Questions for a New Minor League Season

April 9, 2013 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 14 Comments 

Marc posted his own minor league introduction last week while I was busily filling out paperwork that had nothing to do with baseball, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I can’t also post something of my own that I will actively tell myself won’t go on for too long, but then will totally go on for way too long, you guys. Editor’s note: oh it went on all right

Here are some narratives that I’m looking at in the upcoming minor league season, translated as three questions for each team. Some of the questions are related to the development of actual prospects, but some are just things of general minor league interest. I’ve tried throughout to avoid certain things like “If Zunino wants to continue catching then he should improve on the things that the catching job entails”-type analyses, but in some cases it seemed pertinent to address some specifics. I write a lot, but prefer not to be wasteful, or to fail at being somewhat thorough. Here come nearly five thousand words written mostly yesterday.

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M’s Hire Dominican Guy, Who Signs Another Dominican Guy

January 15, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 26 Comments 

By my reckoning, we have entered the offseason period of the Doldrums. I, for one, have been driving my little car for quite some time and Tock is nowhere to be found. Just wait though: the mere fact that I’m coming out of hiding to post anything at all almost certainly promises some major move later in the day to push this down the page. Things are looking up!

One of the moves to occur recently with very little mention is that the Mariners brought in Eddy Toledo to lead their Dominican operations, taking over the job that formerly belonged to Patrick Guerrero. At the time, when Guerrero and Engle were both leaving, there was concern over who would be filling that fairly large void. While Engle we knew would be hard to replace due to his years of scouting experience and connections, what we understood of Guerrero was more speculative. He had been instrumental in a number of the Latin American signings, but as Marc and I were discussing recently, those signings hadn’t done a whole lot for us. To rattle off a short and incomplete list of guys given seven-figure bonuses who didn’t do much: Mario Martinez, Jharmidy de Jesus, Carlos Triunfel (may yet be a major leaguer), and more recent enigmas like Guillermo Pimentel, Phillips Castillo, and Alexy Palma (Jose Leal gets a bye for this year). The list of high-profile hitter signings that had followed through with what was expected of them might be limited to Julio Morban, health permitting. The last guy who exceeded expectations might’ve been Luis Valbuena or Juan Diaz, who both went to the Indians, who liked what we did on the international front. Assuming that hitters ought to be safer, something we were doing appeared to be systemically wrong, relative to our level of regional investment. This was probably the justification for giving Guerrero the ax, though none of us knew what qualifications his replacement might have or if there were better options available.

Scouts who are hired to fill such positions are often not as visible within an organizational hierarchy, making it difficult to know who is even on the market. Managers and general managers tend to draw from defined pools of applicants and the profile of their role means that we know ahead of time who is even interviewing. Fellows like Toledo and Guerrero are only names that nuts like me might recognize within their own organization. Now, from the article on the hiring, we know that Toledo isn’t exactly a slouch with regards to what he’s accomplished. He’s been in baseball for thirty+ years and among the players to his credit we have Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, Octavio Dotel, Guillermo Mota, Hector Carrasco, Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Elvin Ramirez, Alex Colome, Braulio Lara and assorted other major leaguers. Toledo had been with the Rays since 2006 and glancing over the Baseball America prospect list, I see that he’s responsible for two guys on their top 10, Colome and Enny Romero, both pitchers. He was also the one who signed Leslie Anderson after he defected from Cuba. Going after our Pacific Northwest players, Rays? Well, we’ll just steal your Dominican scout and sign players that are geographically closer to you! Take that!

Given that the Mariners are reputed high-rollers in the international world and the Rays aren’t really, one of the things that’s easy to talk about is how Toledo, provided with more resources, might be able to make a more visible impact on his new organization. That’s a seemingly reasonable estimation though, considering development delays stemming from age and relative experience, the net change in return will take us a bit longer to get a decent gauge on. That also doesn’t begin to address the new CBA changes, which could either drive players away from the sport or lead to greater parity in the signings. In the short term, not to be presumptuous, it at least looks like we have an upgrade rather than a mere replacement.

Toledo and his superior, new international director Tim Kissner, got to work pretty quickly, signing Dominican OF Luis Liberato, who has a name going for him at the very least. Liberato inked for $140k, a decent sum of money, and the scouting report we have on him at least seems positive. Among the pluses in his column (let’s call it “Colome”), left-handed bat, “mature approach”, and a potential center field future with a sufficient arm for right field. So, something like a lesser Julio Morban with a better arm. Among the negatives, a tendency to swing too hard for power at times, center field being less than a certainty, and the fact that a lot of scouting reports for these types of players read alike and there’s very little available to corroborate any of the information. Our new scout is doing stuff! You may never hear this player’s name mentioned again!

And that’s where we are in the realm of small-ish moves made by the Mariners that are still probably worth noting. Remember, we’re less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting and time continues to pass.

’12 40-Man Preview Extravaganza

November 5, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 26 Comments 

So, I suppose it’s time for me to roll the boulder away from the mouth of my cave, stumble out into the world, bleary and unshaven, and do what I otherwise do proficiently, haggard appearance aside. I’ll tell you all about the probable 40-man additions (due Nov. 20th) and spend some time in idle speculation covering more material than is actually meaningful to cover because I’m abnormal in that way. I probably have some kind of brain thing. This year, what we’re looking at is ’08 high school draftees/early international signings and ’09 college draftees, which means that this marks the first year that we’ve been taking into account the Zduriencik era. You might be thinking all kinds of things about how long we’ve been in this particular rebuilding process, but you’re wrong! Baseball takes up so much time.

This round, the Mariners’ likely additions are more pitching-oriented than hitting-oriented, to the dismay of those of us now who really had no idea what things would have looked like four years ago. Actually, we haven’t have hitting for a while. Whatever. Next year is going to be something of a crunch. Why, we’ll be looking to add guys such as Stefen Romero, Leon Landry, Logan Bawcom, Forrest Snow, Tyler Burgoon, and Jordan Shipers, along with a whole slew of international prospects. Won’t that be fun to write about? It might be. We’re not there yet.

This time I’ve started to group things based around what I think will happen as opposed to just lumping all the names together. I’m making things more efficient! For you, not me. This is still ridiculous overall as an exercise.
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Minor League Wrap (8/27-9/3/12)

September 4, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 19 Comments 

This is the final wrap of the year and also the last wrap I intend to do. As others before me, I have discovered that sports blogging as a hobby and grad school aren’t really reconcilable. I could conceivably stagger it out to another couple of years, but from my own standpoint, I’d rather bail before the extent of my half-assery becomes apparent and instead devote my five months of writing energy to, I don’t know, writing. I regard this largely as typing. Lots of typing. Anyway, I’ll still be around the Mariners internet scene and presumably will throw out an article every now and then, but my contributions will be without set timetable or specific definition.

Let’s have a links run, shall we? You didn’t hear about the Arizona Fall League rosters here because I posted that at Lookout Landing and don’t have anything additional to add. John Sickels decided to add to his Mariners focus by determining that IF Dan Paolini was worth writing about. The Baseball America notebook that focuses on the Mariners spotlighted something new to me, in that it talked about RHRP Matt Brazis who retired twenty-nine in a row at some point during this season. Usually they only talk about things I’ve long since been familiar with, so this is fun! Also at BA, Victor Sanchez made the last Prospect Hot Sheet of the year , with Hultzen as not-so hot, and RF Gabriel Guerrero as a helium watch, and there’s news that we’ve signed left-handed hitting Dominican third baseman Leurys Vargas for $400k. They talk about his bat speed and power as being selling points. This may or may not be the last you hear of him.

There are also league honors being announced. For example, the Southern League Postseason All-Star Team gives us a lot to think about, like Jesus Sucre being the catcher pick and Brandon Maurer being the right-handed starter selection, which can only mean that they don’t accept partial seasons oh wait Carter Capps is the reliever. Welp. The equivalent California League Post-Season All-Star Roster not only has Hicks at catcher, Landry in the outfield, Proscia as utility (whaaaat), and Elias as one of the pitchers, but has Grifol as Manager of the Year and Roy Howell as coach of the year. And they offer a Rookie of the Year Award? How many good players repeat the Cal League? The Northwest League roster featured a number of Aquasox, like Kivlehan at third AND as the league’s MVP, Zunino at catcher, and Ard as both first baseman and designated hitter which means he’s twice the prospect he once was, or two identical halves of the same prospect, or nothing has changed but it’s a nice honor. Boise has a player who is hitting .356/.435/.490, but as it turns out, no one likes him. On the Appalachian League roster, the picks were obviously C Tyler Marlette and OF Dario Pizzano. I also heard that CF Jesus Ugueto was the MVP of the VSL, but it’s only four teams now and he’s been around for four years, so any excitement you have is probably unwarranted.

And playoffs? Jackson starts a series against Chattanooga on Thursday, High Desert gets a bye until the wild cards resolve, which is Saturday I think, Clinton gets to start their series against Beloit on Wednesday, and Everett lost on Monday against Vancouver after they got one-hit. It continues, in Everett, tonight and hopefully tomorrow.

To the jump!
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Minor League Wrap (8/20-26/12)

August 27, 2012 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 9 Comments 

This is the penultimate minor league wrap of the year, which is in no small way an excuse to use the word “penultimate.” The regular season ends for a lot of teams on next Monday, so the last or ultimate edition will probably come Tuesday or Wednesday depending on what I’m up to. I’m usually up to something. There’s also a pretty solid chance that I won’t be around to answer any questions until later because I’m out/away from the computer.

External links! The Mariners are the best at catching runners stealing! John Sickels was hanging out at a Lumberkings game and has since written about RHP Mayckol Guaipe, OF Jabari Blash, and LF Guillermo Pimentel.

To the jump!
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Minor League Wrap (8/12-19/12)

August 20, 2012 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 24 Comments 

In a special edition of this intro, we have reactions to Felix’s perfect game, from other teams in the Mariners minor league system. For example, you had the Jackson Generals flipping out, note Felix’s brother wearing 45, and you have the Peoria Mariners celebrating in the way that a bunch of teens or near teens are inclined to do. It’s not something that I usually think about because we’re drawing in players from all around the country and indeed the world, but when something major like this happens in the organization, everyone is on board completely, and it’s awesome to see.

Speaking of awesome things, Zunino and Landry were both mentions on BA’s Prospect Hot Sheet.

To the jump!
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Minor League Wrap (8/6-12/12)

August 13, 2012 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 21 Comments 

Before I get to anything else here, as I was writing the wrap last night, word came over from Pat Dillon that Zunino is going to Jackson. This might mean Marlette in Everett, or it might mean a lesser move.

Going outside to other sources, John Sickels had two features on the M’s this week, one reviewing his pre-season top 20 (Disappointments: F-Mart, Catricala, Ruffin. Enthusiasm: Romero, Pryor, Capps, Miller) and he also took at look at Pryor and Capps. Churchill also talked about Brandon Maurer, which is good, because Maurer is neato. Baseball America also ran their best tools survey in which relatively few Mariners prospects were named.

To the jump!
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Minor League Wrap (7/30-8/5/12)

August 6, 2012 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 14 Comments 

This week featured a game that lasted twenty-three innings, a cycle, ten walks by a single hitter who didn’t even take hitter of the week honors, an instance of a helicopter being used to help dry out an outfield after a deluge the previous day, and the official release of RHP Chris Reitsma, who had been unofficially retired and on the restricted list since April of 2008. But the most fascinating thing to happen this week? Jandy Sena didn’t have to take a flight anywhere, nor did Andrew Kittredge! I never expected that to happen!

To the jump!
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Minor League Wrap (7/23-29/12)

July 30, 2012 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 9 Comments 

Tacoma had a doubleheader on Sunday that didn’t start until six, so I was piecing together the last of this rather late. Gosh I hope it makes sense. Anyway, I was in Everett earlier in the week and have brought back with me some notes on the Aquasox. Anyway, there are a fair number of names this week that are popping up as Hitter or Pitcher of the Week for the first time and there were a lot of transactions going around. Imagine what next week will be like if we trade people! Given historical precedent, I imagine trades to happen early today and push this post off the front page in short order.

To the jump!
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Minor League Wrap (7/16-22/12)

July 23, 2012 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 8 Comments 

Late in the week, there was a video making its rounds on the internet of a classic meeting of stoppable force and immovable object. In this case, immovable object was D’Backs catcher Styrker Trahan, and stoppable force? That was Mariners second-round pick Joe DeCarlo. Go look at it. I don’t know what to say. Yikes, perhaps.

If you missed it earlier in the week, I also did a guest article on Lookout Landing of the 2012 Mariners Pre-Draft Prospects as the Moons of Jupiter, which might mark the first and only time I’ve made a prospect list and haven’t hated every second of it.

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