2013 Everett Aquasox Preview
Even though I don’t write often here anymore, I still write a lot, and with the Aquasox being the team of local interest for me, I really can’t avoid this one.
I’ve seen a lot of Aquasox teams over the years and made various predictions based on roster composition and performance. This one, I just don’t have a good feel for. To broadly characterize the team, it’s composed of a lot of players who had high billing or showed elite physical abilities or flashes of potential at some point in the past, but who have yet to put it together or haven’t had the chance yet. This means a lot of potential for volatility. The team could have a bunch of breakthroughs and turn out to be amazing! It could also have a blend of good and lackluster performance and come out with a middling record. It could also continue along what has been more or less the status quo and just frustrate all of us. This is the scenario I least prefer.
To summarize what you’ll be seeing below, the bullpen arms are live and oft troubled, the catchers can catch and little else, the infield has a fair amount of hitting potential from a lot of the guys that we’re waiting to see in action, the outfield seems to be a mix of power guys and speed/defense guys, and the rotation is some sort of UN council.
LHP Steve Ewing, RHP Rigoberto Garcia, RHP Lars Huijer, RHP Ricardo Pereira, RHP Thyago Vieira
One of the things I could say about this rotation is that every pitcher is from a different country. In fact, I just did. Respective to the above, the United States, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Venezuela, Brazil.
Rigoberto Garcia interests me because he’s not the only Rigoberto Garcia that’s ever been in pro ball, and also because he’s big like Michael Pineda is big. Up until last year, he was ahead of Pineda on the timetable, having played in Pulaski at the age Pineda was still in the DSL, but now he’s behind, playing in the Northwest League at the age Pineda was in the Midwest League. Garcia demonstrated some progress last year with regard to his command, but he hasn’t been as averse to the walk as Pineda was. I make the comparisons because I don’t know anything about what Garcia throws, but he’s nominally the ace of the rotation and has been promoted somewhat aggressively over his career.
Huijer is getting another shot at the rotation after being a bullpen arm last year. He’s been level-to-level since signing as a seventeen-year-old with a decent track record of experience with various Dutch national teams. I’m kind of grasping here too, if you can’t tell, because Huijer’s track record is limited and less than appealing. He’s given up a lot of hits. He’s had less than two Ks for every walk in the States because he walks a lot of guys and doesn’t strike out quite enough. He’s hit a lot of batters for how little he’s pitched. This is one of those instances where I concede the fact that I know little about some of these players or why certain developmental decisions are made with them. I wrote this before he turned in a pretty impressive first outing.
I like Vieira as an object of interest, being a Brazilian player, but there was another Brazilian pitcher that I would have preferred to see in this rotation. Think we all know who. Vieira was a two-year guy in the VSL and started all of his second year. His first year, his command was so bad that he managed to walk twenty-two batters and throw eight wild pitches in just eighteen innings. Supply your own adjectives for that one. Last year, he spotted the ball much, much better, but still plunked twelve in fifty-five innings. He’s still trying to figure out how to pitch/strike guys out, but he wouldn’t have skipped the AZL and the Appalachian League without reason, I would hope.
Pereira, on the other hand, was in the VSL as long as permitted before showing up in Pulaski last year. But the VSL can be weird in its own ways and the first two years he was there he pitched a combined 24.0 innings. I feel like all I can do with some of these pitchers is reiterate the same basic materials: he’s given up hits, he’s walked a few too many, his strikeout rate is not spectacular or even good. This pitching staff is interesting in some ways but to this point, it hasn’t been for reasons pertaining to performance. That doesn’t mean they can’t break out, it is only to say that they haven’t.
Ewing gets the last spot in the rotation and you probably remember him from last season. He did all right, if you’re only looking at record and ERA. xRA liked him worse, with good reason, as he walked 12.4% of the batters he faced while striking out 15.7%. He was pretty good for the Miami Hurricanes in 2011, but then noticeably less good in 2012.
