Spring training starts on February 20th, and the fight for jobs in the Mariners organization will begin. While the major league club looks pretty much set right now, there will be battles throughout the minor league organization to earn spots on the various affiliates.
Today marks the first of our weekly look at the position-by-position battles to make the Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster. We will start with the catchers.
Hicks is the Mariners most advanced catching prospect and is set to be the Rainiers starting catcher in 2015. He was promoted to Tacoma in early July last year and hit .277 with two homers and 20 RBI in 28 games in his first taste of the Triple-A level.
After the season, the Mariners added Hicks to the 40-man roster and as of now he is the Mariners No. 3 catcher. So if there is an injury to either Mike Zunino or Jesus Sucre during spring training, Hicks is currently the only candidate in the organization to fill-in.
As of today, the Mariners have not signed a veteran catcher with major league experience to serve as Triple-A depth. I figure they probably will – it just makes too much sense. Catchers get injured more than any other position player; you can pretty much bank on an injury to one of your two major league catchers at some point during a season. Just two years ago the Mariners used a franchise-record seven catchers in one season.
There are still a few catchers with MLB experience on the minor league free agent list – Mike Nickeas, Hector Gimenez, and Luke Carlin among a handful of others. Humberto Quintero is available as a major league free agent; the M’s could bring him back on a well-paying Triple-A deal like he had last year.
Right now it looks like the Mariners will go with their own internal depth at the position. Here are the in-house candidates to back up Hicks:
Mike Dowd is a defense-first catcher who appeared in 53 games for Double-A Jackson last year, hitting .209 with a homer. If everyone emerges from spring training healthy, he has a good chance to be Tacoma’s No. 2 receiver.
Steve Baron has been in the organization seemingly forever – this is because he was a supplemental first round draft pick in 2009, so his name has been known for six years. He’s now 24 years old and he reached Double-A last year, appearing in 20 games. Like Dowd he is considered a defense-first catcher – although he out-hit Dowd in 2014 (even batting .275 in a small-sample 69 at-bats for Jackson).
There is a prospect down below named Tyler Marlette who is ticketed for Double-A in 2015. He’s reportedly the opposite of Baron and Dowd: a good hitting prospect who is working to improve his defense. A mid-season move from Double-A to Triple-A for Marlette is something that could happen if he shows a lot of improvement.
That’s the upper-level catching situation for now. Everything will be fine if there are no injuries during spring training – but if there are, the lack of depth is going to be problematic.
- The Mariners announced that they will induct Jamie Moyer into their team hall of fame in August.
- ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the majors top bullpens ($), and he has the Mariners No. 3. He moved the Yankees past them into the No. 2 slot due to off-season acquisitions (Kansas City is the clear No. 1).
- Kyle Seager made the All-Underrated team.
- Washington State alum Mark Hendrickson wants to restart his major league career at age 40, and the Orioles are giving him a chance. Also, he’s a grandfather.
- Catching up with our former Tacoma Rainiers sluggers: Mike Carp signed with the Washington Nationals, and Carlos Peguero inked a deal with the Texas Rangers. Both are minor league contracts.
- Here’s a story on the ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte, who figures to be with Nashville this year. Hopefully he’ll be with the Sounds when they come to Tacoma at the very end of the season – I’ve never seen a switch-pitcher before!
- The Colorado Springs Sky Sox announced that Rick Sweet will be their manager.
We’ll have a new post for you on Friday. The position preview series will continue next Wednesday with one of our most interesting groups for 2015: the corner infielders.