Back in Tacoma, where it hardly feels like baseball weather – and Rainiers Opening Day is just 17 days away.
This was an unusual trip to spring training for me, because it was much earlier than my usual annual visit. It’s best for me to go at the end of camp, when the rosters are close to being set. This year, due to the Mariners trip to Japan, I had to go earlier.
Many of the likely Rainiers players are still in major league camp. When I went out to the back fields to watch the Triple-A games, I saw a strange mix of likely Rainiers along with kids from the lower minor leagues. By the time the sixth inning rolled around and substitutions were made, the “Rainiers” line-up was full of young kids who won’t see Triple-A for years – if ever.
Still, it was a good trip. I got to see some of the key players I had never watched play before, and that’s important. I missed some, though – I was hoping to see the minor league free agent pitchers the Mariners signed from the International League: Jeff Marquez, Matt Fox, and Steve Garrison. Whiffed on that. Also, I never saw that Vinnie Catricala guy – I was really hoping to watch him take a few ABs. He’s still in big league camp so perhaps I can catch him on TV.
Talked to several scouts on Sunday, and there is a consensus that the Pacific Coast League is going to be loaded with prospects this year. This is especially true on the West side of the league – the teams that Tacoma faces 16 times each.
Here’s a look at some of the names of hyped prospects who could be on PCL rosters this season:
Reno – Arizona is loaded with pitching prospects. Will they let them pitch in the Reno launching pad? We could see Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, and Wade Miley in Reno this year. Hitters will be there for sure – look for A.J. Pollock, Ryan Wheeler, and Marc Krauss.
Salt Lake – the Angels don’t have much in the way of upper-level prospects – except for one of the top prospects in the entire sport, outfielder Mike Trout. Trout is battling sickness this spring but he could break camp with the Bees.
Colorado Springs – the Sky Sox haven’t made the playoffs in, like, forever. They’ll be leaning on some kids with power bats this year in Nolan Arenado, Tim Wheeler, and Wilin Rosario. Starting pitching could be interesting if Drew Pomeranz and Alex White don’t make the big league club. Can I list Jamie Moyer as a prospect? Kidding!
Las Vegas – the Blue Jays affiliate is going to be fun to watch. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud was the MVP of the Double-A Eastern League last year, and he might be the #1 catching prospect in minor league baseball. Outfielder Anthony Gose is a freakish athlete with power and sprinter speed. They should return first baseman David Cooper, who won the PCL batting title last year.
Sacramento – the A’s have a lot of advanced prospects they acquired from other teams via trade. Potential River Cats include outfielders Grant Green and Jermaine Mitchell, catcher Derek Norris, and pitchers Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock. Usual suspects Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, and Eric Sogard could return, too.
Tucson – the Padres have a stacked farm system, and Tucson is going to be loaded. Look for hitters Jedd Gyorko, Jaff “Not A Typo” Decker, James Darnell, Blake Tekotte, and pitchers Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland, Robbie Erlin, and Simon Castro. FYI, “Jaff” is pronounced “Jeff,” which is a massive disappointment.
Fresno – Todd Linden. Yeah, that’s a joke – the Giants Triple-A team isn’t going to be prospect-packed, although they could have Brandon Belt. But Linden will probably be around – the Central Kitsap High School product is attempting a comeback at age 31.
- The Mariners have a Rule 5 guy in camp – left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge, who must remain on the 25-man major league roster all season if the Mariners are to keep him.
- Hong-Chih Kuo is hoping his command will improve.
- John Sickels has updates on two of the PCL prospects I listed above in this notebook.
- Kudos to Jeff Sullivan for posting an update on former Rainiers pitcher Bobby Madritsch.
- The Mariners are hiring Ball Girls. I can think of someone just perfect for this job.
- Sign that I’ve made the big time: I’m a Camp Guest!
- Super-prospect Bryce Harper was sent to Triple-A Syracuse. Look for the Nationals to call him up around May 1.
- Good news for former Salt Lake Bees first baseman Kendry Morales, who has finally been cleared to play. So now the Angels have Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and Morales – all major league first basemen. What are they going to do? Perhaps we’ll see Morales rehabilitating with Salt Lake in April.
More coming Wednesday as we gear up for Opening Day on April 5 – and don’t forget, tickets are on sale now – online through Ticketmaster, or in person at the Cheney Stadium Box Office, which is now open during standard business hours.