RHP Aaron Brooks, RHP Min-sih Chen, LHP Tyler Olson, RHP Luke Taylor, RHP Jose Valdivia, LHP Nick Valenza, RHP Richard Vargas, RHP Richard White
Like the rotation, there’s some potential here mixed in with some struggles. A lot of the guys here were starters fairly recently, so there’s a chance for some shifting back and forth of roles. I’m only reporting on what I know right now. There are also a few local guys and few guys that throw rather hard.
The local contingent is Brooks (Edmonds CC), Taylor (Woodinville HS), and Olson (Gonzaga). Brooks got the bump after running a 21/3 K/BB in 18.0 innings for Peoria last year and inducing almost two grounders for every fly. The ERA wasn’t pretty, but the AZL is hostile territory and the other components have him as one of the pitchers I’m most interested to see. Taylor was talked out of a college commitment three years ago and went Peoria/Pulaski/Peoria in his three years as a pro. Initially, his control numbers were just awful and he wasn’t striking out nearly as many batters as one might like, but last year he started to get it together and one would hope that continues. Olson is your basic crafty lefty and I’d expect him in the long relief role this year, rotation next year. These guys can also sometimes shift to the bullpen, see also Cesar Jimenez, Bobby LaFromboise.
Guys with stuff include Vargas, White, and Valdivia. Vargas came up after one year in the DSL and has been back and forth, debuting in Pulaski before getting a brief tour in Clinton the following year, and now, Everett. He’s got as much heat as anyone in the system, but his arm can’t really take it. He lost 2011 to elbow surgery (stress fracture) and missed a lot of time last year with a shoulder strain. White, despite his name, is from the Virgin Islands, where I guess he might stick out amongst various Jabaris and Mumbas. Live fastball, as stated. Limited command and was stuck in Peoria two years with a lot of walks and wild pitches to show for it. Many, many years ago it seems, Valdivia was supposed to be the next big thing, but then he had Tommy John surgery his second year and hasn’t shown a whole lot since. He’s never topped 40 innings a season despite being active since 2009, and I think the bullpen move is conceding that he just has a rough time staying healthy.
Wild cards in this mix are Valezna and Chen. Valenza was drafted a couple years ago and would have been a high draft pick if he were taller, since he has the stuff and the secondaries. The org has used him mostly as a bullpen guy, where he’s gotten grounders, Ks, and a few too many walks. Chen is a former outfielder out of Taiwan who doesn’t yet have a great feel for pitching and has had a few injury scares in the past, mostly stress reactions from being new to pitching. His stuff is supposed to be good.
Christian Carmichael, Carlton Tanabe
Carmichael’s defensive abilities were strong enough to get him picked in the sixth round back in 2010. In his three minor league seasons leading up to this, he has played in exactly 55 games, only eight of which were outside of Peoria. Most of his experience has been in instructs and extended spring training, or at least the media guide is mum about any potential injuries he might have suffered (they are likewise quiet about his suspension for PEDs last season, which had him on the Clinton roster and not playing for fifty games). There are likely some expectations of him, starting the season in Everett. I wouldn’t be able to articulate what they are. His career CS% is around 42%, so that’s something.
Tanabe was drafted a year earlier and with a similar profile, though his shortcomings and free ride to a prominent junior college were enough to drop him to the 24th round. Tanabe is better traveled and has been on every roster in the system except Pulaski, with the longest tenure in Clinton at 48 games played, which should tell you something about how the organization has handled him. “But what about Tacoma? He hasn’t played a game there!” says someone looking at B-R. Yes, I saw him in the bullpen as an emergency backup back when I saw Pineda start there a few years ago. Whenever the organization has needed someone to fill in on a roster, Tanabe has been there. He hasn’t hit really. Neither of these guys have a track record of hitting. They should be able to handle a pitching staff though.
IF Bryan Brito, IF Martin Peguero, 3B D.J. Peterson, SS Jack Reinheimer, 1B Justin Seager
Probably the main source of intrigue on this team for most of us. Peterson has been on the roster, but won’t make his debut until tonight probably, since he wasn’t with the team on the road. What is there to say that I haven’t already? Peterson’s a good batter, and he’ll get some time here to try to prove he can stick at third. I think what I should add now is that, even if he puts up gaudy power numbers, I wouldn’t make too much of it because the NWL tends to be somewhat hitting favorable and I don’t expect him to stay with Everett for the duration.
