Minor League Opening Day Wrap-Up
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: