M’s Place Two On BP’s Top 101

February 9, 2015

Baseball Prospectus released its Top 101 Prospects list today, and the Seattle Mariners have two players who made the cut.

Third baseman and likely 2015 Rainiers member D.J. Peterson is ranked No. 62, and teenage outfielder Alex Jackson is listed at No. 68.

A quick glance at the Top 10 shows that the Rainiers will face some elite prospects in the PCL this season.

The Rainiers visit the Iowa Cubs May 21-24, and they should have No. 2 Addison Russell and possibly (but unlikely) No. 5 Kris Bryant with them.

Russell – a shortstop – was formerly in the A’s organization and made a memorable-for-all-of-the-wrong-reasons Triple-A debut at Cheney Stadium on the final weekend of the 2013 season. He was only 19 years old and he got chewed up by the Rainiers pitching staff, going 1-for-13 with nine strikeouts. I remember wondering how this guy could be considered a big prospect, but apparently he’s improved dramatically since then.

Also in BP’s Top 10 is Astros shortstop Carlos Correa at No. 3, who could see Triple-A time with Fresno later this season if things go well for him. Fresno visits Tacoma twice this year: April 30-May 3, and July 24-27.

Kyle Seager‘s little brother Corey Seager is ranked the No. 7 prospect, and he should see some time with the Dodgers new Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City this year. I’m hoping he’s with them when Tacoma visits Bricktown in August, because it would be fun to interview him and ask him about growing up with Kyle.

Checking in at No. 9 on the list is a guy the Rainiers have already faced several times: Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard. “Thor” will probably start the season with Las Vegas once again – and the Rainiers could be stuck facing him a lot, just like last year. Syndergaard made four starts against Tacoma in 2014 going 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA, and he struck out 29 Rainiers in 23 innings. We’ve seen enough – hopefully he’ll make the Mets rotation.

Looking at Tacoma’s opening homestand, top prospects on El Paso (Padres) and Albuquerque (Rockies) could include BP’s No. 23 Austin Hedges & No. 53 Matt Wisler (El Paso) and No. 11 Jonathan Gray & No. 64 Eddie Butler (Albuquerque). Three of those four are starting pitchers, so that could pose an interesting challenge for the Rainiers.

Spring training is little a bit closer and I actually found some baseball stories over the weekend – so here ya’ go!

Links:

New post coming Wednesday, which will look at the 2015 Tacoma Rainiers starting pitcher candidates.


More Mariners Prospect Lists

January 30, 2015

Two of the highly-regarded prospect analysts released Mariners prospects lists in the last 24 hours, and we’ve got some conflicting viewpoints.

ESPN’s Keith Law had his entire annual prospect package released this week, with a national Top-100 list and team-by-team Top Tens.

Keith put two Mariners in his Top 100: he has Alex Jackson ranked No. 59, and D.J. Peterson is No. 61.

Since Peterson is likely to play for the Rainiers this season, let’s copy Law’s write-up on him (note: the reports are for ESPN Insider subscribers, but I contacted Keith and he granted permission to share his Peterson report).

Peterson just missed my top 100 last year, moving up to the middle of the list this offseason thanks to a strong debut campaign that saw him perform well at two levels despite a series of nagging injuries. This says nothing of the broken jaw that ended his 2013 campaign; Peterson showed no ill effects from that injury. (It was caused by a 96 mph fastball, and he never flinched or bailed out on inside pitches thereafter.) He’s more of a pure hitter than a power guy but can get a little homer-happy and lose some of his knack for making hard contact. He has dropped his load further down toward his rear hip since college, which gives him a little more loft through contact but also puts him on top of the ball too often. I’d rather see him keep his hands a little higher and hit more line drives, even at the cost of five homers per year.

He’s played more third base than first in pro ball, but first is his ultimate position. He can be a high-average, 15-20-homer hitter or a lower average, 20-25-homer hitter. The latter would make him more of an average regular, but the former gives him a chance to be a full grade higher.

Here are Law’s Top 10 Mariners prospects:

1. Alex Jackson, RF
2. D.J. Peterson, 1B/3B
3. Austin Wilson, RF
4. Ketel Marte, IF
5. Gabriel Guerrero, RF
6. Luiz Gohara, LHP
7. Edwin Diaz, RHP
8. Tyler Marlette, C
9. Patrick Kivlehan, 1B
10. Gareth Morgan, OF

Meanwhile, Baseball Prospectus released their Seattle Mariners Top-10 list today, and it looks a bit different:

  1. 1B/3B D.J. Peterson
  2. RF Alex Jackson
  3. 2B/SS Ketel Marte
  4. RF Gabriel Guerrero
  5. RHP Edwin Diaz
  6. C Tyler Marlette
  7. LHP Luiz Gohara
  8. RHP Victor Sanchez
  9. RHP Carson Smith
  10. OF Austin Wilson

The big difference – other than the flip-flop up top – is the vastly different opinion on Class-A outfielder Austin Wilson. Law ranked him No. 3, and BP stuck him at the end.

