Roster Moves Answer Some Questions

March 19, 2015

The Mariners had another round of spring training roster moves today, and they help shed some light on what the Tacoma opening day roster is going to look like.

Here are the moves:

Optioned to AAA TACOMA (6):

Left-handed Pitchers (1):   Lucas Luetge

Catchers (1):                    John Hicks

Infielders (2):                    Ketel Marte, Jesus Montero

Outfielders (2):                 James Jones, Stefen Romero

Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp (5):

Right-handed Pitcher (1):  Justin Germano

Left-Handed Pitchers (1):  Rafael Perez

Infielder (2):                      D.J. Peterson, Patrick Kivlehan

Outfielder (1):                   Franklin Gutierrez

The moves leave 39 players still in big league camp for Seattle.

There are some surprises here. We expected Hicks, Marte, Montero and the two prospects to get sent to minor league camp around now. But I figured Romero, Jones and especially Luetge would stay in big league camp until the end of the month.

We can now write in Romero and Jones as starting outfielders for the Rainiers. Peterson will play first and third, with Montero also getting reps at first and DH. Kivlehan will probably move between third, first, and left field. Hicks is the catcher.

Luetge is now going to have to hope for a midseason call-up. Maybe he’ll go back-and-forth between Triple-A and Seattle, like he did last year. The remaining left-handed relievers in big league camp shooting for a roster spot are David Rollins, Tyler Olson, and Joe Saunders.

I’m curious to see what role Rafael Perez has if he pitches for Tacoma. His MLB experience is as a left-handed set-up guy, but his career resurrection last year came as a result of working as a starting pitcher. I’ll try to see find out what the plan is for him when I get to Arizona next week.

What about Franklin Gutierrez? He sat out all of last year to get healthy, and now he isn’t playing in spring training games due to a groin problem. From the outside, it’s hard to speculate how committed the Mariners are to giving him a chance on a crowded Triple-A roster.

Over at Cheney Stadium, we are very proud of our creative team led by Tony Canepa and Ben Spradling. The duo helped the Rainiers win seven “Addy” awards from the Seattle chapter of the American Advertising Federation, beating out several large advertising agencies.

The big winner was the season ticket renewal piece, which was designed as a classic children’s book.

Congratulations to Tony, Ben, and everyone who assisted them. Don’t let it get to your heads, though – we’re still gonna have tarps to pull next month.

Links:

Have a great weekend, and be safe while you indulge in National Corn Dog Day.


Rainiers Bullpen Looks Experienced

February 18, 2015

This is the final installment of our pre-spring training look at the position battles to see who makes the Tacoma roster on opening day. Spring training actually starts on Friday!

Today we look at the potential 2015 Tacoma Rainiers relief pitchers.

For previous installments of the position preview series, scroll down – every third post should be a position preview, going back to the beginning of January.

At the major league level, the Mariners had a terrific bullpen last year and it seems set for the start of 2015 (as always: barring injuries). The way the roster is set up, it looks like the M’s have room for a seven-man bullpen.

The Mariners have a battle for the second left-hander spot in the bullpen (Lucas Luetge, David Rollins, and Rafael Perez appear to be the candidates). On the right-handed side, the only spring drama will be to see if Carson Smith can swipe a spot from one of the guys who was in the majors all of last year, like Dominic Leone or Yoervis Medina.

With the big league situation mostly set, here’s a look at some relievers the Tacoma Rainiers might have on opening day:

Lucas Luetge or Rafael Perez: right now it seems that Luetge goes into camp with the best chance of nabbing the second lefty role, but the Mariners will take a long look at Perez and Rollins. Luetge is on the 40-man roster and has one option year left. Rollins was a Rule 5 pick and must be kept in the majors all year or else be returned to the Astros – but he’s going to have to be clearly better than Luetge to win the job. Perez is a veteran who recently signed a contract; we wrote about him last week: he has lots of MLB experience as a reliever, hasn’t been up there since 2012, and had a career revival as a starter in the last calendar year.

