To be quite honest, creating a “Preseason All AL West Team” is a futile exercise. If you are looking for an MLB season preview, full of sound analysis and predictions, this isn’t it. But I’m a visual learner, and there is some value in seeing where the power is in the division, position by position. Of course this isn’t an exact science, no predictions are, and only 2 players are selected per position, so you have a guy like Kyle Seager, the M’s second best position player, not making this list thanks to Beltre and Donaldson. So ya, take this for what it is. A quick snapshot of the division headed into 2014. Although I should point out, by forecasting who has the most 1st and 2nd teamers, I correctly guessed the order of finish in the division last year!
My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as projections for the upcoming season, and anticipated playing time. Some of the picks are obvious and others are less obvious, so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
Taking the visualization one step further, here’s a super scientific bar graph intended to show the separation between teams, by awarding 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection.
One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.
This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2Year 3Year 4
Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.
2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm Summary:Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager. Grade: A+
2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix) Summary:Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5. Grade: B-
2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent Summary:Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick. Grade: B
2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record Summary:Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall. Grade: A
2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales. Grade: ???
I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated
“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”
Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.
If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?
Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.
Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.
Last week, I took a look at Tacoma’s top performers and prospects. I mostly came away disappointed. Since then, Carlos Triunfel has continued hitting and Andrew Carraway had a good start but otherwise not a lot changed. In this post, I won’t be very disappointed. Jackson was heralded as the Mariners’ most talented farm team and the most talented minor league team in all of baseball by many. They haven’t disappointed much. They haven’t just blown people away (mostly because of their offense) but they do sport a 23-17 record (as of Wednesday, May 16th).
Since the beginning of the season, Andrew Carraway (SP) and Stephen Pryor (RP) have moved up to Tacoma. I covered them in my post about the Rainiers but they’ve been pretty awesome. Chih-Hsien Chiang has also moved up to Tacoma since the beginning of the season, mostly due to injuries and not awesomeness. Steven Proscia (3B) started out in High Desert as a guy to keep an eye on and he’s made his way up to Jackson. He obviously excelled at High Desert but has struggled through his first few at-bats in AA. He’s someone to keep an eye on though. Otherwise, the other guys I highlighted in my seasoning opening post are still in Jackson. Again, if there’s any questions about players (or anything else, leave them in the comments). All stats are updated through Wednesday, lets start with position players (and go by position).
Rich is currently on the 7-day DL but he should be back soon (it is only the seven-day DL). Poythress hasn’t hit many home runs but he’s tied for the team lead in doubles. Maybe he misses High Desert? He’s a right-handed hitter and his OPS is over .500 points higher against left-handed pitching (although, small sample sizes). His lone home run and 4 of his 10 doubles have come against left-handed pitching even though he’s only faced them 28 times compared to 84 at-bats against right-handers. Obviously, his K/BB ratio is very good right now. Keep that up, Rich! Poythress had a great year in High Desert in 2010 but hasn’t done much in Jackson last year or this year. The lefty-righty splits are interesting and could make him an interesting option as a platoon bat going forward.
Nick Franklin (SS) – .318/.373/.467, 2 HR, 10 2B’s, 14 RBI’s, 16/10 K/BB, .840 OPS.
Through the top three levels of the Mariners system there’s one position that is having a great amount of success hitting – shortstop. That’s weird, now if only they could play defense. Franklin is probably the best position player prospect in the Mariners system and he hasn’t disappointed thus far. He’s hitting for a good average, a few more walks and homers would be nice but I won’t complain with these results. He’s still only 21 and could see Tacoma by seasons end. The one stat that is a bit scary… 7 errors. This is a common theme among the systems shortstops. Franklin has been dealing with a small, nagging foot injury. That’s annoying but it’s not serious.
Francisco Martinez (3B, CF?) – .245/.317/.311, 0 HR, 8 2B’s, 1 3B, 9 RBI’s, 34/16 K/BB, .629 OPS, 14 SB.
Francisco hasn’t really hit. Well, that’s not fair. He’s done okay, just not very well. He’s got 9 extra base hits which is 5th on the team. Plus, he’s 14 of 16 in stolen bases. The organization loves his speed and has been messing around with the idea of him playing center field. Go for it! We have terrible outfield prospects, do it! Anyway, Martinez strikes out a ton, which is bad. He’s always had a gaudy amount of strikeouts and this year has been no different. If he could raise his contact rate, I’d be very interested in what Martinez could be. For now, he just seems like a really fast guy.
