Because of the Seattle snow, I had a whole day off today. Unfortunately, there is still nothing whatsoever to write about in the Mariners spring training camp. Luckily, Geoff Baker over at the Times has a feature up today about my favorite non-big leaguer, Mr. Alex Liddi. Baker’s story provides a little insight into how a kid from the coast of Italy ends up as the top third base prospect for the Seattle Mariners. I’m not generally a big fan of these profiles, but this one was good. Go read it.
My love for Alex Liddi is based almost entirely on the fact that he’s Italian. I should also say now that, like most minor leaguers, I’ve never seen him play, outside of a few video clips. With that disclaimer, he’s a decent prospect, considered by most to be among the Mariners top 20 prospects, top 10 by some. He’s 6’4″, 220 lbs with solid power. He exploded offensively two years ago while playing at high-A, putting up some of the best numbers in all of the minor leagues. Unfortunately, his home park, and the whole league to some degree, is probably the best place to hit in all of baseball, so everyone was waiting to see how he’d perform at AA in 2010. His numbers took a hit, but he still gave a solid performance, far from the disaster some predicted.
There are two big questions that Liddi has to answer before he’ll get a shot in Seattle. The first comes on defense, where scouting reports say he often looks stiff over at the hot corner. This is important, because if he can’t stick at third, he’ll likely have to move to first base. That move can be the kiss of death for prospects, because first is where all the players with huge bats but no defensive ability end up, and Liddi’s bat likely won’t be that good. His bat is the other question mark, in fact. While he’s produced big numbers the last two years, he still has trouble making consistent contact, which generally means he can’t always hit the breaking ball. He’s likely to see AAA Tacoma at some point this year, and the more advanced pitchers there will expose that flaw in a hurry if Liddi doesn’t improve.
I’m hoping that he figures it out, if for no other reason than to give us the opportunity to hear post-game interviews in an Italian accent. I like to speak with an Italian accent myself, so I feel like we have that in common. He is the first Italian-born position player in professional baseball, and as I’ve written before, I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of the two cultures. Does he wear suits and driving loafers without socks to the clubhouse? Does he prefer wine to Gatorade? These are the questions that need answers. Baker’s story talked about his struggles with the expected food issues, but I want to know more.
I’ll be rooting for you, Alex. I figure my best bet to get answers to my questions is for you to make it to the majors. You’re also the most realistic option the team has for a long term third baseman, so you succeeding would be good for everyone. Hopefully we’ll get to see you play a few games in Tacoma this year. In bocca al lupo!