Carson Smith or whoever he bumps from the Mariners roster: if Carson Smith blows away the competition in the Cactus League he could steal a spot from Leone or Medina. If that doesn’t happen, Smith could be the guy riding the back-and-forth Tacoma-to-Seattle shuttle this year.

Mark Lowe: the former Mariner returns to the organization on a minor league deal. Lowe will be in big league camp but it’s going to be tough for him to crack the Mariners roster. Look for Lowe in a Rainiers uniform in April. Lowe had 17 saves but a 5.62 ERA for Triple-A Columbus last year.

Mayckol Guaipe: the Mariners added the 23-year-old Venezuelan to the 40-man roster after he posted a 2.89 ERA in 40 games for Double-A Jackson last year. In 56 innings, he had 56 strikeouts and just nine walks – hey, that’s a really good ratio! He’s likely to make his Triple-A debut in April. And don’t feel bad for us radio guys – his name is actually easy to pronounce: Michael Gwy-pay.

Logan Bawcom: we will be happy to welcome Logan back to the club this year, as he has been a stalwart of the Rainiers community outreach program for the last two years. Bawcom has 27 career saves for Tacoma, which currently ranks tied for fourth on the all-time Tacoma list. The franchise all-time leader is former Tacoma Tigers closer Jim Corsi, who had 36.

Andrew Carraway: here’s another familiar face. Carraway has mostly been a starter for the Rainiers for three years now – but he did make eight relief appearances last year, showing he could work in both roles. As a starter Carraway is getting pressured by prospects coming up from Jackson, so his best fit for 2015 might be as a long reliever and spot-starter in the Brian Sweeney mode.

Forrest Snow: and another returning player, Snow also fits the long relief and spot-starter mold. Snow has been invited to major league spring training for his first time, so he’ll get a chance to show his stuff to the big league coaching staff. It’s an important spring training for Snow.

Justin Germano: a Triple-A veteran with lots of up-and-down major league experience, Germano was signed on a minor league deal. You may recall him with the Portland Beavers at the end of the franchise – he was known for a big-breaking 12-to-6 curveball back then. Hopefully he still has that pitch – it’s fun to watch. Germano can start or relieve.

Kyle Hunter and Trevor Miller: these are two Mariners draft picks who had some success at Double-A Jackson last year – or in Hunter’s case, for the last two years. Both could see time in Tacoma this season (Miller actually pitched in two games for the Rainiers in 2014). Right now it’s hard to see a spot for either of them on opening day, but it’s certainly a possibility. Hunter is a lefty, Miller is right-handed.

Another candidate is left-hander Edgar Olmos, who is currently on waivers. The Mariners designated Olmos for assignment when they signed Rickie Weeks. If Olmos clears, we can probably go ahead and stitch his name on the back of a Rainiers jersey. Olmos had a 3.86 ERA in 33 games for New Orleans last year.

On the whole, it looks like the Rainiers are going to have a very experienced bullpen in 2015.

Links:

  • Bob Dutton previewed the Mariners bullpen going into spring training.
  • Today Dutton has a post on Mariners catcher Mike Zunino and another post on Mariners infielders.
  • Ryan Divish previewed the Mariners shortstop battle – which is the only truly open starting job on the team going into camp. He has another post on the starting rotation, which is also an area of spring intrigue.
  • The Rainiers will be in El Paso when the Chihuahuas hold their “Bark In The Park Night.” Unlike most teams that have this promotion, in El Paso only lap dogs are permitted.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith signed to play in Taiwan this season. The lefty from Australia has travelled the world playing the game.
  • Got an hour to kill? Here’s Pulitzer prize winner J.R. Morheringer on what Alex Rodriguez did during his suspension. Regardless of the subject matter, it’s beautifully written.
  • The Class-A Carolina League team in Wilmington saw their annual weather promotion get a little extreme yesterday: one day each year they sell Opening Day tickets priced at the temperature, and that day was yesterday, and it was 4 degrees. So tickets cost four cents.

Come back for a new post on Friday – hopefully with some reports on the start of spring training!


