The 2010 Rookies

May 29, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 33 Comments 

As we look towards 2010, we can be fairly sure that the roster is going to look significantly different than it does today. Bedard, Beltre, Washburn, Branyan, Griffey, Sweeney, Chavez, and Batista are all free agents at the end of the year, and we’re pretty sure that the team won’t be bringing back both of Lopez/Betancourt as their middle infield. It’s quite feasible that both could go away. Johjima’s future in Seattle is in question as well.

In all, we’re looking at around ten players being replaced for next year’s team. That’s a lot of turnover, and those open positions create opportunities for guys in the organization to step up and grab a spot on the team. While the M’s farm system is short on upper level pitching, there are five guys in Triple-A who could each make a pretty good case for a spot on next year’s team: Jeff Clement, Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, Adam Moore, and Matt Tuiasosopo.

However, there’s basically no chance that the team goes with five rookies in the line-up at the same time next year. They aren’t doing the tear-down style of rebuild, and the goal will certainly be to contend for the division title next year. Despite all five having pretty decent cases for being major league ready, Wak isn’t going to want to break in five rookies while trying to win the AL West. I would suspect that the team will probably limit themselves to two or three rookies, at most, in the line-up next year.

However, you can make a pretty good case that none of these guys should spend 2010 in Triple-A.

Clement obviously has nothing left to prove in the PCL – another trip through Tacoma won’t do him any good, and it’s hard to see the M’s actually sending him back there again.

Carp has cooled off after a monstrous April, but he’s still showing both power and patience, as a left-handed first baseman, he fits one of the things the team will need next year. His bat isn’t as good as Clement’s, but he’s ahead of him defensively as a 1B, and we know that Wak highly values defense.

Saunders has shown significant improvement in improving his contact, which was the big knock on him coming into the season. As a left-handed hitting outfielder with good athleticism and gap power, he’s a perfect fit for LF in Safeco.

Moore’s move up to the PCL hasn’t slowed him down at all, as his numbers in Triple-A are basically a dead ringer for his numbers in Double-A. While he doesn’t have the defensive reputation of Rob Johnson, his offense is significantly better, as he actually has a pretty solid approach at the plate.

Finally, there’s Tui, who is on the DL with elbow problems but opened a lot of eyes with a strong spring training. His defense at third is never going to be Beltre level, but given his improvement over the last year and the way that he impressed Wak, he’d seemingly have an inside edge on the open third base position for next year.

From a micro level, there’s a pretty decent case to be made for all five of these guys grabbing jobs next year. However, there’s just no way the M’s go into the year with Tui at third, Saunders in left, Carp at first, Clement at DH, and Moore behind the plate. The club will consider those guys for jobs on an individual basis, but they’re not handing all of those jobs over to the Triple-A brigade next year.

So, if you don’t want to give them major league jobs at the same time, but you also don’t want to make them languish in Tacoma for no reason, there’s just one solution – trades. As the July 31st deadline approaches, the M’s will certainly be more focused on making deals for their free agents to be, but don’t rule out the chance that Zduriencik takes advantage of the trading season to shift some parts around.

Be More Encouraged

May 28, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

In Tacoma tonight:

Ryan Rowland-Smith – 5 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 81 pitches. They’ll probably give him another rehab start, but it doesn’t look like he really needs it. If the team wants to trade Bedard or Washburn after this weekend, the rotation replacement is ready.

Adam Moore – 2 for 3 with a home run. It was his first longball since joining the Rainiers.

In West Tennessee tonight:

Josh Fields – 1 inning, 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout. It was the first time he’d pitched since May 5th, after the team shut him down with “dead arm”. He wasn’t exactly sharp, as he only threw seven strikes in 19 pitches, but he miraculously got three outs anyway.

By the way, High Desert and Lancaster are currently tied at 0 in the 7th inning. This might not be encouraging, as I think scoreless games between those two teams are a sign of the apocalypse.

