Predicting the 2010 Roster (Part 1)
As promised, it’s the second annual “Predict the Roster” segment here on the LumberBlog. With this being the second season as a Seattle Mariners affiliate, I can now talk about players that might return from last year’s club in addition to new faces from the Everett, Pulaski and Peoria rosters.
Part 1 starts with a look at who might be returning from the 2009 squad. The LumberKings suited up 57 players last year, many of whom saw limited action in black and green. Twelve position players appeared in less than 20 games, while 12 pitchers appeared in less than 10 games.
There’s also some regulars from last year’s club that might get a re-visit. We’ll start there.
Last year’s Opening Day roster featured a pair of highly-touted 2007 draft picks in Denny Almonte (2nd round) and Daniel Carroll (3rd round). Both have had a measure of success in the Midwest League, but both have also had their struggles.
After hitting .262 with 12 HR in the first half, Almonte suffered through a dismal second half. He hit just .183 following an All-Star appearance and hit just one more homer over his final 153 at-bats. Amongst league leaders in RBI at one point, Almonte finished with 58 (only 14 in the second half). Is he dominant when he’s on? Absolutely. He practically carried the team through May with 8 HR and 21 RBI. Still, it’s hard to ignore his .091 month of August and his 148 strikeouts in 409 at-bats.
Carroll’s season was derailed by a pair of injuries. He missed two weeks with a groin issue suffered on Opening Night in Burlington and then spent nearly all of May and June coming back from a broken thumb. Once he got truly healthy, Carroll started to hit. Following the All-Star break, he hit .240, scored 29 runs and stole 15 bases. He’s been at High Desert before and should get a chance to make that roster with a good Spring.
Bottom line, I believe both Almonte and Carroll will be in High Desert to start 2010. Almonte’s key to staying there is making consistent contact, while Carroll’s I believe is simply staying healthy. Only time will tell.
If Almonte is gone, who will step in to be the primary power threat? I think we see the return of ultra-talented third-baseman Mario Martinez (pictured left). At age 19 last year, Martinez hit .214 with 2 HR and 24 RBI in 61 games with Clinton. He was getting hot down the stretch of the first half, but was then sent to short-A Pulaski at the All-Star break. There, he hit .308 with 20 doubles, 3 HR and 33 RBI in 71 games. Yes, he hasn’t hit for consistent power yet in his career, but the Mariners have high hopes for him and this could be the breakout year. Defensively, he looked great at both third and first base. Where he plays next year will likely be determined by whether or not Jharmidy DeJesus makes the roster.
Other position players who could return include Travis Howell (.205, 8 HR, 29 RBI in 66 games), Maximo Mendez (.213, 8 triples, 38 runs scored, 20 steals in 64 games) and Terry Serrano (.236, 40 runs scored, 18 steals). All three should go to High Desert, but very well could see time back with Clinton next year following injury-plagued 2009 seasons.
Pitching-wise, there shouldn’t be too many returners from the staff that led the Midwest League in ERA. Starters like Kenn Kasparek (10-6, 2.41), Andrew Carraway (4-0, 2.50) and Bobby LaFromboise (8-9, 4.03) will certainly move up. Relievers like Cheyne Hann (2-2, 1.32, 12 saves), Blake Nation (3-5, 3.16), Matt Renfree (3-2, 2.60), Jose Jimenez (4-2, 3.38), Brandon Josselyn (0-1, 0.75, 3 saves) and others should all move as well.
Now that we’ve covered some of the more familiar faces, let’s move on to the guys who had brief stints in Clinton last year.
When talking about position players, I’m excited to see what a guy like Ryan Royster can do with a full season in the Midwest League. In eight games last year, Royster hit .333 with 3 doubles, 2 HR and 7 RBI. He spent most of his year at Everett and performed there, hitting .325 with 7 HR and 27 RBI in 41 games.
Another intriguing hitter is Welington Dotel. He exhibited tons of raw power in batting practice, but belted just one homer in 19 games. Dotel did hit a solid .286 and drove in 11 runs in 49 at-bats. I believe we’ll see him in the Clinton outfield this season.
We won’t see 2009 third-rounder Kyle Seager back, but we might see the return of sixth-rounder Shaver Hansen if for no other reason than shoring up his defense (13 errors in 36 games, primarily at third base). Hansen hit .205 with 7 RBI and could probably use another year against Midwest League pitching as well.
Others we might see back include outfielder Dwight Britton (.192 in 11 games), infielder Jetsy Extrano (.045 in 6 games) and catchers Henry Contreras (.167, 2 RBI in 4 games) and Tommy Johnson (.167 in 5 games).
Back to pitching, there’s several 2010 rotation candidates that spent brief time with the LumberKings last year.
At the top of the list is hard-throwing righty Maikel Cleto (pictured right), who arrived in late June after some visa issues. Two stints on the disabled list and a very strict pitch count allowed us a very brief look at Cleto, and it was hard to determine if he was the 0-3, 5.33 guy we saw over eight starts or the guy who struck out six over 3.0 innings in a matchup against Carlos Zambrano and the Peoria Chiefs on August 20. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see Cleto mature in the rotation.
Another potential starter coming back could be Anthony Vasquez. Seattle’s 18th round pick out of USC went 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA in 7 games, all starts. The numbers aren’t overly impressive, but Vasquez did win each of his last two starts, lowering his ERA from 7.71 to 5.66 in the process. He also shut down a volatile Great Lakes Loons’ offense to a run on eight hits over 5.2 innings in his LumberKings’ debut on August 1. The left-handed Vasquez could be a top-flight starter next season.
Right-handers Andres Esquibel (1-1, 4.91 in 8 games) and Chris Kirkland (0-1, 5.00 in 4 games), and left-hander Jon Hesketh (1-1, 12.60 in 3 games) could all potentially be starters next year as well.
Esquibel was 2-4 with a 5.00 ERA in Everett, but flashed dominance with a three-hit complete-game shutout win over Boise on August 6. Kirkland, meanwhile, led the Northwest League with 85 strikeouts. He went 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 15 starts. Hesketh didn’t fare well in Clinton, but did limit opponents to a .188 average while going 0-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven outings with the Aqua Sox.
The 2010 bullpen is less clear. Daniel Cooper, a teammate of Vasquez at USC and Seattle’s 21st round pick, went 0-1 with a 9.28 ERA in eight relief appearances with the LumberKings last year. Ogui Diaz spent most of 2009 as an infielder, but converted to right-handed reliever and went 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four games with Pulaski. The rest of the pen is a guessing game.
That’s just the first part of my two-part ”Predict the Roster” segment. Next week, I’ll look at potential LumberKings coming from Everett, Pulaski and Peoria. Feel free to add your comments on my predictions below, especially if any of the players I’ve mentioned have changed organizations without my knowledge. Hey, I’m human.