Minor League Opening Day Wrap-Up

marc w · April 6, 2012 at 12:24 am · Filed Under Mariners 

No, we’re not going to do one of these every day, and no, this site hasn’t become a minor-league focused site, but you can see why fans of bad MLB teams focus attention on the minors. We do it because the organization has been telling us that help is on the way, and that they’re building from the bottom up. We also do it because we all know that the M’s simply haven’t been anywhere near as good as Texas (and now, presumably, LA), and so the minors are something of a respite from the hopeless fight the big club was engaged in the past two seasons.

Beyond the prospect of short-term assistance in the war against irrelevance (the M’s were technically relevant in July, but they felt irrelevant by late May or so), the start of a new minor league season always brings new story lines that may take years to unfold. It was at about this time last year that hardcore fans began to view Taijuan Walker not as a hyper-raw reach pick, but as a very interesting prospect. Of course, last year we were all paying special attention to Johermyn Chavez and Rich Poythress after their solid 2010 seasons, and at this point last year, Nate Tenbrink was perhaps more interesting than either Kyle Seager or Vinnie Catricala. Forrest Snow was an organizational arm, Mike Carp was still a blah 1B, and we had no idea that Detroit had a 3B prospect named Francisco Martinez, nor why we would care if they did. These are essentially anecdotes, and while encouraging, they don’t directly address the fact that the Rangers have better baseball players than we do. But we keep looking, hoping to find a pattern – a sign that something fundamentally different is going on, and that the next core of club-controlled stars are going to wear M’s jerseys.

To the cynic, this is the cruelest fate for the true M’s fan: relegated to scanning minor league boxes, divining evidence that the “Mariners Way” the commercials keep talking about is paying dividends somewhere. To the optimist, it’s the beautiful possibility that the AL West’s next cohort will be pretty evenly matched, or that the M’s have the edge once all of these all-stars in Arlington and Anaheim start declining. There’s plenty of room in the middle, of course, and there’s plenty of joy in seeing the contours of a new, more even division and league emerge. I have no idea who this year’s James Paxton might be, or who this year’s Kyle Seager is, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to try and find out.

So, opening day for the four full-season clubs was a mixed bag, but I can’t express how cool it is to start looking through the box scores again.

Cameron Hobson had a so-so debut for Clinton, giving up 6 runs thanks to 3 walks and a grand slam in just 3 innings. The top three hitters, Jamal Austin, Guillermo Pimentel and Daniel Paolini went hitless. Jabari Blash tripled and Ramon Morla tried to help everyone forget about his 2011 with a double, a walk and a steal.

High Desert hung on for a 9-7 win over Lancaster in Adelento. SS Brad Miller homered and tripled, John Hicks hit 2 doubles from the DH spot (Jack Marder played C tonight), and Stefen Romero went 4-5 with a double and a homer. Jay’s pick as the breakout player of 2012 isn’t wasting any time.

Jackson cruised to a 3-2 win over Birmingham, as Andrew Carraway stole the spotlight from Paxton/Walker/Hultzen with 6 scoreless innings. He yielded 2 hits and 1 walk and racked up 6 Ks, and while Birmingham’s light on legitimate prospects (as it’s a White Sox affiliate), Carraway’s line is excellent. Rich Poythress had a two-run, two-out double and Nick Franklin was 2-3. Stephen Pryor gave up 2 runs in the 9th, but got the final out.

Tacoma dropped its opener to Salt Lake 3-2. Angels pitching prospect Garrett Richards was extremely tough, with a well-located 94-97 mph fastball, a big breaking curve ball in the 70s and a slider in the 80s. He struck out Trayvon Robinson and Carlos Triunfel (the 1 and 2 hitters) twice, en route to 7 Ks in 7 innings. Mike Wilson homered and Carlos Peguero managed two hits off of Richards, including a triple that probably carried 415 feet on a frigid night in Tacoma. Vinnie Catricala didn’t appear overmatched, but he also didn’t look too comfortable at the plate. The first grounder hit to the left side turned into a grisly run after a bad bounce and a bad throw left the batter on third and a runner scoring from first. Catricala didn’t move well to his left to grab it, and then things went downhill from there. Catricala made a decent play later on (that was dropped by the 1B), so it’s too soon to say much about his defense. Angels uberprospect Mike Trout went 3-5 as the DH, as he’s been nursing a shoulder injury and some sort of virus.