Law placed 2014 second-round pick Gareth Morgan in at No. 10, while BP decided to keep Victor Sanchez in theirs – noting in the scouting report (link below) that Sanchez has a strong chance of being a back-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.

Patrick Kivlehan also generated different opinions: Law likes him enough for a No. 9 slot, while BP lists him as a “factor on the farm” saying that he could end up being a bench player in the majors.

It’s interesting to see the different opinions, but it is important to remember that is exactly what they are: opinions.

Links:

Have a wonderful Super Bowl Weekend, you guys.


Baseball America’s Top M’s Prospects Released

December 5, 2014

Baseball America is the king of the prospect ranking game – they’ve been doing it the longest, and have been copied by many outlets.

Today they web-published their Mariners Top 10 Prospects package. Most of it requires a free online registration, but they do release the list and an overview article without registration. Here is their ranking:

  1. Alex Jackson, OF
  2. D.J. Peterson – 3B
  3. Ketel Marte – SS
  4. Patrick Kivlehan – 3B/1B
  5. Austin Wilson – OF
  6. Edwin Diaz – RHP
  7. Gabriel Guerrero – OF
  8. Luiz Gohara – LHP
  9. Ryan Yarbrough – LHP
  10. Carson Smith – RHP

And this is the link to their free system overview. If you have registered, the rest of the Top Ten will appear with scouting reports and you will also have access to a Mariners-only prospect chat.

A few thoughts on the list:

  • The top five are all position players. When was the last time that happened in the Mariners system?
  • They are quite high on Ketel Marte, who looked impressive in his first taste of Triple-A baseball at the end of last season.
  • Carson Smith is down the list because Baseball America values starting pitching prospects over relievers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith spends the entire 2015 season in Seattle – although he could ride the Tacoma-to-Seattle shuttle.
  • Marte, Patrick Kivlehan, and possibly Smith should be Rainiers on opening day. I think D.J. Peterson opens the season in Double-A but I’ve been wrong a hundred times before, so…
  • Baseball America is still quite high on Luiz Gohara, an 18-year-old lefty from Brazil who is built like CC Sabathia. Gohara really struggled in Everett last year but he was much younger than the hitters he was facing. We’re talking three-to-five years younger in most match-ups.
  • I find it interesting that they have Austin Wilson ahead of Gabriel Guerrero. Wilson is a year-and-a-half older than Guerrero and a level behind him in the system. They must think that Wilson has the proverbial “higher ceiling.”

This is the first of the “big three” Mariners prospect rankings. Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels will have their rankings later in the off-season.

Surely you’ve heard by now that on Wednesday afternoon the Mariners officially announced the Nelson Cruz signing, and also announced that they traded outfielder Michael Saunders to the Toronto Blue Jays for left-handed starting pitcher J.A. Happ.

The Saunders trade was imminent – it’s been clear since the end of the season that there was some sort of disconnect there, and the only question was a matter of where to and for who.

Getting Happ helps the starting pitching depth, which was a weakness. They currently have six starting pitchers, which is good because it (almost) never fails that there will be injuries in spring training.

It’s sad to see Saunders go, as he is truly a classy guy to have on the team. We watched him grow since he first showed up in Tacoma in 2008. Including rehabilitation assignments, he wore a Rainiers uniform for at least three games in seven of the last eight years!

I’ve heard that Saunders is pleased with this trade – he couldn’t control the destination, of course, so it was surprisingly cool for a Canadian to join a Toronto team that is making moves to try to win the AL East

Hopefully this trade will work out for both teams.

The Winter Meetings start on Sunday and will go on most of next week. The meetings are in San Diego this year – a huge improvement from the recent locations.

The Rainiers will have a contingent of five or six people who will participate in league meetings, canvass the Baseball Trade Show, meet with Mariners officials, and perhaps hire a staffer or two.

I will not be there, but I’ll be following the MLB player news/rumors from my North End Office. I’ll pass along the Mariners and Rainiers-related tidbits here on the blog.

