One of the biggest and most competitive off-season leagues opened up play this past weekend, when the Venezuelan Winter League started.
Usually the Rainiers have quite a few players appear in this league, but this year only two have thus far:
Gabriel Noriega – Tacoma’s all-star infielder is with Cardenales de Lara, where he has already appeared in five games and collected five hits (including a triple). Right now he is the only Mariners player active with Lara, but Seattle has had a long relationship with this team and more players could join as the season progresses.
Ji-Man Choi – after a disappointing 2014 season for Tacoma, Choi looks to have continue his development while playing for Tigres de Aragua in Venezuela. Choi is 5-for-18 with a homer so far, and it is worth noting that he has played all five games in the outfield.
The Mexican League has also started, and one player has appeared so far. Another – Forrest Snow – said in late August that he plans to play in Mexico this winter, too.
James Gillheeney – the left-handed starter is playing for Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League, and he made his first start for them on Saturday. Interestingly, Gillheeney has already played in Mexican League games held in the USA: his team participated in Mexican Baseball Fiestas held at the new ballpark in El Paso and the old one in Tucson. One-time Rainiers outfielder Jerry Owens – now 33 years old and out of affiliated ball – is one of Gillheeney’s teammates. Owens had a super-rare six-hit game for Tacoma in 2009.
The Arizona Fall League has been going on for a little more than a week, and both Taijuan Walker and John Hicks from the 2014 Rainiers are playing there – along with potential 2015 Tacoma players Patrick Kivlehan, D.J. Peterson, Stephen Landazuri, Matt Brazis, and Matt Anderson.
Walker’s two starts have gone well. Hicks has caught three games and is 3-for-11 at the plate.
The Dominican Winter League has not started yet. That league is typically loaded with Triple-A players so there will probably be a few more Rainiers reporting to duty soon.
- Taijuan Walker had an excellent start in the Arizona Fall League on Monday.
- In his Mariners Notebook from Tuesday, Bob Dutton notes that Rainiers infielder Gabriel Noriega is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the 40-man roster this month.
- Baseball America released it’s list of the PCL’s Top-20 Prospects of 2014. Only one Tacoma player made the cut: Taijuan Walker at No. 9. This link is a to a free grid of all of their league prospect lists – there is more content on their site, but it is subscriber-only.