Tag Archives: Vinnie Catricala

The Mariners of the Future: Third Base

I’ll dispense with the lengthy preamble for this one.  Like every other position for the Mariners, third base has good options, questions, and lots of guys with something to prove.  Not sure when I’ll get to the outfielders or how I’m going to tackle that many guys, so you might have to wait a bit for that.  Plus, I’m heading on a long vacation in a couple of days.  Sorry.  Maybe the Mariners will make a trade and clear things up for me in the meantime.

The Rundown

Think of Kyle Seager‘s pro career up to this point as a reverse on the football field.  Unexpected, exciting.  Everyone’s paying attention now, where a few seconds ago the game was a bit on the boring side.  He’s just turned past the line of scrimmage, so that danger of being caught in the backfield for a big loss is avoided, but now he has to make that defensive end who held his gap miss, or else it was just a pretty three yard run.  Seager was a bit unexpected as a third round pick in 2009.  He was the second baseman on Ackley’s UNC team, and most thought that Ackley would move to the outfield in the pros and Seager would stay at second.  Instead, Ackley moved to second, and eventually, Seager to third.

Seager’s hit more than anyone expected.  Early on, he was termed Ackley-lite, but that doesn’t seem so accurate now.  He has surprising power without quite having the eye that Ackley was supposed to have.  He started 2012 on a tear, and despite tapering off some, he’s still been one of probably the three best position players for the Mariners this year.  Right now, he’s an average or slightly wose hitter and a good defender who should only improve.  The player he is now is valuable.  The Mariners could do and have done much worse at third base (see below).  The question now is whether Seager can make that defensive end miss and go for a big gain.  To be a star, he needs to make adjustments and become a constant power threat.  He’s not likely to ever be a huge power hitter, but home runs in the 20s with 40 doubles and a .340 OBP is realistic and would make him one of the best third basemen in the league. Continue reading

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Danny Hultzen and Other Tacoma Notes

It was a fairly busy sports weekend in the Seattle area, and I spent the weekend going to a few baseball games.  Sandwiched in between the Rainiers on Thursday and Mariners on Saturday was one of the biggest recruiting days in Husky football history.  I’ll hopefully get to that tomorrow.  The Mariners don’t have much to talk about aside from Munenori Kawasaki being extremely awesome, so I’ll start off recapping the weekend by writing about how my weekend started.

On Thursday, Matthew, our cousin (and loyal blog reader) Tyler, and I made the trek down to Tacoma to see the Danny Hultzen-Jamie Moyer match-up.  A trek it was.  It took us two and a half hours to get from Bellevue to Tacoma but that’s beside the point, this isn’t a traffic blog, it’s a sports blog!  Although, a traffic blog may be more entertaining than talking about the Mariners sometimes.  Anyway, we missed one of Hultzen’s innings because of traffic but caught his other 3 innings.

The future Mariner has a hunched over windup, kind of like his shoulders are slouching.  Other than that, the rest of his windup was pretty standard.  His right foot starts a little bit in front of the rubber and steps to the side, more than it steps backwards.  There’s a fairly normal leg kick and his arm comes a little higher than the 3/4’s slot.  His follow-through is fairly normal (more on that later) as well.  Here’s some video of the start.  His fastball sat at about 93 and he flashed 96 twice up on the radar gun (I don’t think the radar gun was hot or anything because Moyer was about where he has been all season and even below that at times).  We didn’t see much of his change-up because he didn’t seem to have a lot of control of it.  Maybe it was just an off night for that pitch, as it’s usually a plus pitch for him.  His slider had tons of movement, although he didn’t have plus control on that either.  It was a great strikeout pitch though.

Hultzen walked 4 guys in 4 innings during the game.  All of the walks came when Hultzen was pitching out of the stretch.  Hultzen often switched his between a slide-step and a high leg kick when runners were on first base.  Based on the video, I think he’s a little better when he’s not using the slide-step.  Maybe he doesn’t have a good pick-off move (he didn’t use one, that I recall) but a good amount of lefties get away with not using a slide-step.  His control was definitely a problem out of the stretch.

