ex-Rainiers on the playoff teams, and then get to the picks. At blog post publish time, the NL teams had announced their 25-man rosters for the Division Series, but the AL teams had not.

American League

New York Yankees: Former Rainiers lefty James Paxton is not only on the Yankees roster, but he was announced as the Game One starter for Friday night. After a rocky first couple of months with his new team, the switch flipped for Paxton and he was terrific down the stretch with four straight starts in September allowing one run or fewer. He could really shine in the playoffs.

Minnesota Twins: The two ex-Rainiers with the Twins are not locks for the playoff roster. Reliever Ryne Harper (2017 Rainiers) faded a bit down the stretch and his spot is not secure. Outfielder Ian Miller does not expect to make the playoff roster, but he may get to travel with the team as a potential replacement in case of injuries – we’ll look for him in the dugout. Miller, by the way, did get his first MLB hit last week.

Houston Astros: The best team in the majors, the Astros do not have any former Rainiers on their 40-man roster. Let’s not read too much into that, OK?

Tampa Bay Rayniers: These are our boys. Because of all of the trades that Jerry Dipoto has made with Tampa, there are lots of ex-Rainiers on the Rays. They had four former Rainiers active for the Wild Card game last night, and could add more when the Division Series roster is announced tomorrow. Pitchers Emilio Pagan (2016-2017 Rainiers) and Chaz Roe (2011), first baseman Ji-Man Choi (2013-2015), and catcher Mike Zunino (2013, 2015-2018) were active in the Wild Card game. They could add reliever Andrew Kittredge (2013, 2015-2016)  and outfielder Guillermo Heredia (2016, 2018) for the Division Series.

National League

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Chris Taylor redemption continues, as the former Rainiers infielder/outfielder has maintained his strong performance since rebuilding his swing after being traded by the Mainers.

Washington Nationals: Get in the way-back machine, because Nationals infielder Asdrubal Cabrera played for the Rainiers in 2005 and 2006. He’s had a very nice career. Nats reliever Hunter Strickland pitched in a couple of rehab games for Tacoma this season before being traded to DC. And while not a former Rainier, outfielder Adam Eaton will forever be known at Cheney Stadium for being the first player after the ballpark’s 2010-11 renovation to hit a foul ball at my head and into the new radio booth, which he did in 2013 as a member of the Reno Aces. I ducked that one, Adam. Will you be able to duck when I get my revenge? Will you?

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals do not have any former Rainiers on the playoff roster. Outfielder Tyler O’Neill was in the majors with them for much of the season, but he did not make the cut for the Division Series. I believe he is travelling with them in case of injury, in which case he could be activated.

Atlanta Braves: None. They do have a former enemy of the Rainiers in Josh Donaldson, going back to his three years in Sacramento, 2010-2012.

And on to the Sure To (Possibly) Be Wrong MLB Playoff Picks:

AL Division Series

Yankees vs Twins: The Twins broke the MLB record for home runs with 307. The Yankees hit 306. Not sure you guys are aware, but the baseball was juiced to the gills this year. These teams could hit 25+ home runs in a five-game series. I’m picking the upset: the Twins have been surprising people all year. Twins in four.

Astros vs Rays: Most of us are probably rooting for the Rays. All of those former Tacoma players, plus the fact that they are not the Astros. But I can’t pick my Rayniers to win this series. They’re going to get chewed up and spit out by the Astros machine. Astros in three.

NL Division Series

Dodgers vs Nationals: The Nationals have the starting pitching to give the Dodgers a fight. The Nationals do not have the bullpen to finish the job. Dodgers in five.

Braves vs Cardinals: Unless you are a longtime Braves or Cardinals fan, this is probably the series you care about the least. The Braves are young and exciting, and they brought in two seasoned free agents to lead them (Donaldson and Dallas Kuechel). The Cardinals always seem to win these things. Both teams have annoying fan bases. Let’s take the youthful Braves in five.

Al Championship Series

Twins vs Astros: Those Twins were so surprising this year, belting all of those homers and winning 101 games. They will not win this series. The Astros chew up another opponent, Verlander strikes out 17 in a game, Astros in five.

NL Championship Series

Braves vs Dodgers: This will be an instant classic series, tense all the way through, with the Braves taking it when they rally against a relieving Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of Game Seven. Braves in seven.

