Looking at the 2016 Tacoma Rainiers outfield possibilities, it appears that we finally have a pretty clear group of players.
The Mariners are set at the big league level: their outfielders are Nelson Cruz, Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin, Seth Smith, and Franklin Gutierrez. Barring injury, those are the guys who are going to make the team.
One among the group of possible Tacoma outfielders is competing for a Mariners spot at a different position, and he is our first player listed.
Stefen Romero is going to get a chance to compete for the right-hand first baseman platoon role, squaring off against Jesus Montero, Dae-ho Lee and Ed Lucas in spring training. Romero has played all over the infield and outfield during his career. He’s always hit well in Tacoma – last year he hit .292 with 17 home runs and 79 RBI for the Rainiers in 116 games. He has one minor league option year remaining, and if he’s sent to Tacoma he’ll probably see most of his playing time in LF or RF.
Boog Powell is the prospect the Mariners acquired from Tampa in the Brad Miller – Nathan Karns trade. Powell is going to be the Rainiers centerfielder and will probably bat leadoff. Baseball America ranks Powell the No. 9 prospect in the Mariners farm system, citing his “plus speed and fearless defense.” He played in 56 games for Triple-A Durham last year, hitting .254 but with 32 walks and a solid .360 on-base percentage. He’s not a big guy – power is not part of his game; it’s all about speed and on-base ability.
Dan Robertson is a veteran Triple-A outfielder who has a nice amount of major league experience. He’s similar to Powell in that he’s not big but he’s quick and gets on base at a good clip. Robertson has a career Triple-A batting average of .288 with a .365 OBP – that’s over all or parts of four PCL seasons. His stolen base numbers have tailed off the last two years after being a consistent 20+ steal guy; we’ll see if Pat Listach can get him going again (history says he will).
Mike Baxter was brought in as a minor league free agent. We covered him in the corner infielders post because he has a lot of experience at first base, but Baxter also plays left field. Baxter is a line drive, gap-to-gap doubles hitter with plenty of Triple-A and MLB experience. Baxter is lauded as a player with strong makeup and character.
Leon Landry is someone I hope makes the Rainiers roster – he hit a first inning leadoff home run in back-to-back games last July, and that’s a lot of fun for the radio guy. Landry played well for Tacoma last year, out-performing his Double-A numbers, but hit a slump while playing through a shoulder injury and was sent back to Double-A when there was a roster crunch. Landry hit .262-8-27 with 11 stolen base in 187 Triple-A at-bats last season.
Daniel Paolini made his Triple-A debut for Tacoma last August, after a solid Double-A stint in which he hit .271 with a .362 OBP. Paolini plays left field and first base. His best chance of breaking with the Rainiers probably hinges on Romero making the big league club, but lots of things can happen during spring training.
Dario Pizzano was invited to major league camp as a reward for “controlling the strike zone” at Jackson last season. I’ve been told that Pizzano can really hit but needs to improve his defense. He batted .308 with a .366 OBP and .457 slugging percentage for Jackson last season; he’s a left-handed batter who plays left field and designated hitter. We have a DH in Tacoma, so perhaps there is room for Pizzano.
One name to know for later is Ian Miller. He’s a speedy centerfielder who played a good chunk of last season at Double-A Jackson, hitting .254 with 29 stolen bases in 87 games. He’s so fast that he’s considered a fringe prospect who may reach the majors on speed alone someday. If he hits well in Jackson he could find himself promoted to Tacoma at some point this year.
It’s a pretty good outfield group. There isn’t a 30-homer threat, but it’s a nice assortment of players with on-base skills and plenty of Triple-A experience.
- Lookout Landing has an interesting story on the 1995 Replacement Mariners. For you younger readers, this is not yet another of LL’s oddball fiction pieces – it actually happened.
- If you don’t mind the ping of the aluminum, college baseball starts two weeks from today. Here is Baseball America’s Pac-12 Preview.
- In the PCL, the Round Rock Express are inducting Roy Oswalt into their Hall of Fame.