We are just one sleep away from February, and that means spring training is rapidly approaching. It’s time to start talking baseball around these parts, so let’s begin our positional previews as we look to see who is in contention to make the Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster.
We will start with the catchers.
The Mariners catching situation is really easy to pin down at this moment in time, because they have just two receivers on the 40-man roster: presumed starter Omar Narvaez, and returning back-up David Freitas.
The organization has signed major league veteran Jose Lobaton to a minor league contract. He has caught over 400 major league games, including 22 with the New York Mets last season. He’ll compete with Freitas for the back-up job in spring training, but his lack of 40-man roster status means we are going to pencil him in for Tacoma for now.
With the exception of Lobaton, the Triple-A catching crew that is coming into spring training is not very experienced behind the dish.
Lobaton is the likely starter. He mashed it for Las Vegas in 39 PCL games last year, batting .348 with eight home runs in just 132 at-bats. The switch-hitter is a career .280/.363/.443 hitter at the Triple-A level. He is also very experienced as a catcher, having played the position since he was signed as a teenager out of Venezuela in 2002.
The other catchers in the Tacoma mix are recent converts to the position.
Austin Nola is a former infielder in the Marlins organization who converted to catcher at the Double-A level in 2017, so he has two years of catching experience. He caught during the 2018 season for New Orleans, so he has done it at the Triple-A level. The Mariners signed Nola as a minor league free agent earlier this winter. Although he didn’t hit for much power, Nola did show strong on-base skills last season in the PCL, posting a .370 on-base percentage in 69 games.
The other catcher in the mix for a Tacoma assignment is organization stalwart Joe DeCarlo. The Mariners second round pick in 2012 as a corner infielder, DeCarlo converted to catching in 2017 at Class-A Modesto. Last season he moved up to Double-A Arkansas and hit eight homers in just 207 at-bats, with a .246 batting average. DeCarlo has caught roughly 150 games in his professional career and may be asked to return to Double-A to continue his growth at the position.
The Mariners could add another experienced Triple-A/MLB catcher to the mix. Remember last year when Garrett Kennedy (who was released after the 2018 season) came out of nowhere to be the Rainiers opening day catcher, due to a series of roster moves at the start of the season? We could see that situation repeat itself, especially if any of the five players mentioned in this post suffer injuries during spring training – which is always a concern with catchers.
Next Thursday we will look at potential Tacoma Rainiers corner infielders.
- Edgar Martinez returned to Seattle and was greeted as a Hall of Famer.
- In the PCL, the Fresno Grizzlies unveiled new uniforms and one of the combinations includes… red pants?
- If you hadn’t heard, the soccer side of the Tacoma sports enterprise made some major announcements yesterday. The S2 franchise (Sounders top affiliate) will continue to play at Cheney Stadium, and it now has a real name: the Tacoma Defiance. Furthermore, the top-level women’s team Reign FC (formerly Seattle Reign) will play its home matches at Cheney Stadium this season.