World Series

Braves vs Astros: Hopes for a great series are dashed when the Braves, tired after a grueling seven-game grind against the Dodgers, don’t even score a run until Game Three. The machine has to eat. Astros in four.

Enjoy the playoffs!

Links:

  • Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto detailed his exact offseason plan to the Seattle Times.
  • The News Tribune lists ten winter storylines for the Mariners.
  • Congratulations to former Rainiers manager Pat Listach, who won a Mexican League championship last night with his Monclova club. They overcame a three games to two deficit by taking the final two games against Yucatan, and they trailed 5-2 in Game Seven before coming back to win it. Video of the final out is here, with Pat running into the pile at the 35 second mark.

Rainiers Will Have New Pitching Coach In 2020

October 1, 2019

The Mariners organization is shaking up some coaching staffs, and word is out that Tacoma Rainiers pitching coach Lance Painter will not be returning for the 2020 season.

Painter spent 13 years as an instructor in the Mariners organization, and he served as Tacoma’s pitching coach for the last four seasons.

The Tacoma pitching coach job has been extremely difficult the last three years, with the revolving door of players coming through, and very few spending any significant time with the team. In 2019 the Rainiers used 50 different pitchers, with not a single player reaching 100 innings pitched and only one (Anthony Misiewicz) reaching 80 innings. It was a similar story in 2018, with 44 different pitchers used. In 2017, Tacoma used 53 pitchers!

It’s really hard to do any quality coaching under these circumstances. Add in the new scoring standards with the juiced-up MLB baseball we used in the PCL this season (a 5.50 ERA is good now!), and it could really be a mental challenge.

Hopefully Lance can unwind this offseason, play some golf and relax, and enjoy a world without any 25-11 games in Reno.

Former Rainiers manager Pat Listach has his team in the Mexican League’s championship series, and he needs some wins. Two, to be exact.

Listach, who managed Tacoma from 2015 through 2018, took over the Monclova team mid-season this year. He then piloted them into the playoffs, where he has won two series already, with each series going a full seven games.

Now in the championship series, Monclova trails Yucaton three games to two. Listach has some former PCL players on his roster, including ex-Rainiers outfielder Eric Young Jr. Former PCL and MLB slugger Chris Carter has belted 49 homers for Monclova.

Monclova is at home for games six & seven. Good luck, Pat!

The MLB Wild Card Games are tonight and tomorrow. First up is the National League, in which the Washington Nationals face the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers. It starts at 5:00 on TBS, with the Max Scherzer-led Nationals the heavy favorite.

The American League game is Wednesday at 5:00, and that one is on ESPN. The Oakland A’s square off against the Tampa Bay Rays. There are a handful of former Rainiers on the Rays, with Ji-Man Choi, Mike Zunino and Andrew Kittredge likely to make the playoff roster.

Personally, I’m rooting for the Nats because I think they have the rotation to give the Dodgers a good fight later in the NL playoffs, and the Rays because of the ex-Rainiers and the fact that they are not the A’s.

Once these Wild Cards are settled, we’ll be back to post our annual Sure To Be Wrong MLB Playoff Predictions on Thursday.

The Mariners wrapped up the season with a couple of wins against the playoff-bound Oakland A’s, and finished the year with a record of 68-94. Most of the links below are related to the end of Seattle’s season.

Links:


Sacramento Win Triple-A National Championship

September 19, 2019

Sacramento beat Columbus on Tuesday night in Memphis, 4-0, and won the Tripe-A National Championship Game. That marks the official end of the 2019 Minor League Baseball season.

Congrats to Sacramento for winning it all. The Rainiers will have to deal with the defending champs as a division rival next season.

I caught a few innings of the game on FS1 and it looked like there was a pretty good crowd at Autozone Park for the game, which was nice to see. It’s a tough draw, with two teams playing at a neutral site. Next year’s Triple-A National Championship Game will be played in Las Vegas.

We’ve got some good links today, so check below.

Not sure if we’ll have a post next week, as the major league wild card races get down to the nitty-gritty. Maybe a links round-up as the Mariners season winds down.

Once the major league season ends and the wild card games are played, make sure you check in for my annual Sure To Be Wrong MLB Playoff Predictions, so that you can wager your family fortune on the opposite outcomes. It’s a tradition like no other.

Links: