Aquasox, Mariner Alternative
If the M’s are driving you up the wall, but you still want to take in some outdoor baseball and see some good young talent, can I suggest making a trip (or ten) to Everett Memorial Stadium? The Aquasox begin their 2007 Northwest League season tomorrow night at 7:05 pm, kicking off a five game home series against the Yakima Bears that runs through Saturday night.
And, don’t worry, we won’t let you head up I-5 without knowing who to look for when you get there. The M’s have put some good young talent in Everett this year, including two of the organization’s best teenage pitchers.
Juan Ramirez makes his stateside debut, and will spend the first two months of his life in Everett as an 18-year-old before he turns 19 in mid-August. A 6’3 RHP out of Nicaragua, he’s a true power arm with a big curveball, and he’s one of the highest upside guys in the organization. He’s going to be the guy you’ll want to schedule your trips to Everett around.
But he’s not the only good young arm on the roster. Also appearing as an 18-year-old, Doug Salinas is another promising young arm who spent last summer in Peoria with the Arizona League complex team. He’s more projection than performance at this point, but the M’s think he could turn into a pretty good pitcher down the line.
Also showing up on the Aquasox roster, though an official announcement that he’d been signed hasn’t yet appeared, is Nolan Gallagher, a 6’3 RHP out of Stanford that the Mariners selected in the 4th round of this year’s draft He had a terrible junior season after heading into the year as the Friday starter for the Cardinal, but the M’s liked his arm and were willing to bet on it just being a down year. There was some thought that he might head back to school for his senior season and try to re-establish his value, but the M’s obviously convinced him to sign, and he’ll attempt to turn his fortunes around in Everett.
On the offensive side, OF Greg Halman returns for a second tour of the NWL, where he put himself on the map last year with an explosive display of power and a troubling lack of pitch recognition. After struggling in Wisconsin, the M’s have sent him back to short-season ball to work on refining his approach at the plate and turning his raw tools into baseball skills.
Also on the team is 20-year-old infielder Deybis Benitez, who I saw take some hacks when I was down in Peoria in March. Tall and gangly, he barely used his legs at all when he swung the bat, generating all his movement from his arms. If the hitting coaches can work with him on incorporating his lower half, there are things to like about his swing.
Playing next to Benitez is potentially interesting 18-year-old infielder Edilio Colina, who spent a few weeks in the California League last month to fill in while High Desert dealt with some injuries. I don’t know a ton about Colina, other than that he’s considered intriguing by some folks in the organization, and the team is showing some faith in him by sending him to the NWL as a teenager. He won’t begin the year with the Aquasox, however, as he joined the Rainiers to fill out their roster. Generally, when a team is willing to yank a guy around like this, it means he’s not much of a prospect, so react accordingly.
The rest of the line-up will be filled out with organizational players like Marquise Liverpool and Ogui Diaz. Kalian Sams looks like a player, but has yet to prove that he is one. And, for those wondering, 1st round pick Philippe Aumont won’t show up in Everett until August, at the earliest, as the team will have to go through the process of getting him a visa. Even though the government has done better about getting through the paperwork, it still takes a while. But, if all goes well, I do expect him to end the year in Everett. You’ll just have to settle for Ramirez and Salinas until he gets there.
And, if you can’t make it up to Everett, you can always catch the games on Northsound 1380 am, and listen to friend-of-USSM Pat Dillon announce the games. They also stream the contests live on the Aquasox website
Oh, and finally, without being too self-promotional, pick up a program while you’re there. I’ve heard it contains an article by a good looking guy.