These are Proscia’s combined numbers between High Desert and Jackson. He’s had 24 at-bats since being called up to Jackson and only 4 hits. 3 of those hits have been home runs though. That’s pretty neat. You know what’s not neat? Strikeouts. Maybe our minor league team has been watching our major league team too much. Proscia definitely has power and can get some extra base hits but he swings and misses too much. If he could cut that down just a bit he could become a really interesting prospect like a few other third base prospects in the system. Who would have thought the M’s most interesting position player prospects would be at SS and 3B. Have the Mariners had a good shortstop since Carlos Guillen? Have they ever had a good third baseman not named Beltre? Sorry Steve, this paragraph was supposed to be about you. I forgot. Strike out less and hit more!
Chavez has been hurt for the past few weeks but otherwise he’s been about what we expected. He strikes out a lot but otherwise has put average numbers. He’s another guy who had a great year at High Desert in 2010 but still hasn’t put it together in Jackson.
Joseph Dunigan (OF) – .303/.357/.568, 7 HR’s, 10 2B’s, 2 3B’s, 21 RBI’s, 38/9 K/BB, .925 OPS, 6 SB.
Power! Strikeouts…. Power! I wouldn’t have guessed before the season that Dunigan would be the M’s outfield prospect who’s having the best season. He’s 26, in AA, and was pretty crappy last year. But, he has 19 extra base hits. Double that and you have his strikeouts. The strikeouts are the only thing that keep me from taking Dunigan very seriously. He’s always had decent power, a bad average and a lot of strikeouts. The average has improved but will it stay that way. With 38 of his 133 at-bats ending in K’s I would guess no, but hopefully I’m wrong. Thus far, he may be the biggest surprise of the season. You go, Joe! By the way, Dunigan has 19 extra base hits and only 21 RBI’s. Is this normal? It seems like that’s a lack of RBI’s or maybe I’m way off.
We get to the pitchers after the jump. It’s all good news after the jump (well, mostly). Continue reading →
One of my favorite things to read during the baseball season is Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet. It’s published every Friday (here’s yesterday’s) and there’s an accompanying mid-day online chat with one of BA’s writers. You might have to be a subscriber to participate in the chat, I’m really not sure, but it’s fun to read through later.
The Hot Sheet isn’t a weekly reranking of the best prospects in baseball, as the introduction points out. It’s just a ranking of which guys had the best week in the minors, with the selection skewed heavily towards guys who are actual prospects. You won’t see many guys in their late 20’s, except maybe in the “Man Among Boys” category.
Yesterday’s Hot Sheet was the fourth of the year. The first two contained Mariners prospects, the last two haven’t. Going by memory, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and Brad Miller have all made appearances, and I think Nick Franklin might have snuck into the “Team Photo”.
There’s nothing too revelatory in this post. I just wanted to pass along the link. The Hot Sheet and chat is a good way to get to know prospects throughout baseball and keep up on who’s having a good year.
Talking quickly about the Mariners minors, all the talk has been about Double-A Jackson, which BA called the most talented team in the minors. Continue reading →
Have you ever thought about the confusion that most come with farmers who follow minor league baseball closely. They might ask, “What’s going on down on the farm today?” How does the farmers confused son answer? It could be, “The cows are milked, the chickens are laying eggs, and the sheep dog is having a good time.” He could also say, “James Paxton looked awfully good in his debut and Nick Franklin has started the season on fire.” Both answers are correct, assuming the farmer has kept his farm in good health, but the father’s probably only looking for one answer. Man, that would get confusing. Of course you haven’t thought about that. No one has because that’s stupid. Well, maybe the select farmers who follow baseball make a good wise crack about it sometimes.
There's our boys!
The Mariners farm has been making a good amount of noise in the last year. How’s that for a transition? Say what you want to about Jack Z, but he has truly brought the farm system to one of the highest levels it’s ever been at in organizational history. Yes, that doesn’t mean definite success but that’s one of the reasons why Matthew, me and many others are big fans of his.
The minor league teams opened the season Thursday and I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of players you might be interested and where they’re at. I’ll just go team-by-team through the system with the players I find the most interesting. I will skip over some players because, either, I don’t find them interesting or I just simply miss them on accident. Leave any player questions in the comments and I’ll get to them. Also, Jay Yencich from USS Mariner has written a preview for each team that will be much more detailed than my rundown so I’ll link it by the team name for all those hardcore fans like the farmer in the first paragraph (ha! You thought I couldn’t tie that back in).
Triple-A teams often don’t have top prospects in them, at least for long. It’s thought that AAA teams store all the depth for the big-league club and that includes many AAAA players (what I mean by that is players who have mastered triple-A but can’t quite cut it in the majors for the long haul). No offense, Mike Wilson. That holds mostly true this year. The Mariners double-A team may have more talent on it, but Tacoma still has some very interesting names. Here are the names that intrigue me the most in Tacoma.
