The Rainiers lost power-hitting first baseman Brad Nelson to free agency, but the Mariners signed his potential replacement in Luis Jimenez.
After nearly two full season with the Rainiers, Nelson left as a minor league free agent. He has signed with the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers Triple-A affiliate is in Round Rock, which plays much closer to Nelson’s Iowa home. Also, the team makes two road trips each season to Iowa and Omaha – places where Nelson had lots of friends and family visiting with him during Tacoma’s road trip there last season.
Nelson joined Tacoma in May of 2009 under strange circumstances, but he ended up being a big contributor. Nobody in Tacoma was sure why he was signed after the Brewers let him go – not because of any doubt that he could play, but rather because at the time the Rainiers already had five first basemen on the roster. Nelson was first baseman #6 – much to the puzzlement of the man who had to fill out the lineup card.
Nelson ended up seeing time in the outfield, and making spot starts at DH and 1B, and he helped the team win some games.
The first base logjam was cleared up for 2010 and Nelson had over 400 at-bats for the championship team.
Over the last two regular seasons, Nelson hit 32 home runs in about 680 at-bats. Also, both of Nelson’s Tacoma teams reached the playoffs
Nelson improved his stock this winter by leading the Dominican Winter League in home runs. The Rangers are looking for left-handed power – in fact, there is a rumor they are trying to sign Jim Thome – so perhaps Nelson will get another major league opportunity this season.
The Mariners added a power hitter who might break camp with Tacoma in Luis Jimenez. Jimenez is physically similar to Nelson – a big, left-handed first baseman who is from Venezuela instead of Iowa.
Like Nelson, Jimenez just led his winter league in home runs. He played for Cardinales de Lara, a Venezuelan Winter League team the Mariners have a long-standing relationship with. Some of his teammates with Lara this winter included past and future Tacoma Rainiers like Dan Cortes, Alex Liddi, Mauricio Robles, Michael Saunders, and Cesar Jimenez.
For Lara, Luis Jimenez hit .312 with 12 home runs and 57 walks in 59 games – he had a crazy-ridiculous .475 on-base percentage.
Jimenez is 28 years old and has been a real journeyman – he’s played for six different organizations, including the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan in 2009. So far I have not been able to find any record that he played in 2010. Also, he has never played in the Pacific Coast League before.
I saw a picture of Jimenez batting (I cannot find it anymore or I would link to it) and he looks like a left-handed, Venezuelan Bucky Jacobsen. I think he’ll be quite popular if he makes the Rainiers.
- The Mariners have announced the details of their annual FanFest – coming up in two weeks. Felix Hernandez is the featured autograph signer, which is pretty awesome. Also, the M’s are clearly dedicated to playing the kids this year: Dustin Ackley is a featured player, as is Class-A infielder Kyle Seager. Seager is probably a couple of years away from the majors, but he had a great season in 2010. I made an undercover trip to FanFest a few years ago and had a good time – you should check it out if you never have before. One word of advice: get there early and be prepared for a long line if you want to meet King Felix.