Position Previews: 2020 Rainiers Corner Infielders

Our 2020 Tacoma Rainiers Position Previews™ series continues today with a look at the corner infielders who are candidates to break camp with Tacoma.

Any thought that this group would be headlined by 2017 first round draft pick Evan White was dashed this winter, when the M’s signed the top prospect to a major league contract locking him up for six years. Despite playing just four career Triple-A games, White will open the season with Seattle as the everyday first baseman.

So who do we have in Tacoma? Let’s take a look.

On the right side of the infield we have three potential Rainiers who play first base and also the outfield – and in each case, the player’s previous experience has been evenly split between first base and a corner outfield position.

Eric Filia is expected to return to the Rainiers after a strong couple of months in the Dominican Winter League, where he hit .301 with a .401 OBP. Filia remains something of a throwback player, posting high batting averages, on-base percentages, and contact rates without much power while playing defensive positions traditionally staffed by power hitters. He played first base and right field for Tacoma last year.

Jose Marmolejos signed with the M’s as a free agent this winter after a solid first Triple-A season in 2019 for Fresno. Marmolejos played left field and right field for Fresno last year, but most of his games came at first base. He batted .315 with 16 home runs and a .912 OPS in his first PCL season. Like Filia, Marmolejos is a left-handed hitter.

Nick Zammarelli played first base and right field for Double-A Arkansas last year. He hit .231 with nine homers in his first season at that level and may be in store for a repeat season, but the Arkansas ballpark is very tough on hitters and the organization may want to bump him up if there is room for him in Tacoma. Either way, he’s a name to know for the future.

New acquisition Mitch Nay plays both third base and first base. Signed as a minor league free agent, Nay was crushing it in Double-A last year in the Reds organization before getting bumped up to Triple-A for his first time… and then he hit .210 in 100 at-bats for Louisville, with four homers. It appears that the M’s signed him thinking he could help in Double-A or Tacoma, planning to bring him to spring training and see how he fits in.

Third base will likely be manned by one of either Dylan Moore or Patrick Wisdom, but don’t tell them that. Each of them is going to Peoria planning to make the Mariners opening day roster.

Moore spent the majority of the 2019 season as the Mariners utility infielder, appearing in 113 games as a rookie. He hit .206 with nine homers, a .302 OBP, and an 11-for-20 stolen base mark. The last time he played in Triple-A regularly was 2018, when he was the everyday third baseman for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (R.I.P.). If spring training ends with Dee Gordon and Shed Long handling the second base/utility infielder roles in Seattle, Moore could find himself in Tacoma.

Wisdom was signed to a major league contract by the Mariners, but he does have an option year remaining. Wisdom hit 31 home runs for Nashville last season, and 31 homers for Memphis in 2017, so he would really help the power-starved Rainiers lineup if he plays in Tacoma. However, he wants to play in Seattle and will be battling to make the team in March.

Another player in the mix at third base is veteran Alen Hanson, who was reportedly signed to a minor league contract on Friday. Hanson is in the mix everywhere – he has played everywhere on the diamond, with the exception of catcher, and for all we know he might be able to do that too. He came up as a shortstop/second baseman, but has added corner infield and all outfield spots as he has grown. If he doesn’t make the big league team he’ll be a regular in the Rainiers lineup, possibly with a different defensive position each game.

That’s our corner infielder group as spring training is about to get underway. Next week we’ll look at the middle infielders.

Baseball America reported on Friday evening that the Double-A leagues will not be using the MLB baseball this season, and will continue to play with the official minor league baseball in 2020. Triple-A began using the MLB baseball in 2019 and will continue to do so this year.

This information is the direct opposite of what we heard at the Mariners media event on Thursday. If it is true that the super-juiced MLB homerball will not be used in Double-A leagues, then the entire premise of Friday’s blog post is now meaningless. Swing and a miss strike three I’m out, but I’ll keep writing these things anyway.

Links:

  • The Mariners claimed left-handed starting pitcher Nick Margevicius off waivers from the San Diego Padres. He’ll compete for a spot in the big league rotation, but he has two option years remaining and could end up with Tacoma. We could have mahr-GAV-a-chiss and mi-SEV-itch in the starting rotation. Reggie McClain was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster – not sure if he’ll get claimed by another team, but we could definitely use him in Tacoma.
  • The News Tribune projects the Mariners starting rotation.
  • Matt Calkins writes that without Felix Hernandez, the Mariners lack star power.
  • Fangraphs posted a Julio Rodriguez love-fest. Hopefully we’ll see him in Tacoma someday.
  • On that note, over at the WeRTacoma page there are three bold predictions for the 2020 Tacoma Rainiers. I didn’t write it, but I like it.
  • Former Rainiers reliever Ryne Harper was traded from the Twins to the defending champion Washington Nationals.
  • Veteran PCL skipper Keith Johnson was announced as the first manager in the history of the Wichita Wind Surge. BTW, Google wants to complete the search as “Wichita wind surgery” which might be a thing – I was too scared to click on it.
  • Reno has a new radio announcer: it’s Zack Bayrouty up from Advanced-A Stockton. Congrats, Zack!

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