Tacoma Starting Rotation Candidates

February 11, 2015

Today we turn our look at the possible 2015 Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster to the starting pitchers.

The top spot should be pretty easy to figure out. The Seattle Mariners have six candidates for their five-man starting rotation, so whoever draws the short straw is going to be optioned to Tacoma and will likely be the Rainiers opening day starter.

The Mariners locks appear to be Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. That leaves Roenis Elias and Taijuan Walker battling it out for the No. 5 spot.

As you know, injuries often hit starting pitchers and can strike at any time – including during spring training. That’s why the Mariners are going to camp with six starters!

Hopefully there will be no injuries to starting pitchers, and the Rainiers will have either Elias or Walker at the top of the starting rotation. The list of Tacoma starting pitching candidates looks like this:

  • LHP Roenis Elias or RHP Taijuan Walker
  • RHP Jordan Pries
  • LHP Mike Kickham
  • LHP James Gillheeney
  • RHP Sam Gaviglio
  • LHP Tyler Olson
  • RHP Stephen Landazuri
  • RHP Victor Sanchez
  • LHP Danny Hultzen
  • LHP Misael Siverio

Swing-men (can start or relieve): Andrew Carraway, Forrest Snow, Justin Germano.

You will notice that Erasmo Ramirez does not appear on this list. Ramirez is out of minor league options and must make the major league team or else be exposed to waivers. It is my opinion that if Ramirez is placed on waivers, another team will claim him – so I find it highly unlikely that he could get to Tacoma. But, stranger things have happened.

Here’s a quick look at the candidates.

Elias and Walker: this is kind of ridiculous, showing the wealth of young pitching that the Mariners have at the top of the organization. Elias had a 3.85 ERA in 29 major league starts last year – and doesn’t have a job sewn up! Walker is a top-flight prospect who is MLB-ready. Yet barring something unforeseen, one of these guys is going to end up in Triple-A.

Pries was Tacoma’s most reliable starter last year, appearing among the PCL Top-10 in ERA until the last day of the season. It will be interesting to see if he can improve upon his 2014 campaign and turn himself into a viable major league option. The Mariners are bringing him to major league spring training, so they seem curious about this as well.

Kickham was a recent Mariners waiver claim – he has one option year remaining. Kickham was in Fresno’s starting rotation for the last two years (he was 8-8, 4.43 in 27 starts last year). Kickham has good strikeout rates and decent stuff from the left side.

Gillheeney made 23 starts for Tacoma last year and went 3-11, 5.62. OK, that’s not very good, but he pitched quite well in the Mexican Winter League and his stuff intrigues some opposing-team scouts I speak with.

Gaviglio is the player the Mariners received when they traded Rainiers infielder Ty Kelly to St. Louis. He’s a sinkerballer out of Oregon State who had a 4.28 ERA in 24 starts at Double-A Springfield last year, with 126 strikeouts in 136 innings. Mariners scouts must have filed positive reports on him prior to the trade – like Pries, he received a non-roster invitation to major league camp.

Olson was the Mariners 7th round draft pick in 2013 out of Gonzaga, and he’s already knocking on the Triple-A door. At Double-A Jackson last year he went 10-7, 3.52 in 22 starts. He tossed 125 innings and had 100 strikeouts with only 25 walks. Olson is a southpaw.

Landazuri was the hottest starter at Double-A Jackson in April last year, and it seemed he was on the verge of an early season promotion to Tacoma when he strained an oblique. He missed two months and returned in late June, finishing the year with a 6-5, 4.33 mark (he was not as effective after the injury). Landazuri was drafted in 2010 out of high school and he just turned 23 last month.

Sanchez is a young right-hander who is often mistaken for a brick wall. He pitched the entire 2014 season in Double-A at the age of 19 – making him one of the youngest players at that level. He performed pretty well, too: Sanchez went 7-6, 4.19 in 23 starts, lasting 124.2 innings with 97 strikeouts and 34 walks. Sanchez is short and massive: he’s most recently been listed at 6-foot, 255 pounds. Did I mention he’s 19?