Be Encouraged

May 28, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 47 Comments 

How quickly the organization can turn into a winner essentially lies in the ability of our front office to identify and acquire talent from outside the organization, because there isn’t enough quality on hand that the team can just wait for it to develop and turn into a championship level club. How has our new regime done so far in evaluating talent and bringing it into the organization?

Russ Branyan, +1.7 wins, #1 among position players
Franklin Gutierrez, +1.0 wins, #3 among position players
Endy Chavez, +0.3 wins, #4 among position players
Ken Griffey Jr, +0.2 wins, #5 among position players
Mike Sweeney, -0.2 wins, #11 among position players
Ronny Cedeno, -0.2 wins, #12 among position players

David Aardsma, +0.6 wins, #1 among relief pitchers
Jason Vargas, +0.2 wins, #5 among starting pitchers
Garrett Olson, -0.1 win, #6 among starting pitchers

Among the players on the major league roster that were acquired since Zduriencik and crew took over, the M’s essentially filled six roster spots – CF, 1B, DH, High Leverage Reliever, Utility Infielder, 1/2 LF, 1/2 SP – and gotten +3.8 wins from those spots. The other 19 roster spots that were filled by players that were already in the organization when Zduriencik was hired have combined for +4.0 wins.

Zduriencik’s guys have gotten about 20% of the playing time and accumulated about 50% of the team’s win values.

I think he’s pretty good at this spotting talent thing.

Draft Stuff

May 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 66 Comments 

With less than two weeks before the draft kicks off (day one begins Tuesday, June 9th), we’ll start increasing our draft coverage. Today, we’ll start by featuring some of the content from the main folks covering the draft.

Baseball America unveiled their Top 100 today, and they’ll be releasing numbers 101-200 tomorrow. The top 100 rankings are available for everyone, while the scouting reports are subscriber only. If you’re at all interested in minor league/draft coverage, BA is worth the money. Plus, supporting them gives them additional revenue to give Conor Glassey a big raise.

Keith Law has a Top 100 and a first round projection, both of which are only available to ESPN Insider subscribers. The draft blog that Keith and Jason Churchill have been running is very good, including tons of video of these guys so you can see them for yourselves.

Finally, has a ton of draft reports from the major league scouting bureau, including video. The content/price ratio is unbeatable, but the reports are more geared towards the player’s skills, so you won’t get any of the rumors attaching players to teams or projecting who goes where.

For those who don’t want to be bothered to do research themselves and just want a summary, here’s the Mariner-centric thoughts as of today.

Washington is not passing on Strasburg. Don’t bother hoping.

Pretty much everyone agrees that Dustin Ackley represents the next best risk/reward package in the draft after Strasburg. There are some high school pitchers that theoretically have higher ceilings, but none of them have established themselves as genuine phenoms whose upside can overcome the tremendous risk with drafting an 18-year-old arm. Despite the talk that the draft is unpredictable after #1, pretty much everyone agrees that Ackley is the logical choice at #2. Left-handed, high on base percentage line drive hitter, won’t need much time in the minors – he fits the M’s needs almost perfectly.

Trying to project names for the #27 and #33 picks is next to impossible, given the uncertainty over how the first round will play out. However, smart money is on college pitching. The M’s have basically nothing in terms of upper level starting pitching prospects, and this is a deep draft for college arms. There are lots of scenarios where the M’s could end up with a guy like Rex Brothers at #27, and it’s not very often that you can peg a college lefty starter who throws 96 at the end of the first round. Especially if the team takes Ackley at #2, I’d imagine they focus on pitching at #27 and #33.

Oh, and MLB is slashing the bonus recommendations again, trying to force an across the board 10% cut in signing bonuses. It’s not going to work, and will instead just lead to approximately no one signing before the deadline on August 15th. I love baseball, but MLB does a lot of stupid stuff.

Game 48, Mariners at A’s

May 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 60 Comments 

Bedard vs Cahill, 12:35 pm.

The A’s offense isn’t very good, and Bedard is. Quick, someone make sure that Ruben Amaro and Kenny Williams are watching this game.

