Rainiers Outfield To Feature Speed & Power

We turn our spring training positional previews toward the outfield today – three positions which should be manned by some of the more interesting Rainiers players.

We expect the organization’s top hitting prospect to open the season in right field for Tacoma. That would be power-hitting Canadian Tyler O’Neill.

O’Neill won the Double-A Southern League MVP award last year, batting .293 with 24 home runs and 102 RBI in a pitcher’s league. In 492 at-bats he drew 62 walks (great!) and struck out 150 times (uh-oh).

He reportedly has top-flight power to all fields. That strikeout-to-walk ratio above was a big improvement last year and we’ll see if he can keep trending the right direction in 2017.

Tacoma should also get either Guillermo Heredia or Ben Gamel at the start of the season. In one of the Mariners few major league spring training roster battles, these two will be competing for the role of the M’s 5th outfielder (behind Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin, Mitch Haniger, and Nelson Cruz (who will also DH a lot)). There doesn’t appear to be room for both on Seattle’s roster, so we’ll get one of them in Tacoma.

Heredia and Gamel are kind of similar players, high-average slashers who use their speed to hit singles and doubles. Both have minor league options remaining.

Are you ready for the return of Boog Powell? The Rainiers starting centerfielder for the first half of the 2016 season is set to return from a suspension in early April. Powell hit .270 with a .326 OBP for the Rainiers last year.

James Ramsey was acquired by Seattle late in the 2016 season and finished the year with Tacoma, appearing in 27 games for the Rainiers. Combined between Oklahoma City and Tacoma, Ramsey batted .265 with nine homers and a .342 OBP in the PCL.

The Mariners signed Kyle Waldrop to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. He hit .252 for Triple-A Louisville last year, and then went 5-for-22 in 15 major league games for Cincinnati. Waldrop had a big 2014 season in the minors and was considered an interesting prospect at that time, but he hasn’t hit much at the Triple-A level. The M’s are trying to get him back to his 2014 form.

That’s five outfielders right there. Some other names:

Dario Pizzano had a strong 2015 season at Double-A Jackson, earning a promotion to Tacoma in 2016, but he struggled to post his usual high on-base percentage at the Triple-A level and eventually was returned to AA. I’m not sure where the organization feels he fits this season.

A player unlikely to begin the season in Tacoma, but one to watch, is speedster Ian Miller. Miller went 49-for-52 in stolen base attempts at Double-A Jackson last year, but his .253 batting average and .331 on-base percentage probably means he’ll start the season with the new Arkansas affiliate. If he improves his offense we’ll eventually see him at Cheney.

All told, this is a strong position group. The Rainiers should have an excellent outfield this season.

The Mariners announced that both Jesus Sucre and Jonathan Aro cleared waivers and were outrighted to Tacoma. You can expect to see both players at Cheney Stadium on opening day.

Sucre’s outright really thickens the plot at the catcher position for Tacoma. Assuming that Mike Zunino and Carlos Ruiz are the two Mariners catchers, that leaves Sucre, Tuffy Gosewisch, Nevin Ashley, Marcus Littlewood, and Sebastian Valle all duking it out to see who makes the Triple-A roster. Add Steve Baron to that list if he is healthy in spring training.

Links:

  • Here’s the story on Jesus Sucre and Jonathan Aro clearing waivers and being outrighted to Tacoma.
  • The Times has started previewing spring training, leading off with an article on Mike Zunino‘s expectations for 2017. Also, the paper has a guide for people visiting Peoria for spring training.
  • For ESPN Insiders, Keith Law has his Mariners top prospects list with commentary on the players. Warning: he’s not very bullish on the M’s prospects.
  • Popular former Rainiers super utilityman Leury Bonilla got a job coaching in the Minnesota Twins farm system. Bonilla got caught in a vortex with the Mariners: his final season as a player was the final season of GM Jack Zduriencik and farm director Chris Gwynn. Gwynn would have immediately made Bonilla a coach, but he was gone… and the new player development staff (Andy McKay and his guys) had no familiarity with Bonilla. I’m glad Bonilla found coaching work elsewhere.
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