LaRue Gets Front Office to Talk Prospects

Jay Yencich · November 11, 2009 at 7:05 am · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

Yesterday’s edition of the Tacoma News Tribune had Larry LaRue asking one of the more easily answered questions of the hot stove season, which prospects could contribute next season? The thought being that if players like Kelley and Jakubauskas broke through last year, well surely there would be someone else who could surprise as well. The first part is Zduriencik wading through the old tropes of prospect discussion: you can’t count on players until they’ve established themselves, no one will be given a job outright without work, and in our case, Tui, Moore, and Saunders are all coming to camp with the opportunity (emphasis) to win jobs. This much we already know. Easy though it is to say, one of the quick litmus tests you can run during prospecting season is to see which outlets include those names in the top ten and which are trying to be cute by loading the list with ’09 breakthrough players. But after those standard talking points are dispensed with, things start getting a little interesting. Take a gander…

Like who?
Like right-handed reliever Phillippe Aumont, left-hander Nick Hill, outfielders Greg Halman, Tyson Gillies and Ezequiel Carrera and infielder Carlos Triunfel.


“Greg can be a huge impact guy. Things come easy to him. We developed a routine for him, and he has to stay in it every day, every game, every at-bat,” Hansen said. “He has all the tools – holy cow – he reminds me of Junior … when Kenny was real young. He’s got speed, he can throw and run, has bat speed and power. What he needs is consistency. When he matures, look out.”

Buh? Is this not the same Halman who got into a some sort of shame spiral in ’07, hitting .182/.234/.273 in Wisconsin for half a season, and this past year hit .210/.278/.420 for West Tenn, striking out 183 times in 506 at-bats, and adding in eight Ks in other places, led the minors by a good eleven whiffs? Yes, and the same Halman who somehow managed to hit twenty-five home runs for the D-Jaxx in spite of that.

The organization has made a great deal of how simple he makes it look when he’s on, but I’d hone in on the final two sentences, and perhaps the elaboration following the ellipses, with extra emphasis on “real young”. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Halman in back-to-back seasons, back when he was up in Everett. I can vouch for the fact that he’s capable of learning and adapting to different environments. Watching him in his second tour, he clearly was holding up on a number of pitches that he would have given an ugly swing on the year prior. Whether this was conditioning or actual learning, I can’t say, but it presented positively in the results and he had three times the walk rate of his previous stint, in addition to a .160 point OPS jump. Of course, the “real young” thing also comes into play in that he had been the best at what he did for so long (he won the triple crown playing in the Dutch pro league at sixteen, or at least came very close to it) that he has no idea how to handle adversity and has proven this two times.

The Mariners have made special arrangements for him, as they are wont to do with a lot of the players seen as future assets. They have hooked him up with Roger Hansen, normally known for the incredible routines he puts the catchers through, to keep tabs on him. Hansen recently made a trip to the Netherlands on the Mariners dime to visit with the Halman family and talk things over. This is good news, but overall, it’s reasonable to view him with some caution. Twice now he’s had seasons ruined because his emotions got the better of him, and once he ran the whole season on positive vibes and made a killing out there. He may mature, or he may be a player who is only ever as good as he’s feeling at the time. It’s difficult to say. Let’s check with the others…

Triunfel, 19: Lost all but 11 games last season to a broken ankle, gained weight and needed Arizona Fall League time to get back into shape. He’s now headed for winter ball.

“He’s on (a) strict diet, and he’s taken ownership of his career at 19,” Grifol said. “He’s hired his own nutritionist, he’s working his butt off and learning three infield positions instead of just playing shortstop. He won’t be afraid, I can tell you that. He’s one of those kids who could really come on and, if not out of camp, be brought up somewhere during the year.”

This is good news for M’s fans considering that Triunfel was previously questionable for the middle infield and had gotten suspended by the organization for violating team rules in the past. Discipline is key for him and after taking a few setbacks, he seems to be raring to go. I don’t know that I think he competes for a spot next year, but he’ll move as fast as his bat allows and the Rising Stars game would lead one to believe that more home runs may be on the way.