Let The Sell Off Begin

May 27, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 81 Comments 

When the Mariners decided to recall Guillermo Quiroz from Double-A to backup Rob Johnson, passing over Jamie Burke, it signaled that a decision on the direction of the 2009 season has been made. Quoting Baker:

In what he termed “a difficult call to make” Wakamatsu had a phone conversation with Burke earlier today and told him the team is looking to go in a younger direction for now.

When the manager is telling the veteran players in the organization that playing time decisions are being based on age, rather than expected performance, it signals that the team has shifted the priority from winning this year to winning in the future. Given where they stand in the division (seven games out of first place, ~7% chance of making the playoffs), it’s the right call. It’s time to pull the plug on the 2009 season, and make moves that reflect the reality that the franchise is putting 2010 ahead of 2009.

The team should move Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn as soon as possible. As we’ve talked about previously, these two are volatile assets, and the reward of moderately improving the return in trade as we get closer to the deadline is outweighed by the extra risk of collapse that both carry with them. Once Adrian Beltre shows a sustained hot stretch that pulls his numbers up, you probably have to move him too – his struggles so far have made him unlikely to be a Type A free agent at years end, which reduces the value in letting him leave via free agency.

Ship Miguel Batista to a contender looking for bullpen help (the Yankees?) and Endy Chavez to a team that needs a legitimate center fielder (the Braves?). And yes, put Russ Branyan on the market – for as well as he’s playing, he’s not a great bet to sustain this level of offense (.382 batting average on balls in play), and the team has several guys in Tacoma who could use an extended second half shot at the major leagues.

Also, Mike Sweeney should get a stint on the disabled list to allow the team to give Chris Shelton a look in the majors.

The shift from “we’re hoping to contend” to “we’re playing for next year” brings the necessity for some significant roster turnover. The team that takes the field in Oakland today won’t be together for much longer. Calling up Guillermo Quiroz seems fairly innocuous, but the process that led to that decision being made will also lead to the beginning of the shift away from playoff aspirations.

Let the sell off begin.

Game 47, Mariners at Athletics

May 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 84 Comments 

Washburn, who may be the New, Improved Washburn or may yet discover he has a hangnail before gametime v. Braden.

Also, Quiroz up to replace the DL’d Johjima.

Mike Fontenot

May 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 37 Comments 

Over the last week or so, the trade rumors have focused on Yuniesky Betancourt, but if the Mariners are going to fix their overly RH line-up problem, making a move at second base is probably a more realistic scenario. It’s a lot harder to find a shortstop who can hit from the left side than it is to find a second baseman who can do the same, after all. In fact, there’s a left-handed second baseman who could potentially be had at the moment who I would strongly suggest the Mariners pursue.

His name is Mike Fontenot. You might look at his .208/.299/.368 performance this season and say “great, just what this team needs, another guy who isn’t hitting”, but I’d suggest you look beyond his overall line. Here are his performances in the core skill categories from last year and this year.


BB%: 12.3%, 11.3%
K%: 21.0%, 21.6%
ISO: .210, .160

His walk and strikeout rates are essentially unchaged, and while his power has taken a step back, it’s still well above average. His poor performance is driven entirely by a swing from a .355 batting average on balls in play last year to a .226 mark this year. BABIP isn’t as luck driven for hitters as it is for pitchers, but it is extremely inconsistent, especially in small samples. Fontenot wasn’t going to sustain last year’s mark, but he also isn’t going to keep hitting balls right at fielders like he is currently. If you believe his true talent BABIP is around .300 (like I do), then he would project to hit something like .260/.340/.420 over the rest of the season.

Not only would that performance make him one of the team’s better hitters, but he’s also an absolutely perfect fit for this team and Safeco Field. The M’s badly need a hitter or three who can hit right-handed pitching, and Fontenot excels against RHPs (career .283/.368/.460 mark against them). Most of his power lies in pulling the ball to right field, as well – check out his HR location patterns for last year, via Hit Tracker Online.