Players to watch:
Maurico Robles and Forrest Snow (SP) – Tacoma’s starting rotation leaves a bit to be desired but these are the two most interesting prospects here. Robles is a lefty who has a low-90’s fastball. If he’s going to make the majors, it’ll be as a reliever. I’m not sure why he isn’t in the bullpen already. He struggles with control. Forrest Snow is a UW alum and stands a bit more of a chance to get into the M’s rotation at some point. He’s basically skipping the double-A level. He doesn’t have the best stuff (good change-up but everything else is about average) but could be a decent back of the rotation starter. Anthony Vasquez is in Tacoma too but he should never start a game for the M’s again. Please.
Charlie Furbush – You know about him. He’s a lefty and was with the Mariners most of the 2nd half last year. He is in the bullpen but he could make a spot start here and there. He has decent stuff and sometimes it’s even pretty good. If he keeps the home runs down he’ll find his way up soon.
Chance Ruffin – Tacoma’s strength is their bullpen. Ruffin is a righty with a mid-90’s fastball and good slider. He was with the M’s at the end of last year and will be again, I imagine.
Shawn Kelley – Another good righty in the bullpen. He lost a little velocity from Tommy John surgery and maybe they sent him down to try to get it back? I don’t know, but he’s probably better than some of the guys in the Seattle bullpen.
Cesar Jimenez -Cesar is a lefty specialist and there’s usually a place on big-league clubs for players like this eventually. He has gotten a little worse with his control and overall numbers the last couple of years. Still, he’s worth keeping an eye on. All four of these guys aren’t far from making the Mariners and I bet some of them will be up before the end of the month even.
Vinnie Catricala (3B) – Position players! Vinnie is probably the best, actual prospect on Tacoma. He can hit really well. Vinnie made a push for the 3rd base job in the spring but lost out. That’s probably good since he’s hardly played in AA, and has not played at all in AAA. He has improved his strikeout numbers last year and hopefully will do so again this year. He needs to improve his defense too. The guy can hit and will find a place on the M’s soon if he can find a true position.
Carlos Triunfel (2B, SS) – Triunfel will probably play shortstop for Tacoma most of the time. He used to be the prized prospect in the system but a broken leg kind of unhinged him and he hasn’t really regained his top status since. His hitting numbers went down and his defense at shortstop is questionable. He’s still pretty young and had a large improvement last year so maybe there’s still hope for him.
Carlos Peguero (LF) – Maybe I shouldn’t put him in here because if you follow what I write you know that I’m not a fan of his at all. He swings and misses way too much, sucks at defense, and has no plate discipline. That being said, he hits the ball a country mile and has started off the year on fire.
Trayvon Robinson (CF) – Trayvon strikes out too much but he hits for some power and has a good amount of speed (although his stolen bases have gone down a lot for some reason). If he could up his contact rate, he’d be a really interesting player that would be fighting to the top of the centerfield pile. Lets hope for some development.
That’s it for Tacoma, and I’m already over 1000 words. Check out the most talented team in the minors after the jump! I’m not kidding, extremely talented!
Almost. It’s almost game time. On the weirdest opening morning ever, Andrew and I are hanging out, watching the underrated classic Orange County, with The Sandlot on deck. I hope the Mariners never have another 3 AM opening game, but it’s kind of like the Alamo Bowl was: not particularly pleasant, but pretty fun and well worth the memory.
So, what to expect from these Mariners? The playoffs aren’t impossible, but they’re pretty unlikely. It would take almost everyone developing like you would dream, Ichiro and other veterans having huge comeback years, and probably a lot of luck on top of it. Stranger things have happened, but I’m not betting on it. Call 81 wins the more reasonable goal. Even that might be wishful thinking, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
This will really be a season about watching for signs of hope for the future. Ideally this year would provide a couple of guys who can be counted on as future franchise cornerstones, a veteran or two taking a step forward, and the emergence of new prospects to replace those who are now or will shortly be in the big leagues.
More specifically, here’s a few things I’d love to see:
Justin Smoak hitting the ball (and staying healthy). The future Mariners offense looks much better now than it did a year ago, but it still has questions. Ackley and Montero are reasonably sure things given their inexperience, but few others fit that description. If Smoak can consistently flash his talent, he becomes a third middle of the order guy and makes the offense much easier to build.
Ichiro bouncing back. I love Ichiro. I hope he goes back to his pre-2011 level and gets a contract extension and reaches 3,000 hits in Seattle. Don’t know if it’ll happen, but I’m hoping.
One of the outfielders emerging from the pile. The most likely bet here is that Mike Carp solidifies himself as a viable outfielder who can hit, but I’m personally hoping Michael Saunders can do something. Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Franklin Gutierrez: any of you can take this opportunity to do something.