Links:

Winter Meetings week coming – it’s like Christmas for those of us who like to follow the off-season rumors!


More Prospect Lists

January 27, 2014

The media build-up to the Super Bowl is really going to increase this week, but in the meantime there are a bunch of baseball items of note to pass along today.

The Mariners held their FanFest this past weekend, as some good stories came from it – they are available in the links down below.

You can add another name to the ever-growing list of potential Rainiers players. On Friday the Mariners announced they are bringing oft-injured yet intriguing pitcher Mark Rogers to spring training on a minor league deal.

Rogers was the 5th player chosen in the first round of the 2004 draft, and he has spent a ton of time on the disabled list since then. Shoulder injuries have been the culprit – yet when healthy, he flashes enough potential to keep teams interested.

Rogers spent most of 2013 rehabilitating his latest shoulder injury. If he is healthy in spring training, he could make the Tacoma roster.

A wave of prospect lists came out today, with more on the docket for later this week.

Baseball America released their Mariners Top-10 Prospects list, and Baseball Prospectus came out with their Top 101 Prospects in the game (links are below, of course). Later this week, ESPN Insiders will get Keith Law’s annual prospectpalooza.

I enjoy these prospect lists, but don’t put too much weight on them. Lists like these are merely fun diversions – players need to perform. Baseball is full of players like Abraham Almonte, who was on nobody’s prospect list last year and ended up being Tacoma’s MVP and finishing the season with an impressive run in the majors.

On to the links:

  • Baseball America’s Top 10 Mariners Prospects list came out today. This link is the free list and a round-up, and if you are a subscriber you can get their scouting reports right here.
  • The Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects is right here – it’s just a list; the full write-ups are in their annual book which has just been released. Three Mariners (two 2013 Rainiers) make the list.
  • Bob Dutton caught up with Robinson Cano at FanFest, and he also has a report on the health of Corey Hart.
  • Dutton’s notebook from FanFest incudes a visit with new Mariner Logan Morrison.
  • The curveball drove Russell Wilson to stardom – in football, says the Denver Post. The story has some good quotes from current Rockies and Sky Sox players who were teammates with Wilson.
  • Former Rainiers manager Dave Myers was announced as the hitting coach for the Durham Bulls – his sixth season as the Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A hitting coach.
  • Here’s a fun story from the SF paper on former PCL player Neill Sheridan, who once hit a 613-foot home run for Sacramento.
  • After I was done reading the previous story on Sunday afternoon, I fell into a fun non-baseball wormhole and now I’m going to suck you in, too: photos from the big wave surfing contest. Enjoy.

Coming Wednesday: we start our position-by-position spring training series by looking at the potential Tacoma catchers.


Mariners Have A Manager, What About Rainiers?

November 6, 2013

Yesterday the Seattle Mariners named Lloyd McClendon the 16th “fulltime” manager in franchise history. McClendon has previous managing experience with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and most recently he was Jim Leyland‘s hitting coach in Detroit.

I don’t really have an opinion on McClendon’s hiring. The Mariners struggles in recent seasons have had nothing to do with the manager, and everything to do with the talent on the field – which the manager does not control.

There is lots of stuff to read about McClendon in the links down below.

Now that the Mariners have filled the top spot, they have work to do in the minors. The Rainiers don’t currently have a manager – let’s take some guesses, and handicap the field.

Tacoma Manager Candidates

Jim Pankovits – the manager of the Mariners Double-A Jackson affiliate has been there for three years, and he’s in line for a promotion. Odds: 3 to 1.

Daren Brown – the man who has started the past seven seasons as Tacoma manager keeps getting promoted mid-season. I was hoping he would get the Mariners manager job, and now I’m hoping he gets a spot on the major league coaching staff. However, if that doesn’t happen he could be right back in his office at 2502 S. Tyler. Odds: 9 to 2.

The Field – this is everybody not listed, or alternately “some former Mets or Brewers employee who Jack Zduriencik trusts.” This is one of the most important parts of the Triple-A manager’s job: Jack Z has to trust the opinion of the skipper, when it comes to determining if a player is ready to get called up. Brown told me when he was Tacoma manager he talked to Jack Z almost every day – and when he was major league third base coach, he hardly ever talked to him. Don’t be surprised if the next Rainiers manager comes from outside the organization. Odds: 5 to 1.

John Stearns – the Rainiers “interim” manager after Brown was promoted last year, Stearns told me after the season he was going back to his previous duty as roving catching instructor. However, he could be asked to manage Tacoma again. Odds: 8 to 1.

