Who’s On First And Third?

Today our weekly spring training positional previews look at potential Tacoma Rainiers corner infielders.

The organization was not strong in corner infielders (especially after the trade of Patrick Kivlehan to the Texas Rangers), so General Manager Jerry Dipoto signed some veteran free agents to fill the void.

Ed Lucas, Mike Baxter, and (if/when the signing becomes official) Travis Ishikawa are all recently signed corner infielders who have lots of Triple-A experience and varying degrees of major league experience. Former top prospect D.J. Peterson is a younger player who may be in the mix.

Let’s take a look:

Ed Lucas is a veteran infielder who appears to be penciled in as the Rainiers third baseman – if he doesn’t make the big league club. Lucas hit .316 with six homers and a .389 on-base percentage for Round Rock last year, and he has a .255 career average in 163 major league games. He’s going to camp competing for a major league utility job, but the 33-year-old would likely be an everyday player if sent to Tacoma.

Mike Baxter plays first base and corner outfield. A left-handed hitter, Baxter played for the Chicago and Iowa Cubs last year. He’s typically a .280-ish hitter in the PCL, with doubles power. The 31-year-old has experience as a pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder in the majors. Like Lucas, if he doesn’t make the big league team he is likely to see lots of playing time in Tacoma.

Wrote a bit about Travis Ishikawa on Monday (scroll down), who plays the exact same positions as Baxter but has much more MLB experience. Ishikawa is considered to have a strong glove at first base. Because both Baxter and Ishikawa have flexibility to move into the outfield, it is possible that both could break camp with Tacoma.

D.J. Peterson was the Mariners first round draft pick in 2013, and he appeared to be on the fast track to the big leagues prior to his disappointing 2015 season (.223, seven homers, .636 OPS at Double-A Jackson). Despite his struggles in Double-A, Peterson was surprisingly promoted to Tacoma last August by former GM Jack Zduriencik (he played in four Rainiers games and then went down for the season with an Achilles injury). Where the Mariners assign Peterson to start the season will give us some insight into the philosophy of the new Player Development Department: will they promote a highly drafted player who hasn’t conquered Double-A ? Stay tuned. Peterson plays third base and first base.

We should mention Daniel Paolini, who made his Triple-A debut last August after two years at Double-A Jackson (where he hit .271 with a .725 OPS last year). Paolini plays first base and left field, and he could make the Rainiers opening day roster if spring training shakes out in his favor.

We’ll have more about this next week when the conversation turns to middle infielders, but the Mariners are going to have an intense spring training battle to see who makes the major league team as the utility infielder. The “losers” in this battle will be sent to Tacoma, and will primarily play second base and shortstop – but whoever they are, they’ll also be able to play third base as well. Tacoma will have some natural roster depth all around the infield.

You will notice that Jesus Montero is not on this list. Montero is out of minor league options – which means that if he doesn’t make the Mariners opening day roster, he must be offered to the other 29 big league teams on waivers before he could be sent to Tacoma. Someone would take a chance on him if this were to happen.

Links:

  • The Mariners announced their promotional schedule, home game times, and ticket on-sale dates. We should have similar information coming for the Rainiers soon.
  • Cross A.J. Schugel off the list of potential Rainiers starting pitchers – he was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Longtime Mariners scout Ken Madeja won a major award in his field.

We’ll be back with a new post on Friday, when Baseball America is expected to publish its Mariners Top Ten Prospects list.

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