Another problem Hultzen seemed to have was finishing his pitches.  Matthew picked up on it right away, and after watching the video I have to agree with him.  In the second inning, when Danny got into some trouble, he seemed to really struggle with this.  By not finishing his pitch, I mean to say that his leg and arm didn’t follow through as much as they usually do.  To use the famous phrase, he was trying to “aim it and not throw it.”  It was especially apparent on off-speed pitches (this gave the pitch away to some hitters) but there were a few fastballs where it seemed to be a problem as well.

All in all, Danny was good.  There weren’t many hard hit balls, the issue was strictly control.  He has great stuff and will succeed.  He does have to work through this control issue.  I don’t know if the mechanical things I mentioned are a constant problem or just an abnormality.  If anyone goes to see him in Tacoma again (he’ll pitch again on Tuesday) look for what I mentioned and let us know.

I’ve got a few more thoughts on Nick Franklin, Triunfel, and Peguero after the jump.  Continue reading

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The Mariners of the Future: First Base

After looking at the interesting and fairly loaded catcher position yesterday, we move to the grassless pastures of first base.  Once past the big league roster, which is bare enough, most of the future first basemen in the organization are likely to be moved from other positions.  Most of the current first basemen in the minors are not really prospects for one reason or another.

The Breakdown

It’s too much to say the position begins and ends with Justin Smoak, but he is still the primary hope for 1B production.  We could write posts for days about Smoak.  I’m a big supporter, or have been in the past, but time is clearly running out.  There are plenty of big time prospects that take a long time to find themselves in the majors, so there’s still hope.  The question is how long the Mariners can wait for him to become that player.  Given the current state of the team and the lack of better options, they can keep waiting for a while, but Smoak needs to show some consistency before this season ends. Continue reading

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Checking on the Young ‘uns – Tacoma

Over the next couple of days I’m going to run through the Mariners minor league teams and give an update on some prospects to look at.  At the start of the baseball year, I wrote a post about some prospects to keep an eye on, I’ll go through those guys and maybe add in a few.  Leave any questions you have about some guys in the comments and I’ll get to them.

Young ‘uns sounds like onions.  I guess a good share of the time young ‘uns smell bad.  That’s like onions.  Young ‘uns have layers, so do onions.  The people I’m talking about in this post play a game with a ball and an onion has roughly the same shape as a baseball.  How’s that for an intro!

Today, we head down the I-5 South to our friends in Tacoma.  Unless you live in Maple Valley or Yakima like a good share of the writers and readers of this blog do.  If that’s the case don’t take I-5 South because it won’t get you to where you want to be.  You’ll get lost. I’ve really gotten a long ways in this posts two paragraphs.

The mascot doesn’t even want to cheer for the Rainiers. In their defense, eagles are really cool.

Anyway, the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners’ AAA affiliate) have gotten off to a rough start this season.  This is because, to be honest, they aren’t very good.  They probably aren’t the best team in the Mariners minor league system even though they are at the highest level.  The Rainiers are 11-22 (this doesn’t include tonight’s game or stats).  Their pitching has been atrocious, which isn’t that strange for the PCL (the league they play in, and the hitting hasn’t been at the level I thought it’d be.

Since the beginning of the season a few things have happened that have been significant to the team.  Carlos Peguero, who started the season on fire, injured himself (not from being on fire) and was out most of the last month.  To take his spot, the Mariners promoted AA Jackson outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang to Tacoma.  So, Chiang has been playing there for about a month.  Andrew Carraway, who’s a starting pitcher, was just promoted to Tacoma today after tearing up the AA Southern League (more on him in a minute).  Erasmo Ramirez was sent down from Seattle to become a starter and relievers Shawn Kelley and Charlie Furbush have gone up to Seattle.  Maurico Robles was sent down to AA.  Stephen Pryor, reliever extraordinaire, has been sent up to Tacoma because he’s awesome.  Also, catcher Adam Moore was injured and will be hurt for the rest of his life (I hope not, but it seems this way).  Those are probably the most important transactions that have gone on with the Rainiers this year.  If I’m missing anything, hopefully someone will add it.