Gillies, 20: Known as much for his status as a hearing impaired player as his skills last spring, he won the admiration – and notice – of manager Don Wakamatsu and his staff. Then he had a marvelous minor league season.

“Tyson’s not afraid of anything, he’s hungry, and those are the players you want,” Wakamatsu said.

“He had a great year, his on-base percentage was off the wall, and he just spent two weeks in Arizona working specifically on base-stealing,” Grifol said. “He’s one of those guys who has two tools you can’t teach: Hand-eye coordination and speed. His defense is special.”

Gillies is a player that’s going to be a bit contentious when the rankings come out later. He hit .330 last year, displayed above-average on-base skills that would project him as a leadoff man, stole forty-four bases last season, and has displayed great defense. These are all good, but you don’t generally see BABIPs of .381 out of slap hitters. Ichiro did that last year, but that’s well above his career mark of .359, and he might have the best bat control of anyone you’ll find. Couple that with his playing in one of the most extreme hitters parks in minor league baseball and mix in his inefficiency on the basepaths (19 CS), and there are reasons to be somewhat suspicious considering average is the main part of his game, followed by speed and defense. That he’s better than Ezequiel Carrera, I don’t think anyone would dispute. I see Carrera as being similar to Endy Chavez in value, with his game tilted more towards offense than defense. Gillies, however, is being put in top tens by people, when the two probably aren’t that far apart.

The other two, Aumont and Hill, have been talked about at some length here in the recent past, so I won’t trouble you with the recaps. Instead, give LaRue’s piece a look over, if you’re interested in seeing how the organization sees itself.


4 Responses to “LaRue Gets Front Office to Talk Prospects”

  1. idahowriter on November 11th, 2009 7:47 am

    I seriously doubt that Halman ever wears a Mariners uniform. His story reminds me way too much of Miguel Olivo’s. They had him working with Hansen, continually gushed about his potential and progress…and then dumped him. I’m sure Halman has much more upsdie than Olivo ever did, but the makeup and work ethic sound similar. Halman gets traded, this winter or later.

  2. Squooshed on November 11th, 2009 8:35 am

    Could this be just a puff piece trying to hype prospects that they may include in offseason trades?

  3. Jay Yencich on November 11th, 2009 9:54 am

    I seriously doubt that Halman ever wears a Mariners uniform. His story reminds me way too much of Miguel Olivo’s. They had him working with Hansen, continually gushed about his potential and progress…and then dumped him.

    Halman is not a catcher and I’ve never heard anything bad about his work ethic as far as conditioning, just that he gets overconfident and swings at bad pitches thinking he can do something to them.

    Could this be just a puff piece trying to hype prospects that they may include in offseason trades?

    Short answer: we aren’t the Yankees.

    Long answer: These aren’t players that were all high dollar signings. That only covers Aumont, Tui, and Triunfel. The rest have gotten where they are because of their performance and they have been given individual attention as they’ve come up. It doesn’t hurt if we do decide to trade them, but as for grabbing attention, there are probably better media outlets than the Tacoma News Tribune, no disrespect to the consistently fine reporting of Larry LaRue.

  4. joser on November 11th, 2009 11:09 am

    Also one subtlety I’ve noticed in what might be called “hyping a prospect” coverage (and it may be so subtle that I’m just imagining it, but once I started looking for it I noticed it a lot) is that you’ll get positive quotes from one or more unnamed “major league scout” (sometimes “American League” or “a scout for a division rival”). I don’t know if that’s because the reporter knows something is brewing and contacts the scouts, or because the hyping team suggests the reporter contact certain scouts, or simple happenstance — the scouts are around precisely because something is brewing and the reporter runs into them — but it seems to be a very common prelude to the “trade discussion” piece.

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