People are probably interested in Seager next because he’s a Seager, but he bats right-handed and has certain defensive limitations. He did really well in his conference, led in some categories, won awards, had doubles and walks and various other good things, and would easily be the best baseball in most families except the one that he was born into.
I guess I would say I’m interested in Reinheimer in the same way I’m interested in the idea of catching lightning in a bottle without acknowledging it as something that’s done or understood even when it happens metaphorically. Reinheimer is a good glove with a rep as a limited hitter, but so was Chris Taylor, who is now awesome. Based on the sample size of one, Reinheimer might be awesome. See where I’m going with this? He’s easily the best glove on the roster and should help the pitching staff some.
I wish I had been able to list Peguero a little higher here because he was a big deal before his bonus was slashed and it turned out he wasn’t that good. We’ve had noticeable difficulties developing Latin American hitters in recent years regardless of their incoming reputations. Peguero’s value thus far has mostly been in his average. He was supposed to have some power too, but has only had one home run coming into the year. Since he puts the ball in play a lot, his stat line doesn’t have much in the way of walks or strikeouts generally. I qualify that because he walked twice in the first game of the season.
Brito is probably the team’s all around back-up. I’m confident about that one because, hey, the highest OPS he’s ever posted was in 2009, his rookie year in the DSL, when he .254/.331/.322. If ever there were a player I needed to spend a hundred words on, Bryan Brito is probably not him.
LF Phillips Castillo, OF Michael Faulkner, RF Reggie Lawson, OF/2B Jamodrick McGruder, OF Alfredo Morales, CF James Zamarripa
Much familiarity here, but I guess I’ll start with Castillo, who is not familiar to this team. I had thought on peripheral numbers that Castillo might be able to pass Guillermo Pimentel on the depth chart last year, but while he did manage to drop his K rate, his walk rate also fell, and his BA, and his ISO, so it was all around a bad year for him. Now he’s here, still possessing decent tools, still trying to justify that lot of money that we gave him.
Morales wasn’t given as much money but still more money than people expected him to get. He was regarded by some as a sleeper prospect a while ago, but I think now it’s safe to say that he has overslept. He was pretty good a couple of years ago, returning to the AZL briefly, but last year wheren he got his show in Everett he didn’t do a lot with it, hitting .234/.294/.362. His brief tour of the Midwest League was even worse. Now that I’ve provided statistical rationales for why one might choose to not pay attention to him, watch him prove me wrong for reasons wholly beyond my skills of prediction.
McGruder could see some time on the infield, or he might not. Who’s to say? He’s played second before, but his hands aren’t supposed to be that great, and second basemen do need to use their hands. His speed is good enough for center, but when I saw him there were a few tracking and communication-related gaffes. He can walk. He can steal some bases. He doesn’t have much power and didn’t hit for a good average last year.
Faulkner is a pretty similar player in that speed and on-base percentage are important aspects of his game while power is not. He had a double last year. Just one. His average was a little better than McGruder’s, but he provided less of the peripheral stuff. I seem to remember hearing that he was in extended to start the year in an effort to improve his arm strength.
Lawson has good physical tools and is a big guy who’s still trying to figure out baseball and the like. He’s been a big strikeout guy the few years that he’s played, though he did demonstrate some ability to draw walks last year. He’s got the body type to suggest power, but it hasn’t come along yet and he’s maxed at six home runs (last year, Pulaski) and four doubles (both Pulaski and the AZL).
Alphabetically and actually last, we have Zamarippa, who was an off-radar sixth-round pick two years ago. He’s a good defender. He’s hit for average now and then, but we’re still waiting on his first pro home run. The outfield offensive capabilities seem split between “guys who do have power but don’t excel at using it” and “guys who do not have power.”