Chris Woodward – the former Rainiers infielder retired after the 2012 season, and served last year as the minor league infield coach. Woody wants to manage and I think he’ll get the opportunity. However, he’ll probably have to start out in the low minors – although he has a ton of PCL experience and should be able to handle the players here. Odds: 12 to 1.

Scott Steinmann – served as Stearns bench coach after the mid-season shake-up last year. Steinmann has filled just about every role in the Mariners minor league system, but last season was his first in the upper levels of the organization. Odds: 15 to 1.

Jack Howell – currently the Mariners field coordinator, Howell oversees much of the Mariners minor league program. He’s a longshot simply because I’m not sure if he wants to manage – but we’ll list him, because he’s in the picture. Odds: 100 to 1.

Brian Sweeney – the consummate professional and ultimate Rainier, let’s bring in The PCL Dream as a player-manager! Odds: 2,500 to 1.

Roger Hansen – a former PCL player and longtime minor league instructor, the crusty Hansen has been working as a special assignment scout in the Mariners office. He could be asked to manage in Tacoma, which woild be quite a surprise. Odds: 1,000,000 to 1.

We should start to get a good idea which way this is going to go once McClendon’s coaching staff is announced.

The first Mariners Top Prospects list came out today, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. They are a subscription-based site and their list has a ton of information about the players, and a farm system overview.

If you are a subscriber, you can read it all right here.

Here is their Top-10:

  1. RHP Taijuan Walker
  2. 1B D.J. Peterson
  3. LHP James Paxton
  4. RHP Victor Sanchez
  5. RHP Edwin Diaz
  6. LHP Luiz Gohara
  7. SS Chris Taylor
  8. LHP Tyler Pike
  9. Tyler Marlette
  10. OF Gabriel Guerrero

It’s a big change from last year’s list, due to the graduation of upper-level prospects. Seven of the ten players could begin the 2014 season in Class-A. Only three have a chance of appearing in Tacoma next season: Walker, Paxton, and Taylor. Hopefully Walker and Paxton are in the big leagues instead – we’ll almost certainly see Chris Taylor in Tacoma.

The official list of minor league free agents was published by Baseball America, and several 2013 Rainiers players are currently on the open market.

They are: pitchers Brian Sweeney and Jonathan Arias, catcher Jason Jaramillo, infielder Leury Bonilla, and outfielders Joe Dunigan and Denny Almonte.

Links:

That’s it for this week – the next blog update will be on Tuesday.

* I disagree with their rankings – Green Chone Figgins is ranked way too low; that’s easily a Top-5 shirsey.


Rainiers Home For Prospect-Palooza

May 16, 2013

It’s great to be back in Tacoma to start an eight-game homestand this evening, with the prospect-laden Memphis Redbirds in town.

Tacoma wrapped up the road trip with a 4-2 win at New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon – a very nice win, because it salvaged the trip. Tacoma opened the trip by getting swept in Oklahoma City, but rebounded to win three-of-four at New Orleans. A 3-5 road trip is not good, of course, but it certainly wasn’t the disaster that it could have turned into.

The Rainiers host Memphis tonight, and this is a fact: seven of Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 Prospects will be at Cheney Stadium this weekend. If you like watching prospects, this is the series of the year.

However, there are some injury issues.

Memphis outfielder Oscar Taveras – ranked the No. 3 prospect in baseball preseason, and considered the top hitting prospect in all of the minors – is day-to-day with a sprained ankle suffered on Sunday. My spies with the Redbirds say he is unlikely to play until Saturday or Sunday – but that is not for sure, he is “day-to-day” in the truest form.

The St. Louis Cardinals are treating Taveras like the Mariners treated Danny Hultzen when his arm was “a little stiff” – very, very carefully, because he is a huge part of the future of their organization.

Hopefully we’ll get to see Taveras play; it’s fun watching these elite talents when they come through. It’s one of the most fun parts of minor league baseball. The memories can remain for years – I still clearly recall Prince Fielder lining balls of the tall old right-field fence when he was with Nashville in 2005, Tim Lincecum striking everybody out for Fresno back in 2007, etc, etc, etc.

Injury Update

Speaking of Hultzen, he should be working out with the Rainiers this week, and progressing on his return from the disabled list. Danny did not go on the last road trip, instead doing rehabilitation work with the specialists at Safeco Field. I’m not sure where things stand right now, but if we see him throwing early bullpen sessions this weekend, that would be a big step toward his return.

Tacoma will get some help this week: Mariners Josh Kinney (oblique) and Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) will begin rehabilitation assignments with Tacoma tonight. Both could be here for a while.