Pictures after the jump:

Carlos Triunfel
Vinnie Catricala
Mike Trout


17 Responses to “Minor League Opening Day Wrap-Up”

  1. marc w on April 6th, 2012 12:26 am

    That’s Carlos Triunfel in the top photo, Vinnie Catricala in the middle, and one of Mike Trout’s three singles in the bottom photo.

    Matt Fox was OK, but used a hell of a lot of pitches through 3 innings. Cesar Jimenez set a record by pitching in at least one game in his SEVENTH season in Tacoma. SEVEN YEARS. I feel like Mike Wilson’s been around forever, but Cesar Jimenez has been in the same place forever. Anyway, Jimenez looked pretty good. Josh Kinney wasn’t as sharp.

  2. henryv on April 6th, 2012 2:03 am

    Interestingly, Peguero didn’t really deserve that first single, because if the 3B makes an easy play, he’s probably out.

    And then, that triple was absolutely crushed on a freezing cold night. That would have been WAY out of Safeco. (Though that one would have been caught in Tacoma by an MLB CF. I’d swear that the guy jumped and had the ball hit the wall behind him.)

    The guy playing first for the Rainiers (forgot who it was) was absolutely horrendous. I can think of at least two errors.

    Fox also forgot to cover third on a dying quail that both 3B and SS went to get.

    Finally, after watching Carlos Triunfel, I’m beginning to think that he has ADHD or something. Watch him next time. He never, ever stops moving. And most of the time he’s not doing anything productive. He’s constantly kicking the ground, grabbing dirt, fiddling with his mitt, or messing with his hat.

    Just do yourself a favor and decide that for just an inning or two you are going to watch the behaviors of one Carlos Triunfel. You won’t be bored.

  3. Paul B on April 6th, 2012 6:37 am

    The guy playing first for the Rainiers (forgot who it was) was absolutely horrendous. I can think of at least two errors

    Johan Limonta, went 2 for 3 with 2 errors, both missed catches.

    box score:

  4. Paul B on April 6th, 2012 6:42 am

    Cesar Jimenez set a record by pitching in at least one game in his SEVENTH season in Tacoma

    Could have been 8, but he didn’t play in Tacoma in 2010, I assume he was hurt. He pitched in 7 games in the Southern League that year.

  5. marc w on April 6th, 2012 8:42 am

    “That would have been WAY out of Safeco.”
    No doubt. Absolutely no doubt about that. This is the 2nd straight opening day featuring a long hit by Peguero that would’ve been a long HR in Safeco. No one doubts his power, and if he could only make contact a bit more, you’d have something.

    “Could have been 8, but he didn’t play in Tacoma in 2010”
    Yep, shoulder injury I believe. He’s battled quite a few injuries (biceps, shoulder, etc.) over the years.

    Limonta’s a classic minor league guy – he can be productive in the minors, but has no shot in the bigs. He can’t field at all; he’s at 1B again because they don’t want to go back to having him play in the OF again. He doesn’t have power; he just sprays line drives all over the place. It’s not even “gap power” – he’s just a singles machine. No glove + singles hitter = minor league vet.

    He’ll get a lot of games at 1B, though, because Luis Jimenez is his back-up.

  6. bongo on April 6th, 2012 9:09 am

    I *really* hope that the Rainiers don’t plan on giving Limonta regular playing time at 1st base. His range is poor, his throwing not very accurate and overall, he looked like a DH out there.

    Part of Catricala’s issue at 3rd is that he stays in the same place, regardless of who is at the plate.

    Also, Trayvon Robinson didn’t look good either at the plate or in the field (unimpressive throwing arm).

    Lots of balls got by Adam Moore, though he did throw out a runner in the first.