Hultzen is the mystery man. You know him, you know his story… last report is that he’ll go to spring training healthy and with no restrictions. When I talked to Player Development Director Chris Gwynn last month, he made it sound like the organization is taking a wait-and-see approach on Hultzen during spring training. If he breaks camp in the Tacoma rotation, that would be a huge positive for everyone.

Siverio is even more of a mystery than Hultzen. He’s a Cuban defector the Mariners signed in November, he’s supposedly 25-years-old, and from what I’m hearing he may be Triple-A ready. And for now, that’s all I know. This is a player I will actively search out to try to watch during my spring training trip in late March.

In conclusion, the Mariners have a good amount of starting pitching depth at the Triple-A level. However, only one prospective Rainiers starter has MLB experience, and that will be the loser of the Mariners No. 5 battle (although swingman Justin Germano has lots of MLB experience).

It’s foolish to even hazard a guess at the Rainiers rotation right now, given the inevitable spring training sore arms. But this list should at least be something to work with for now.

Links:

  • As he prepares to spend seven weeks in sunny Arizona, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times previewed the Mariners first base situation – which was interesting. His preview of the second baseman was exactly what you think it is.
  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that 2014 Rainiers reliever Todd Coffey signed with the Atlanta Braves. Minor league deal; presumably with a major league spring training invitation.
  • Interesting story from the Boston Globe suggesting the gap between Triple-A and MLB is wider than it used to be (warning: lots of stats!). I think they key is the bullpens: in MLB most teams have six or seven relievers blowing 95+. In Triple-A, it’s unusual to see a team with more than one of those guys.
  • Julio Franco will be a player-manager for a minor league team in Japan. He’s 56. One of my favorite things in this sport is Julio Franco’s Baseball Reference page.
  • Congratulations to the Los Angeles Angels, who have set a new standard in the World’s Ugliest Free Hat contest.

2015 Rainiers Outfield Outlook

February 4, 2015

We continue our spring training preview series today by looking at the players who might make up the Rainiers outfield come opening day.

This is a tough position to preview. I nearly titled this post “Veteran Signings Confuse Tacoma Outfield Outlook” or something like that.

The Seattle Mariners recently signed longtime major league veterans Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez to minor league contracts, inviting them to big league spring training. Both players will be trying to win a job as the Mariners fifth outfielder – a competition that will be intense during spring training, if it exists at all.

There is no guarantee that the Mariners are going to carry a fifth outfielder (the four locks are Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson, Seth Smith, and Justin Ruggiano). Since designated hitter Nelson Cruz can play outfield if needed, he could serve as your fifth outfielder and that’s that.

If there is no opening on the Mariners roster, then you have all of these guys slated for Tacoma:

Endy Chavez – a true professional who is respected by teammates and coaches alike, Endy has opened each of the last two seasons with Tacoma before getting called to Seattle when injuries have occurred. Both seasons he remained with the Mariners for the duration. Endy turns 37-years-old on Saturday and he just finished a highly successful stint in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Franklin Gutierrez – a former Mariners star, Gutierrez has suffered a series of rare injuries and illnesses which kept him off the field. Gutierrez did not play in 2014 in an attempt to get truly healthy, and the Mariners decided to bring him to training camp and see how he looks. Nobody knows what to expect here – this will be something to follow once camp opens.

Stefen Romero – the new Smith/Ruggiano platoon really hurt Romero’s chance to make the Mariners opening day roster, though he could still see ample time in Seattle this year. If he ends up in Tacoma, we’ll take him – he’s too good for Triple-A. Last year he played in 35 games for the Rainiers and batted .358 with 12 home runs, for cripes sake. If he doesn’t make the Mariners, Romero will bat third or fourth in the Rainiers lineup.

Romero is in a tough spot. His own career would benefit from being with a poor MLB team – one that could start him everyday in left field while he makes adjustments and learns to hit major league pitching. It doesn’t look like the Mariners will be in a position to do that this year.

