2020 Rainiers Previews: Middle Infielders

Let’s continue with our pre-spring training 2020 Tacoma Rainiers Position Previews® with a look at the middle infielders.

We’ve got some clarity at the shortstop position, and a lot of candidates at second base. This group includes players who can help out all around the diamond.

Donnie Walton played 103 games at shortstop for Double-A Arkansas last year, committing just four errors and posting a .990 fielding percentage. He earned a rare-before-2019 September call-up directly from Double-A, making his major league debut and appearing in seven big league games.

With no middle infield openings in Seattle – they have J.P. Crawford, Dee Gordon, and Shed Long to man the positions – Walton is probably going to be optioned to Tacoma at the end of spring training and settle in as our shortstop.

Prior to 2019, Walton played much more second base than shortstop in his career. He can slide over to the other side of the bag whenever needed.

The spring outlook for Tim Lopes is murky at the moment. It’s hard to even put a position on him: primarily a second baseman throughout his career, the Mariners gave him his first big league call-up last year and installed him in left field – a position he had played just once in his entire minor league career. So what is he now? Is Lopes battling for a spot in the Mariners outfield this spring? Or a big league utility role? Are they going to option him to Tacoma where he’ll play outfield? Will he be the Rainiers everyday second baseman? Don’t ask me; I just work here.

Chris Mariscal should be back with the Rainiers in April. He can play shortstop, second, third, and left field. He batted .209 in his first taste of Triple-A ball last season, and he may have to fight off some new competition to earn a spot on Tacoma’s roster.

The Mariners claimed Sam Haggerty off waivers from the Mets earlier this winter, and he seems likely to be on the Rainiers roster and in the second base mix. A speed-oriented player, Haggerty has primarily played second base and center field in the upper levels of the minors. He also has played left field, shortstop, and third base – basically, everywhere. Rainiers manager Daren Brown will watch him closely this spring to see where he best fits.

Minor league free agent Alen Hanson was inked by the Mariners. He has plenty of second base experience, and like Haggerty is capable of playing many different positions. He came up as a shortstop, moved to second, and in recent years has mixed in a lot of outfield. Hanson has quite a bit of major league experience, but is coming off a rough 2019 season in which he struggled to hit in both Toronto and Triple-A Buffalo.

There is a local player who could find himself in the Rainiers middle infield mix sometime this season. From Kentlake High School (Class of 2013), Jordan Cowan reached Double-A Arkansas last year where he was the primary second baseman. He was charged with just two errors in 113 games at the position, and had a .995 fielding percentage. Cowan hit .264 with two homers and a .345 on-base percentage over 124 total Double-A games, stealing 17 bases. Cowan will have to fend off all of the veterans listed above to make the Tacoma roster on April 9, but if that doesn’t happen we may see him later this summer.

That’s our middle infield situation as of today. Next week we’ll focus on the outfielders.

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