Rainiers Position Preview: Corner Infielders

We’ll continue our 2019 Tacoma Rainiers spring training position previews with a look at the corner infielders. 

In recent years here at the Triple-A level we have seen many Tacoma players move between first base and third base during the season, so that’s why we lump these two positions together. But there is always some crossover with the third baseman and the middle infielders group, which we will get to next week.

Anyway, let’s have at it.

SEATTLE

The Mariners will be playing Kyle Seager at third base. First base is more of a group effort, as it currently looks like some combination of Ryon Healy, Dan Vogelbach, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jay Bruce will get reps at first base. The Mariners designated hitter is likely to come out of this group, too.

Vogelbach reminder: he is out of minor league options, and must make the big league roster or be exposed to waivers. You would think that some team that isn’t contending this year (and doesn’t have Edwin Encarnacion on its roster) would claim him and install him as the everyday designated hitter. It is very unlikely that Vogelbach plays in Tacoma this year.

TACOMA

First base should be all taken care of with late-blooming prospect Joey Curletta ready for a Triple-A assignment. Curletta hit .282 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI at Double-A Arkansas last season, winning the Texas League MVP award. He also drew 81 walks in 129 games, posting a .383 on-base percentage. The 24-year-old was added to the Mariners 40-man roster in November.

Across the diamond at third base there will be many players in the mix for the Rainiers.

The Mariners acquired Dylan Moore from the Milwaukee Brewers organization in a free agent signing, and he could be the Rainiers starting third baseman. Moore played for Colorado Springs last season, hitting .280 with 11 home runs and an .838 OPS.

Moore is on a major league contract, and he has the ability to play all four infield positions. Seattle is going to look at him during spring training and he’ll have a chance to win the back-up infielder job.

Also in the Mariners back-up infielder mix is Kristopher Negron, who we have been watching for a few years now with Reno and is a certified Very Good Triple-A Player™.

Both Moore and Negron are on the 40-man roster, and at the moment it appears that one of them will be the Mariners utility infielder. But only Moore has minor league options left (three years worth!); Negron would have to clear waivers to play for the Rainiers.

Adam Law played a little third base for the Rainiers last year, and he is expected to be on Tacoma’s opening day roster in some capacity. Law batted .260 in 62 games during his first taste of Triple-A ball during the second half of last season.

Another third base possibility in the organization is Logan Taylor, who has enjoyed a brief promotion to Tacoma during each of the last two seasons but has been a regular at the lower levels of the farm system. In late May of 2018 he was promoted to Double-A for his first time, hitting .270 with seven home runs in 66 games for Arkansas. He’s a bit of a longshot to make the Rainiers opening day roster, but it could happen.

That’s the corner infield mix for 2019: first base is set, third base is open. We can also read into this to say that at this point it appears manager Daren Brown will be pulling his DH from the outfield ranks.

Next Thursday we’ll look at the prospective Rainiers middle infielders.

Links:

  • Frank Robinson – top tier Hall of Famer and major league baseball’s first black manager – has passed away at age 83. Here is his New York Times obituary.
  • If you are an ESPN Plus subscriber, you can read Keith Law’s detailed look at the Mariners farm system.
  • Former Rainiers infielders with new teams: Ty Kelly signed with the Angels (which should lead him to the Salt Lake Bees), and Nick Franklin has inked a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • MLB owners and players have begun discussions on a number of potential rules changes, mostly designed to improve the pace of the game. I like requiring relief pitchers to face a minimum of three batters, which will speed things up while increasing forward-thinking strategy.
  • We have a few PCL stories to pass along. New Reno Aces manager Chris Cron spoke to the media about what it will be like managing his son, Kevin Cron.
  • The Las Vegas 51s Aviators are confident that construction of their new ballpark will be completed in time for opening day.
  • San Antonio manager Rick Sweet met fans and media as the team prepares for its first Triple-A season.
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