James Jones – speed, speed, speed! Jones was a revelation as a basestealer for Seattle last year, going 27-for-28 as a rookie thief. That is a weapon managers love to have on the bench. Jones does have options, however, and he can be shuttled between Seattle and Tacoma all year if needed. He’s played in only 37 career Triple-A games.

Julio Morban – the left-handed hitter remains on the Mariners 40-man roster after a disappointing 2014 season – but one should put an asterisk next to ‘disappointing.’ Morban was recovering from a severely broken leg and never really looked right – he hit .242 in 29 games for Tacoma. The 2015 season is a key year for him.

Patrick Kivlehan – we talked about him a lot in our corner infielder preview two weeks ago, when I wrote that he could see a lot of time in the outfield.

Leon Landry – after two seasons in Double-A (and a big improvement in year two), Landry appears ready for Triple-A. He is a true centerfielder and I’ve heard he might be the best defensively of this group (depending on how Gutierrez looks). Last year at Jackson he hit .280 with 21 doubles, nine triples, and two homers in 108 games. He also stole 25 bases, but he only drew 19 walks all season and his OBP was just .315.

Jabari Blash – the power prospect from the Virgin Islands appears to be buried on the depth chart right now, but’s he’s got big-time pop. He could open the season in either AA or AAA, depending on how the rosters break down.

Other outfielders to know: even I had forgotten that Ji-Man Choi played 26 games in the outfield for Tacoma last year… Daniel Paolini had an 811 OPS for Jackson last year as a first baseman and sometimes corner outfielder… Dario Pizzano hit just .228 for Jackson, but he drew a ton of walks for a .341 OBP and slugged .404… Jamal Austin is a speedster who hit .262 and was 19-for-22 stealing bases for Jackson last year – but he walks even less frequently than Landry.

The Rainiers will probably have four or five outfielders on opening day. Good thing we “narrowed it down” to twelve!

Links:

Our next post will probably come Monday, and our next position preview will look at the starting pitchers on Wednesday.


Rainiers Middle Infield Appears Set

January 28, 2015

For this week’s 2015 Tacoma Rainiers position preview post, we look at the shortstops and second basemen.

The recent signing of former Salt Lake Bees all-star Shawn O’Malley solidified the Tacoma Rainiers 2015 middle infield situation – to a point in which we can almost name the starters, right now.

There is one little hitch, though: what is going to happen to the loser of the Mariners spring training shortstop battle?

Seattle is going to make a decision on their major league starter in Peoria – it will be either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor. Both players have plenty of minor league options left and can be sent to Tacoma if they don’t win the job.

But, the Mariners might keep both players in the big leagues and work out a job share of some sort. So we don’t know if one of these guys will be in Tacoma in April.

What we do know is this: Ketel Marte will break camp with the Rainiers. He’ll be one of the top prospects on the team, and he’s going to play every day at either shortstop or second base.

The 21-year-old Marte hit .302 in 109 games for Double-A Jackson last year prior to a late-season promotion to Tacoma.

In just 19 games for the Rainiers, Marte hit .313 and even hit two home runs (which is not considered to be a big part of his game at this point). In that three-week stretch with the Rainiers, Marte looked every bit the part of a top shortstop prospect.

Marte will be paired with O’Malley, who has experience on both sides of the keystone. O’Malley was a .330 hitter for Salt Lake last year and earned his first MLB call-up to the Angels in September. He was designated for assignment after the season and the Mariners swooped in and signed him to a minor league deal.

We’re looking at Marte and O’Malley up the middle, with a possibility of Taylor or Miller.

As for the back-up, Leury Bonilla is back and of course he can play anywhere at anytime. Bonilla appeared in 90 games for the Rainiers last year, seeing time at every position except catcher. He’s a valuable part of a Triple-A roster.

Looking down below, it appears that shortstop Tyler Smith is moving towards a Triple-A assignment at some point soon – possibly late in the 2015 season, like Marte last year. Smith was the Mariners 8th round draft pick in 2013 out of Oregon State, and he was promoted to Double-A late last year.

