Mariners camp has only just begun, and we’re still a long way from knowing where players will align within the system. Still, in just over 50 days, the 2009 Clinton LumberKings will take the field. Who will be dressed in black and green other than Scott Steinmann, Lance Painter and Jesus Azuaje?
The 2008 LumberKings lined up on Opening Night.
This is an especially tough question given our first year as a Seattle affiliate. In the past, you get a good sense of who will return from the previous year’s club, then round out the roster with the top performers in short-season, AZL and VZL ball.
Throw in the mix that the system itself may be getting a shakeup under Jack Zduriencik and Pedro Grifol. The result, it’s a little tougher for people like myself to guess who’s going to be where on the farm. Right now, much like the fans, I can only speculate.
So, let’s do just that:
During our Hot Stove banquet in January, Mariners’ special assistant John Boles didn’t bring up a lot of names when it came to possible players, but did toss out two in specific, former Wisconsin Timber Rattlers outfielder Daniel Carroll and 20-year-old third-base prospect Mario Martinez.
Although Carroll has seen time in high-A High Desert, there’s reason to see why the 2007 second-round pick might be back in the Midwest League. He hit just .135 (10-for-74) in 17 games with the Mavs, and his stats with the Rattlers weren’t outstanding. At Wisconsin he hit .248 and posted a .325 on-base percentage in 60 games. Still, his speed was intriguing…31 of 40 in stolen bases against MWL opponents last year. Those numbers are even better than what Engel Beltre did atop the LumberKings order last year (31 of 42 in steals), and Carroll did it in half as many games (60 compared to Beltre’s 130). Plus, Carroll stacks up as Seattle’s best defensive outfield arm according to Baseball America.
You never know if the Mariners will choose to challenge him back in high-A next year, but I’d personally love to see Carroll swiping bags and gunning down baserunners at Alliant Energy Field.
Could Carroll be one of two former second-round picks roaming the Clinton outfield? Dennis Raben (second round in ’08) had some nice power numbers from the left side of the plate last year in short-season Everett. He slugged five homers and drove in 14 RBI while hitting .275 (.560 slugging, .411 on-base) in 27 games. Bound to be a LumberKing? Hopefully.
On to Martinez. The numbers the last two years on this kid have been solid. A .281 average, 36 runs scored and 26 RBI in 53 games his first season in the AZL, a .319 average, 15 doubles, 5 HR, 43 runs, 32 RBI in 64 games last year with Pulaski. As Boles said, he should make it to Clinton. Hopefully he’ll be working with Azuaje on developing further plate discipline…while his average has been where you want, he’s walked just 16 times in his career compared to 78 strikeouts.
It would be interesting to see if Jharmidy DeJesus might also get a look at the Midwest League. Another third-baseman, DeJesus is equally young, hails from Jose Vallejo’s hometown of Bani, D.R. and can swing the bat. Splitting time between the AZL and Everett last year, he combined to hit .309 with 10 homers, 33 RBI and a .376 on-base percentage over 62 games. Who knows how those numbers could project over a full 140 games?
That’s just four potential players out of a roster of 25, but four of the biggest names in the entire Mariners’ system. A look at the Seattle Top 10 according to Baseball America:
1. Greg Halman – OF
2. Michael Saunders – OF
3. Phillipe Aumont – LHP
4. Carlos Triunfel – SS/2B
5. Juan Ramirez – RHP
6. Adam Moore – C
7. Mario Martinez – 3B
8. Jharmidy DeJesus – 3B
9. Dennis Raben – OF
10. Michael Pineda – RHP
Every player on this list aside from Martinez, DeJesus and Raben has already passed through the Midwest League with Wisconsin. That includes the top pitching prospects, Aumont, Ramirez and Pineda, none of which are likely coming to Clinton in ’09. So who then will make up the starting rotation?
Could we see a third stint out of righty Nathan Adcock (2-5, 3.72 ERA in 2008), whose curveball was ranked the best in the system by BA? How about second seasons out of Donnie Hume (6-2, 2.44), Edward Paredes (7-11, 4.63) and Keith Renaud (1-5, 5.14), all who made at least 11 starts with Wisconsin last year? Any of those three could enjoy breakout seasons on par with what Omar Poveda and Zach Phillips did with the Kings in 2007.
Or, it could be newcomers. Pulaski boasted solid arms like Nick Czyz (6-5, 4.08), Brooks Mohr (6-4, 3.27) and Fabian Williamson (4-3, 4.10) last season. In Everett, there weren’t too many starters with ERA’s under four, but Nolan Gallagher (1-1, 2.94), Bobby LaFromboise (2-2, 3.46) and Brett Lorin (1-0, 2.82) fared well in limited action. Lorin ended up making six starts with the Rattlers by season’s end. Then there’s high-rounders Ben Pribanic (1-2, 15.43 in AZL) and Steven Hensley (2-1, 5.22) who both struggled after being selected in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.
This early in the year, it’s still largely a guessing game. Performance on those back diamonds at the Peoria Sports Complex will be the most important thing in the coming weeks. I hope to get a chance to observe many of these players myself when I head down to Arizona in a couple weeks.
Any players you think I left out? Any further observations on who might be a LumberKing in 2009? I’m definitely interested to hear your opinions. Click the “comment” link below and let me hear it.