Today we’ll look at the middle infielders who could make the Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster, and this is an area where fans should get to see some of the young prospects that the Mariners have recently traded for.
One of the spots is kind of tricky, and that is the shortstop.
Seattle traded for 24-year-old J.P. Crawford from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Jean Segura deal, with the hopes that he will be a long-term solution at shortstop. Crawford is coming off a disappointing rookie season, in which he had injuries and played in just 49 major league games, hitting .214. A lot more than that is expected from Crawford, a former first round draft pick and highly regarded prospect.
Media reports have made it sound as if the Mariners might want Crawford to see some time in Triple-A to get back on track. Seattle even signed veteran infielder Tim Beckham to handle shortstop if Crawford doesn’t appear ready during spring training.
So, Rainiers fans might get to see Crawford at shortstop for the first few weeks of the season. Or maybe not. Hard to say, really.
Tacoma’s second base position appears to be set, with the trade for Shed Long from the Cincinnati Reds (via the Yankees in a three-team trade). Long has played the last season-and-a-half at the Double-A level and is expected to move up this year. He’s considered a bat-first second base prospect, with the ability to produce a lot of extra-base hits.
Seattle signed two minor league free agents who are good Triple-A players and can play the middle infield: shortstop Orlando Calixte and second baseman Tim Lopes.
We’ve seen a lot of Calixte in the visitor’s dugout the last few seasons. He has four years of PCL experience, spending 2018 and 2017 with Sacramento after two seasons with Omaha. Primarily a shortstop, Calixte can move around to the other infield positions and has even had reps in center field. He’s got a little pop in his bat for a middle in fielder, reaching double figures in homers the last three seasons.
Tim Lopes – no relation to Davey Lopes despite playing the same position – is a former Mariners draft pick who was traded to Toronto two years ago, then brought back into the fold as soon as he reached minor league free agency. He’s primarily a second baseman, and in his first Triple-A season last year he hit .277 with 18 stolen bases for Buffalo in the International League.
Those four players – Long, Calixte, Lopes and maybe Crawford – should have the middle infield fully covered. But wait, there’s more… Dustin Ackley is back!
However, Ackley doesn’t play much second base these days. He appeared at the keystone in just 16 games for Salt Lake last year. The Bees chose to use him in left field, at first base, and as the DH in most games.
We talked a little about Adam Law in the corner infielders post, but his best position is second base. He fared well in his first taste of Triple-A baseball with the Rainiers last year, and we know he’ll fight hard in March to make the club.
Another name to know is Chris Mariscal, who was the primary shortstop for Double-A Arkansas last year. A 2014 Mariners draft pick out of Fresno State, Mariscal also plays second and third base. Mariscal hit .261 with seven homers and 60 RBI last year in 120 games.
That’s a lot of players in the middle infield mix, and if Crawford is sent to Tacoma there will be quite a logjam. The Mariners front office will have to figure it all out in spring training.
- Felix Hernandez met with the media and discussed the upcoming season, which is the final year of his contract.
- New lefty Yusei Kikuchi had his first spring training workout and bullpen session.
- Mariners reliever Sam Tuivailala is making progress in his return from a ruptured Achilles tendon.
- The New York Times has an interesting story on the company behind the great Baseball Reference website.
- In the PCL, they broke ground on the new $75 million ballpark in Wichita, Kansas. The New Orleans franchise is moving there for the 2020 season.