Here are the players I told you to keep an eye on and what they’ve been doing (I’ll just go position-by-position):

Luis Jiminez (DH, 1B, LF?) – .310/.409/.575 (these 3 numbers are batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage in that order), 7 HR, 9 2B’s, 23 RBI’s, 20/19 K/BB, .984 OPS.

Jiminez is 30.  I hesitated in including him because this guy isn’t a prospect and probably won’t ever play a role in Seattle.  I did include him because he’s been the Rainiers best hitter, excluding the guy who’s only played 6 games.  Jiminez has been thrown in to left field once or twice which is interesting.  If he is adequate there (which I doubt he is), he might play a few games in Seattle’s revolving left field door.  Otherwise don’t expect to ever hear about this guy in Seattle.  He seems like a good guy though.

Carlos Triunfel (SS) – .280/.338/.488, 5 HR, 7 2B’s, 2 3B’s, 16 RBI’s, 25/8 K/BB, .826 OPS.

Triunfel has quietly put together a solid showing in the last year of minor league ball.  The former top prospect still doesn’t hold the appeal he once had but is hitting for power right now.  There are still plenty of questions about his defense and his high K rate but he’s hitting the ball hard, especially in the last couple of weeks.  If he keeps it up, it’s hard not to wonder if his bat is more valuable than Ryan’s glove.  Admittedly, we’re still a few months away from having to seriously ponder those questions but it’s fun to think about while Triunfel is doing well.

Vinnie Catricala (3B) – .219/.273/.281, 1 HR, 5 2B’s, 19 RBI’s, 18/8 K/BB, .555 OPS.

From a mild, pleasant surprise to an extreme disappointment.  After hitting everything he saw in spring training, Vinnie the Cat hasn’t done much of anything in Tacoma.  He had a good week 2 weeks ago but otherwise has been very quiet.  Catricala has been the best hitter in the system for the last couple of years and there’s not a lot of reason to believe that he won’t start hitting but until he does, remain nervous.  The Mariners could really use him to be good.

Chih-Hsien Chiang (RF) – .272/.300/.333, 1 HR, 4 2B’s, 7 RBI’s, 15/5 K/BB, .633 OPS.

Chiang’s batting average is decent but 26 of his 31 hits have gone for singles.  That’s not fun.  He isn’t walking very much.  Before coming in the Erik Bedard trade last year he was killing the ball and hitting for a good amount of power.  Where did that go, Chih-Hsien?  It’d be cool if it came back.

Trayvon Robinson (OF) – .263/.320/.414, 3 HR, 9 2B’s, 1 3B, 14 RBI’s, 34/12 K/BB, .733 OPS.

This is much more interesting than Chiang.  Some of it is interesting in a good way, some not.  The extra base power is great.  Unlike Chiang, Trayvon has 13 extra base hits in his 35 hits.  Not to mention, he’s a better athlete and fielder.  But, look at those strikeouts.  34 strikouts in 133 at-bats isn’t good and his contact rate is something he’s always struggled with.  He may be the best outfield prospect in the system (not saying much) but until he cuts down on the K’s he probably won’t cut it in the majors.

Carlos Peguero has a 1.847 OPS which is awesome but he’s only had 15 at-bats so I don’t think I’ll include him.  He does have 4 extra base hits in those at-bats so that’s almost as many as Chiang has had in 114 at-bats.  Yikes.

Breaking down the pitchers after the jump.  Proceed with caution.  Continue reading

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Prospect Hot Sheet

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

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Down On The Farm

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.

Hultzen, Paxton and Walker - The Big Three

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).

Tacoma Rainiers (AAA) USSM Preview

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!

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Welcome to Spring Training!

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

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It’s Almost Mariners Time!

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

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