I’d really love for Chone Figgins to not be on the team in August. That would mean they’ve either bit the bullet and released him, or he’s played well enough to be traded. I’m good with either. Sorry, Chone, but I’m just tired of watching you.
It’ll be great when/if the trifecta of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker make their debuts, but I’ll be watching before that to see if Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan or Erasmo Ramirez can make an impression. Pitchers flame out and get hurt, so banking on three prospects is always risky. The Mariners need to develop some depth.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those bullpens of death like the 2001 team or the Padres always seem to have. I don’t expect this year’s team to change that, but I would love to see a few young relievers emerge to move them in that direction.
So that’s mostly it. A few of those things happen, the M’s score a few more runs, and we get some good memories, and I’ll be fairly satisfied with this year. Not saying I wouldn’t love a surprise run for that 2nd wild card spot, but if I’m trying to be realistic, there are worse things than a young team with lots to prove. Like a team of Miguel Batista, Carlos Silva and Jose Vidro. That is not a fun team. This can be so much better than that.
While Seattle is alternating between snow and sun, the Mariners are already a few weeks into spring training in Peoria, Arizona. Talking to people and reading different thoughts about this year’s team, it seems there are two predominant reactions. For those who are fans but don’t necessarily get deep into following the team, there’s a lack of knowledge and sometimes interest. And who can really blame them? If you don’t care that much about the offseason stuff, the onfield play has given no reason for hope. These people also tend to blame almost everything on Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln, but that’s a different issue.
The second reaction is that even the people who know this team well aren’t sure what to expect. Part of that is natural, as the Mariners have a lot of guys who could rebound significantly, as well as a plethora of young players who could improve dramatically. None of that is certain, though, so outside of Felix, this is a tough team to predict. I think another factor in the uncertainty is that this is a team unlike any Mariners fans have seen in some time. It’s legitimately build on solid young talent. There are some veterans, but they’re either young, like Felix, or will not likely be here long, like Ichiro and Miguel Olivo. The core of this team is young. The last time I remember that being the case is probably back in the early and mid 90’s. They’ve had quality prospects since then, although many haven’t panned out, but those kids were joining veteran-dominated teams.
Now the focus is squarely on the Ackleys and Smoaks and Monteros, and it’s a little hard to know what to expect. This year should start to indicate who will be part of the team longterm and who won’t cut it, but until then, there is plenty of room for knowledgeable fans to disagree on what to expect in 2012. Young teams are unpredictable, and most of us haven’t watched one on a daily basis in a long time.
Just for fun and as a general catchup for those who haven’t been paying a lot of attention to spring training, here’s a little fake Q & A post. If you have real questions, put them in the comments and we’ll give you any thoughts we have. People’s real questions would be more fun to answer than these ones I’m making up!
Any big stories so far?
The biggest has probably been Franklin Gutierrez. This was good at first, as he reported in great shape and seemingly fully recovered from his GI issues of last season. All anyone could talk about was how great he looked, and then he went and hit a homer off Felix in an early intrasquad game. Unfortunately, a couple of days later he tore a pectoral muscle, which sounds terrible, and he will be out at least 4 weeks before he does anything baseball related. Don’t expect him back before May. In fact, if you want to be safe, don’t expect him back at all. He should come back at some point, but given his recent struggles, it seems smarter to just keep the hopes as low as possible and then get excited if he suddenly does return and play well. Continue reading →
This has been a weird offseason for Your Seattle Mariners, but it’s surprisingly almost over. Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona in a few weeks, with the season just over two months away. Actually, since the Mariners open the season in Japan, their season starts a couple of weeks early. Yes, the season opener will be at like 3:00 in the morning on the other side of the International Date Line. Plan your lives accordingly.
Anyway, if you haven’t been paying attention or haven’t stopped to think about what the team looks like, I’ll try to help you out with a little fake Q & A. I’m making up the questions and I probably won’t have any answers, so don’t expect too much, but this will still be a pretty good time.
Who’s new this year?
Well, Jesus Montero’s the big one. More on him in a minute. Then there’s John Jaso, the mediocre young catcher acquired from Tampa Bay, who could actually be a pretty big upgrade. Not a lot after that. There are a bunch of relievers who may or may not make the team. More importantly, the Japanese pipeline is back open, with Hisashi Iwakuma likely to join the rotation and Ichiro’s workout buddy Munenori Kawasaki vying for a backup infield spot. Iwakuma could be pretty good. Kawasaki is good with the glove but unlikely to hit, so that’s nothing new. They just signed Kevin Millwood for rotation depth as well. Continue reading →