    Overall, if I didn’t know this was a Rainiers game, I’d say the quality of play in the field was more characteristic of an “A” team like the AquaSox, than AAA.

  7. Paul B on April 6th, 2012 10:36 am

    Hopefully, they’ll get better as the season goes along.

    I’ll bet Adam Moore, for example, was pretty rusty.

    Do all the minor leaguers report at the same time as the major league camp invitees? Or do they start working out later during the spring?

  8. ivan on April 6th, 2012 10:47 am

    If you’re “not going to do one of these every day.” I hope Jay will. I was a daily reader of his blog and miss it very much. We need this kind of coverage on a regular if not daily basis.

    Also, can someone please settle one detail once and for all? Does Carlos Triunfel pronounce his name TREE-un-fel, the way it is spelled, or TRUE-un-fel, the way announcers continue to say it? Can someone please enlighten me? Thanks.

  9. marc w on April 6th, 2012 10:52 am

    “he looked like a DH out there.”
    Yeah, he is, but in AAA, you do what you can. This is how the Rainiers have started 6 1Bs in the line-up in the same game (Brad Nelson in RF, Bryan LaHair in LF, Chris Shelton at 3B, etc.).

    Trayvon Robinson has an extremely weak arm; that was something Dave Cameron mentioned last year as a big weakness as it really limits him in CF. His throw to the plate to a get runner was, hands down, the best throw I’ve ever seen him make. You could see how he deals with it: he plays shallower than anyone I’ve seen. He almost made a play on Conger’s double to left center, but that’s an easy play if he was playing standard depth.

    Adam Moore wasn’t too rusty at all. His throw to get Mike Trout stealing in the first was the best throw I’ve ever seen him make (Ryan Divish agreed). He then picked a runner off of 3rd, though that was some pretty suspect baserunning.

    The minor leaguers (most of ’em, anyway) report a bit later, and a ton of them are still in extended spring training in Arizona. Some are rehabbing injuries (Dennis Raben) and others are waiting for short-season ball to start up.

  10. Mariners101.com on April 6th, 2012 11:59 am

    I’ll get to cover these guys a lot this year. I’m actually looking forward to it. Between all the guys on the bubble and the three pitchers in AAA looking to move up should be a lot of good story lines here.

  11. djw on April 6th, 2012 12:19 pm

    He’ll get a lot of games at 1B, though, because Luis Jimenez is his back-up.

    I assume Liddi will get some work at 1st once he’s sent down, right? Just so he and Catricala can both get PT.

  12. Mariners101.com on April 6th, 2012 1:37 pm

    I’d assume the same. When Carp and Gutierrez come back.. Liddi and whoelse makes the move downward?

  13. marc w on April 6th, 2012 1:37 pm

    Yes, good point djw.

  14. Jay Yencich on April 6th, 2012 1:42 pm

    If you’re “not going to do one of these every day.” I hope Jay will. I was a daily reader of his blog and miss it very much. We need this kind of coverage on a regular if not daily basis.

    Nope, sorry. While I did briefly look at the boxes last night, wondering how to write them up, I remembered that I’m not going to do that anymore because I don’t have time. This week ran me ragged without having to devote an hour or more to write-ups every evening.

  15. ivan on April 6th, 2012 2:23 pm

    Thanks Jay. I value whatever you contribute.

  16. Jay Yencich on April 6th, 2012 3:07 pm

    Weekly things will still exist, but dailies should not be forced on anyone who is not adequately compensated.

  17. henryv on April 6th, 2012 5:10 pm

    Limonta probably should have had 3 errors, but I think that one of his failed catches was on a double play, so can’t count.

    There was a throw early in the game that he made where he weakly through the ball to second, short hopping the second baseman. If he makes a solid throw, it’s a double play (assuming he or the pitcher catches the return throw).

    So, basically, that’s 4 outs that the Rainiers should have gotten had Limonta done better.

    Okay, done bashing him. Kinda feel bad now.

    Now, let me finally say that the fireworks are even better than in years before. I don’t know if it was just for Opening Night, but they were GREAT.

    Also, it was cold as hell. Seriously.

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