Talk about a guy who could take advantage of Safeco’s short porch down the right field line, and wouldn’t be nearly as affected by the cavernous left-center field area. You could actually expect Safeco to help Fontenot, not hurt him, unlike what it currently does to most of the roster.

He wouldn’t just improve the club’s offense, either. Unlike our current second baseman, Fontenot can actually play defense. In 1100 major league innings at second base, he’s posted a UZR of +9.9, which rates out as +14 runs per 150 games. It’s a small sample of data, so we’d have to regress our expectations back more towards something like a +5 defender going forward, but +5 defense at second base would be a significant upgrade over what we’re getting from Lopez right now. Toss in an easy opportunity to get Cedeno some at-bats against LHPs, and the team would be able to take a solid step forward on both sides of the field by acquiring Fontenot.

Ideally, you’d be able to convince the Cubs to swap Fontenot for Lopez, who would give them a “proven” second baseman who can play everyday, something they’re not convinced of when it comes to Fontenot. However, even if they aren’t big Lopez fans, the M’s would be wise to try to work out a deal for Fontenot before his luck starts to turn and the Cubbies decide to hang onto their 28-year-old left-handed infielder with power and defensive skills. Get creative if you have to – involve a third team that might want Lopez (the Minnesota Twins, for instance) and move some players around to make it work for everyone.

Fontenot is exactly the kind of player the M’s should be trying to acquire right now. He helps the team both now and in the future, fitting the player type the roster is badly lacking and giving them an answer at second base for 2010 and beyond.

Mike Fontenot please. Make it happen, Jack.

USSM NC Event This Sunday

May 26, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 9 Comments 

A reminder to those of you in the southeast – our USSM get together in Durham is this Sunday afternoon at Champps Sports. We’ve reserved their private dining area to watch the M’s and Angels play – game starts at 3:35, but I’ll be there around 2:30, so feel free to come a bit early if you’d like.

Joining me in hosting the event will be former USSM author Jeff Shaw. I guarantee at least one Barbaro joke out of Shaw, and if things get bad, we’ll make him teach us how to build a solar powered home. Conor Glassey won’t be able to make it, unfortunately, as the jerks at Baseball America actually want him to work for his money, but we’ll do another one of these later in the summer that Conor can attend.

So, Sunday from ~2:30 to ~7:30, a bunch of east coast M’s fans getting together to watch the team struggle to score runs. There’s no cost for the event other than what you pay the folks at Champps for food and drink, although we will insist that you tip well. Put any questions in the comments.

Johjima out again

May 25, 2009 · Filed Under Mariners · 47 Comments 

Johjima has a broken toe. Apparently it’s more of a problem catching than it is hitting, because he homered after he broke it. This is the sort of thing you have to be prepared for with catchers, a position where having some organizational depth does matter, which is why Rob Johnson could potentially have a 10-year career without being able to hit.

For the Mariners, the organizational depth at catcher was thought to be a strong point not that long ago, but it’s dwindling. Jeff Clement is hitting well enough now at Tacoma to be called up, but his knee’s bothering him and he’s only been DHing the past three weeks. Not an option, then, and really not worth considering as a catcher anymore. Either he takes over Griffey’s role next year, or he learns to play first base, or he leaves the organization. Both of the last two, probably.

Jamie Burke is filling the role played by Pat Borders a few years ago, so the team can always call on him. Johnson and Burke combined so far this year: .171/.207/.232. Our offense is already anemic enough, thanks.

Or, at this point, you could go straight past Burke to the one guy who really could be the team’s catcher of the future – Adam Moore. Between West Tenn and Tacoma he’s hit .266/.370/.391, and he does one of the things Zduriencik has shown he likes in position players, take pitches and draw walks. He’s probably not ready to come to the majors and stay, but for a two-week job-share until Johjima comes off the DL, it could let him get a feel for what the big leagues are like so he knows what to expect when he’s up here for real. And anything he hits would be gravy.

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