Next Wednesday we look at the outfielders.

Links:

  • The Mariners officially announced the signing of outfielders Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez to minor league contracts. Both have a strong chance of making the Rainiers opening day roster – although there seems to be opportunity for one to perhaps crack the Mariners out of spring training.
  • There are lots of reports out there that the Mariners have signed veteran catcher John Baker to a minor league deal. He has spent all or parts of seven years in the majors, usually as a back-up catcher. Baker has six years of PCL experience with Sacramento and Albuquerque. He’s a leading candidate to share catching duties in Tacoma with John Hicks.
  • In case you missed it: Ichiro signed with the Miami Marlins where he will be a reserve outfielder. He needs 156 hits to reach 3,000 in the Unites States.
  • Mill Creek product Travis Snider was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Former Albuquerque Isotopes broadcaster Bob Socci is getting ready to call the Super Bowl. In my time in the PCL he’s the only broadcaster to land a major league radio gig in a different sport!

Our next blog update will be on Friday.


Thoughts On The Pitch Clock

January 16, 2015

Triple-A and Double-A baseball leagues are going to be guinea pigs in further experimentation to speed up the pace of play, we learned yesterday.

At least two new rules are coming in to play for the Pacific Coast League in 2015: the league is going to implement a pitch clock, and enforce the rule that says a better must keep one foot in the batter’s box between pitches.

The pitcher must throw within 20 seconds with a runner on base, and 12 seconds with nobody on. The penalty for a violation: a ball is called.

This is going to work to speed up the games.

The Arizona Fall League tried these rules – and a few others – a couple of months ago and had clear results. The league shaved ten minutes off its average time of game.

The pitch clock worked – but it is controversial. Some fans feel that the lack of any clocks is part of the beauty of baseball.

Personally, I waver on the issue. The game needlessly takes too long right now, and that is for a variety of reasons.

I think that simply preventing the batter from stepping out of the box will speed up the game – so I’m glad that rule is coming in.

Limiting pitcher-catcher conferences would be a big step.

Getting rid of batter “walk-up” music would have a huge impact in the PCL. There are hitters in the PCL who stand and listen to their song for 15-20 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box.

In the minors we don’t have much of a problem with inning breaks that are too long (unless there is a performer like The Chicken), but the majors could make some adjustments in this area.

Here are the average major league game times by decade (data courtesy Baseball Prospectus):

2014: 3:09
2004: 2:51
1994: 2:58
1984: 2:40
1974: 2:29
1964: 2:35
1954: 2:31
1950: 2:23

There was no pitch clock in the 1950s or 1970s. Have you ever watched old games on MLB Network or elsewhere? The batter doesn’t leave the batter’s box, and the pitcher gets the ball and throws it. The game moves briskly and is more entertaining. Ta-Da!

Anyway, we’re trying the pitch clock in 2015. Full details will be announced soon.

I’m not planning on paying much attention to it while broadcasting. We’ll discuss it and note violations of course, but I don’t expect to dramatically say “down to two on the pitch clock!” very often. Maybe if this happens in a key situation with the game on the line.

Operationally, my hunch is the best way to use the clocks would be unobtrusively. Have the clocks in the dugouts, facing the field (none on scoreboards, etc). The umpire has a “buzzer” and is alerted if it reaches zero.

Or better yet, just use John McGrath’s traffic light idea. Green-yellow-red. That’s the best.

The Mariners made a trade which affects the Rainiers on Wednesday afternoon, acquiring left-handed pitcher Mike Kickham from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Class-A pitcher Lars Huijer.

Kickham has been with Fresno the last two seasons and pitched against Tacoma several times. He’s a durable lefty who has very good movement on his pitches – making him wild at times, and very effective at others.

Last year Kickham made 27 starts for Fresno, going 8-8 with a 4.43 ERA. In 148 innings he had 131 strikeouts and issued 64 walks, giving up just eight home runs.

