Baseball is on the radio again, and sometimes on TV. The exhibition games have begun in Arizona and Florida, and we are getting closer to another Pacific Coast League season.
Let’s complete our 2020 Tacoma Rainiers Position Previews© with a look at the bullpen.
This is always the toughest category to project. Late spring roster moves are frequently made with relievers (especially during the Dipoto era, but this was the case even before then). This is also the position in which there is most likely to be an unreported veteran or two in minor league spring training who is unknown to us at the moment. Many years I’ve been watching the Triple-A game on the backfield in Peoria and had a “whoa, they signed that guy?” moment.
Here are the relievers I know are in the Tacoma mix. We’ll list them alphabetically.
Jack Anderson: a submariner who had a 1.50 ERA for Double-A Arkansas last year, giving up just one home run in 54 innings. The high-elevation PCL ballparks will provide a great testing ground to see if his submarining style will work in homer-happy MLB.
Manny Banuelos: we listed him with the starters, but the lefty could also be used as a multiple-inning reliever – which is his more likely role in the majors, should Seattle call him up.
Gerson Bautista: lights up the radar gun. Has the returning Rainiers righty improved his command enough to have success this year? When the ball goes where he wants it to go, he’s really tough to hit.
Brandon Brennan: last year’s Rule 5 pick can now be optioned to the minors, but it looks like he’s good enough to make the major league roster. We’ll see how the next month plays out.
Nestor Cortes: a lefty who spent most of last year in the Yankees big league bullpen, the M’s claimed him off waivers this winter. I could have listed him among the potential Tacoma starting pitchers, because he has started a lot when he’s in the minors. His opening to make the big league club is as a long man.
Sam Delaplane: any list of Mariners “sleeper” prospects includes Delaplane, who struck out 110 batters in 68.2 innings pitched between Class-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas last year. He’s only pitched in 25 Double-A games, but his 0.49 ERA there indicates he is in line to move up.
Matt Festa: ink him in to the Rainiers bullpen to start the season. Festa pitched in 23 games for Tacoma last year, posting a 2.64 ERA with five saves. He could be Tacoma’s closer to start the season.
Darin Gillies: he’s had stints with Tacoma each of the past two seasons. Gillies throws hard and gets a good number of strikeouts, but has had trouble preventing runs in the PCL.
Zac Grotz: after battling through multiple organizations and the independent leagues, Grotz reached the majors and appeared in 14 games for Seattle last year. A Tacoma assignment to start the year seems likely, but he’s trying to make the big league club.
Taylor Guilbeau: the lefty acquired from Washington at the trade deadline last summer, Guilbeau has strong stuff and has a good chance to make the M’s bullpen. If not, we’ll have a locker for him at Cheney.
Wyatt Mills: a Gonzaga product who has been at Double-A Arkansas for the last year-and-a-quarter, but hasn’t really dominated that level yet. He does one thing really well: keep the ball in the ballpark, with just three career home runs allowed in 126 innings pitched.
Erik Swanson: listing him here because he has options and pitched a bit for Tacoma last season, but he seems likely to make the big league club. All reports indicate that his starting days are over for now.
Art Warren: often injured and not often allowing runs, Warren had a 1.71 ERA in 29 appearances for Arkansas last year, and then did not give up a run in six major league games in September. Seems likely to open the season in Tacoma until called upon.
Those are quite a few interesting relief prospects who could open the season with Tacoma – and another one, Joey Gerber, could come during the season if he pitches like he did in 2019. The bullpen could really be a strength for the Rainiers.
The Mariners made a 40-man roster move which hurt the Rainiers pitching depth, but may help the big league bullpen.
Seattle claimed reliever Taylor Williams off waivers from Milwaukee, and designated projected Rainiers starter Phillips Valdez for assignment. Valdez was immediately claimed by the Boston Red Sox.
Williams had a 2.83 ERA in 46 games in the PCL last year for San Antonio, which sounds very promising for the Rainiers except for one thing: he’s out of minor league options.
A native of Camus, WA who pitched one season for Washington State University, Williams is probably really excited to get a chance to pitch for the Mariners. However, he’s unlikely to pitch for Tacoma.
The M’s had to take care of an outfield depth issue, due to an injury.
Outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams – one of the prospects acquired in the James Paxton trade with the Yankees a year ago – is probably out for the season with a ruptured achilles that required surgery.
We had Thompson-Williams listed as a potential Rainiers outfielder to start the season, although that was no sure thing. Unfortunately he won’t be with us now, so the Mariners went out and signed veteran Triple-A outfielder Rymer Liriano to add some depth to the position.
Liriano, now 28 years old, played for Salt Lake and Colorado Springs in 2018, and before that was with El Paso in 2014-15. Last year he was with Syracuse in the International League, hitting .209 with ten homers in 201 at-bats. His career stats can be found here.
In case you come to this site without looking at the Tacoma Rainiers main page, there a couple of important items you may have missed.
The team announced that the 2020 Promotional Calendar is now available. Sadly, my push for “Fans Call The Game So Curto Can Sit At The R-Bar And Drink Beer Night” was once again not approved. Maybe next year.
We also posted two more interviews with the Rainiers coaching staff: part two of the interview with new pitching coach Rob Marcello Jr is here, and the story on hitting coach Roy Howell can be found here.
- The Seattle Times has a look at the Mariners bullpen situation, which has been a real mess the last two years.
- Ryan Divish caught up with Kyle Seager, who has become the undisputed veteran leader of the Mariners. Locker room pecking order is established in this story.
- Dee Gordon is not going to easily relinquish his starting job.
- Larry Stone spoke with Kyle Seager about the Houston Astros sign stealing scheme, and also shared his own thoughts on the matter in this column.
- Stone also has a feature on Shed Long. The News Tribune has an article on Long, as well.
- He also caught up with Kyle Lewis, who is going to be one of the key players to watch for the M’s this season.
- J.P. Crawford changed his offseason routine and came into camp in great shape.
- Catching prospect Cal Raleigh went back to school over the winter and is close to finishing his degree.
- The Mariners second round draft pick in 2017, Sam Carlson hasn’t pitched since… 2017. Until Friday, that is, when he was finally healthy enough to face hitters in an intersquad setting. It’s been a long road to recovery.
- At the USS Mariner blog, marc w presents his thoughts on the big picture of the Mariners rebuild and the goal to contend in 2021. He needs to see a sign.
- Game reports: the Mariners lost the Cactus League opener on Sunday, 7-5. Despite an unpleasant statistical line for Yusei Kikuchi, the coaches liked what they saw. Five takeaways from the opener… the M’s second game was a 16-12 loss to the Cubs that immediately made me concerned that we are going to be playing with super bouncy juiced baseballs again… Kendall Graveman pitched well and felt good in a 2-1 win over the Brewers yesterday, and maybe the baseballs aren’t so bouncy after all.
- One of the big on-the-field stories in the PCL this year will be the progress of Round Rock’s Forrest Whitley, who was the Houston Astros top pitching prospect before a disastrous 2019 season.
- For the subscribers to The Athletic, we have a feature on Rainiers manager Daren Brown, another feature on former Rainiers/Mariners outfielder James Jones who is now a pitcher.