Rainiers News From M’s Media Event

The Mariners held their annual Pre-Spring Training Media Luncheon yesterday, in which a number of speakers talked about the upcoming season.

For the major league news which came out of the event, hit the links down below.

I took some notes on items involving the Rainiers – and a few lower-level minor league prospects – and here’s what we’ve got:

Outfielder Tyler O’Neill will be the focal point on the Rainiers roster at the start of the season. According to Director of Player Development Andy McKay, O’Neill “is a special player. There are so many things about him that are more exciting than the numbers. He bought into what we asked more than anybody. There is a lot of substance behind those numbers.” Assistant GM Jeff Kingston added that O’Neill “really bought into our Control the Zone program.”

In regards to touted pitching prospect Andrew Moore, Kingston said he was “not sure if he’s going to start in Double-A or Triple-A,” which jives with rumblings I’ve heard. He made 19 Double-A starts last year, so experience-wise he’s right on the edge.

Recently acquired pitching prospect Max Povse “resembles the pitcher Chris Young, is very deceptive, an extreme strike thrower, and has a nice curve,” according to Kingston. Like Moore, Povse may start the year in Double-A and if things go well he could move up to Tacoma during the season.

Top prospect Kyle Lewis – the outfielder who broke his leg shortly after signing last summer – is expecting a mid-season return according to McKay. Lewis won’t see Tacoma in 2017, but he’s definitely a player worth following.

All of the Mariners minor league affiliates are adding a fourth coach in 2017, for a simple reason according to McKay: “To improve the student-teacher ratio.”

Former Rainiers and current Mariners trainer Rob Nodine gave the injury report, and he covered one possible Rainiers player: reliever Tony Zych is rehabbing from his postseason shoulder surgery, and the hope is that he is ready by the end of spring training.

New Mariners Director of Baseball Operations Justin Hollander had a hand in some of the offseason acquisitions who are likely to play for the Rainiers. Minor league free agent outfielder Kyle Waldrop “has tools, and is looking to reset his career a little bit. We hope to help him find the 2014 version of himself and get his career back on track.” Waldrop’s stats are here to see what Hollander is talking about.

Hollander also said the Rainiers reliever Dean Kiekhefer “profiles as a situational lefty, and was among the best in the minor leagues (last year) at getting left-handed batters out.”

Mariners pitcher James Paxton took the podium and spoke on a variety of subjects. He credited Rainiers pitching coach Lance Painter for identifying the mechanical change he needed to make last April to get his velocity back.

And of course the Mariners made some roster moves during the day, which greatly affect the Rainiers. They traded just-drafted catcher Jason Goldstein to Oakland for Triple-A pitcher Dillon Overton, who will slot into the Tacoma starting rotation. They also acquired veteran catcher Tuffy Gosewich via a waiver claim, and designated catcher Jesus Sucre for assignment. Seattle also signed Triple-A veteran catcher Nevin Ashley to a minor league contract.

The catching portion of these moves serves as a perfect example of what Jerry Dipoto means when he talks about roster flexibility. Sucre is out of minor league options and was going to have to clear waivers at the end of spring training if he didn’t make the big league roster – which could leave Tacoma in a very tough spot right around opening day in terms of catchers. Instead, we find out now if he gets through.

Gosewich has one minor league option left – so if Sucre gets claimed by another team, Gosewich becomes the third catcher in the organization, and he can move freely between Triple-A and the majors throughout the season.

Ashley is on a minor league deal, but he does have a little major league experience. He’s highly respected around the PCL as a veteran leader in Triple-A.

As for Overton, he went 13-5 with a 3.29 ERA for Nashville last year. That can be deceptive – Nashville’s new home ballpark is now the best pitcher’s park in the PCL – but Overton actually had a slightly better ERA in road games (3.18) than home games (3.41). He beat the Rainiers on August 17 last year, 5-2, allowing two runs in six innings – Ryan Strausborger took him deep.

Links:

Have a great weekend and we’ll have a new post on Tuesday.

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