Kickham has briefly appeared in the majors each of the last two years with San Francisco and has not had any success at that level yet. He’s on the Mariners 40-man roster, and 2015 will be his last option year.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mariners designated pitcher Anthony Fernandez for assignment. Fernandez made five starts for Tacoma last year before injuring his elbow – he had Tommy John surgery in late May and is presumably out until at least mid-season this year.

We’ll go ahead and pencil Kickham into the Rainiers starting rotation right now.

Links:

Have a super weekend!


2015 Rainiers Position Preview: Catchers

January 14, 2015

Spring training starts on February 20th, and the fight for jobs in the Mariners organization will begin. While the major league club looks pretty much set right now, there will be battles throughout the minor league organization to earn spots on the various affiliates.

Today marks the first of our weekly look at the position-by-position battles to make the Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster. We will start with the catchers.

John Hicks

Hicks is the Mariners most advanced catching prospect and is set to be the Rainiers starting catcher in 2015. He was promoted to Tacoma in early July last year and hit .277 with two homers and 20 RBI in 28 games in his first taste of the Triple-A level.

After the season, the Mariners added Hicks to the 40-man roster and as of now he is the Mariners No. 3 catcher. So if there is an injury to either Mike Zunino or Jesus Sucre during spring training, Hicks is currently the only candidate in the organization to fill-in.

As of today, the Mariners have not signed a veteran catcher with major league experience to serve as Triple-A depth. I figure they probably will – it just makes too much sense. Catchers get injured more than any other position player; you can pretty much bank on an injury to one of your two major league catchers at some point during a season. Just two years ago the Mariners used a franchise-record seven catchers in one season.

There are still a few catchers with MLB experience on the minor league free agent list – Mike Nickeas, Hector Gimenez, and Luke Carlin among a handful of others. Humberto Quintero is available as a major league free agent; the M’s could bring him back on a well-paying Triple-A deal like he had last year.

Right now it looks like the Mariners will go with their own internal depth at the position. Here are the in-house candidates to back up Hicks:

Mike Dowd is a defense-first catcher who appeared in 53 games for Double-A Jackson last year, hitting .209 with a homer. If everyone emerges from spring training healthy, he has a good chance to be Tacoma’s No. 2 receiver.

Steve Baron has been in the organization seemingly forever – this is because he was a supplemental first round draft pick in 2009, so his name has been known for six years. He’s now 24 years old and he reached Double-A last year, appearing in 20 games. Like Dowd he is considered a defense-first catcher – although he out-hit Dowd in 2014 (even batting .275 in a small-sample 69 at-bats for Jackson).

There is a prospect down below named Tyler Marlette who is ticketed for Double-A in 2015. He’s reportedly the opposite of Baron and Dowd: a good hitting prospect who is working to improve his defense. A mid-season move from Double-A to Triple-A for Marlette is something that could happen if he shows a lot of improvement.

That’s the upper-level catching situation for now. Everything will be fine if there are no injuries during spring training – but if there are, the lack of depth is going to be problematic.

Links:

  • The Mariners announced that they will induct Jamie Moyer into their team hall of fame in August.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the majors top bullpens ($), and he has the Mariners No. 3. He moved the Yankees past them into the No. 2 slot due to off-season acquisitions (Kansas City is the clear No. 1).
  • Kyle Seager made the All-Underrated team.
  • Washington State alum Mark Hendrickson wants to restart his major league career at age 40, and the Orioles are giving him a chance. Also, he’s a grandfather.
  • Catching up with our former Tacoma Rainiers sluggers: Mike Carp signed with the Washington Nationals, and Carlos Peguero inked a deal with the Texas Rangers. Both are minor league contracts.
  • Here’s a story on the ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte, who figures to be with Nashville this year. Hopefully he’ll be with the Sounds when they come to Tacoma at the very end of the season – I’ve never seen a switch-pitcher before!
  • The Colorado Springs Sky Sox announced that Rick Sweet will be their manager.

We’ll have a new post for you on Friday. The position preview series will continue next Wednesday with one of our most interesting groups for 2015: the corner infielders.


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