Kinney strained his oblique in spring training and was placed on the 60-day disabled list – meaning he’s not eligible to be activated until roughly May 31. As a pitcher, he’s allowed to rehab for up to 30 days.

Gutierrez could also be here for a while, based on the recent quotes from Mariners manager Eric Wedge. Paraphrasing rather than looking it up (because I am lazy), Wedge said that Gutierrez needs to prove he can play every day – like 4-5 days in a row – before being activated from the disabled list. As a position player, Gutierrez is limited to 20 days on a rehabilitation assignment.

Memphis Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate comes into Tacoma with a record of 20-17. They got hot in early April, went on a 6-1 stretch to move three games over .500 on April 18, and they’ve been sitting right there for the last month, playing .500 ball.

Memphis just had an eight-game homestand against Sacramento and Fresno. They beat Sacramento 3-of-4, then lost 3-of-4 to Fresno avoiding a sweep with a win on Tuesday.

Other than Taveras, Memphis features Top-100 prospects Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong.

Wacha will be the starting pitcher tonight. He’s the Cardinals version of Mike Zunino, at least in terms of the fast track: like Zunino, Wacha was a big star in college, was a 2012 first round draft pick, was rushed to Triple-A, and is holding his own. Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA, so this will be a tough one for the Rainiers tonight.

Wong is a 22-year-old Hawaiian second baseman who is receiving glowing reviews around the PCL. He’s hitting .309 and has ZERO errors in 35 games at the keystone in his first taste of Triple-A ball.

The Redbirds have one former Rainiers player: catcher Rob Johnson, who is of course a former Mariner, too. Johnson is currently on the 7-day disabled list with some minor ailment, he’s supposed to come off it and play this weekend.

Look for Memphis first baseman Brock Peterson to have a fan club at Cheney Stadium. He was born in Centralia, and attended W.F. West High School in Chehalis (Class of 2002, I believe). He played in the Twins system for a few years, ended up in independent ball, and then was rescued by the Cardinals late last season. Peterson is off to a good start for Memphis, hitting .276 with five homers and 17 RBI.

One other important note on Memphis: certified Rainiers Killer Justin Christian is on their team. Let’s see if Tacoma can get him out this time around.

Tonight’s Game

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and it is Thirst Thursday at Cheney Stadium. Tacoma starts LHP Jimmy Gillheeney (2-1, 2.37) against Memphis RHP Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.99). Catch the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM, or streaming online right here. If you are using an iPad, try this link.

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from the final game of the road trip on Tuesday has reaction from Blake Beavan.
  • Raul Ibanez ripped the Yankees yesterday, with two homers and a grand slam.
  • Taijuan Walker is showing improved consistency at Double-A Jackson, Baseball America reports. If things continue to go well for Walker, I suspect we’ll see him in Tacoma in the second half.
  • Ryan Divish’s minor league report notes that outfielder Julio Morban is on a tear at Double-A Jackson. The oft-injured Morban always hits when he is in the lineup…
  • The PCL was off yesterday, but there are a few stories of note. For instance, the Colorado Springs mayor is checking to see if a downtown ballpark is feasible.
  • Construction has begun on the new ballpark in downtown El Paso, Texas. The Tucson Padres are moving there next year.
  • The Nashville newspaper is getting to know Scooter Gennett – one of my favorite names in the PCL; he’ll be here Monday.
  • Round Rock Express team president Reid Ryan is getting a big promotion to the Houston Astros. Huge move for Reid, but a big loss for the PCL, where Reid is one of the top executives.

It’s going to be a great weekend. See you at the ballpark!


BA Top 100

February 19, 2013

Today Baseball America released its Top 100 Prospects list, and here is where the Mariners prospects fall on the ranking:

  • 17 – Mike Zunino
  • 18 – Taijuan Walker
  • 29 – Danny Hultzen
  • 79 – Nick Franklin
  • 87 – James Paxton

What’s interesting about this is that we are likely to get three or four of them in Tacoma to start the season – and there seems to be a solid chance that we will have all five of them on the team at some point this season. That’s pretty amazing.

On Twitter, Chris Crawford set the over/under on these players to make the Rainiers opening day roster at 3.5. I’m taking the under, for now: I like the bottom three, with the top two perhaps arriving later in the season.

You can see the entire free version of the Baseball America list right here. The free version is just a list of names, you need to be a BA subscriber to get all of the added content.

Links:

Coming tomorrow: Rainiers corner infielders.


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