Results tagged ‘ Anthony Vasquez ’
In case you missed it, left-hander Anthony Vasquez became the eighth former LumberKing to make a Major League debut this season as he defeated the Cleveland Indians with six runs (five earned) on nine hits over 5.1 innings in the Mariners’ 12-7 win on Tuesday night.
Vasquez, now a potential candidate for Eric Wedge’s six-man rotation, pitched for the LumberKings in 2009 and 2010. Since my old audio links from ’09 are now dead (due to the WordPress conversion), I thought I’d re-post my interview with the Mariners’ 18th round pick out of USC.
I caught up with Vasquez following his August 1, 2009 debut with Clinton, a win over the Great Lakes Loons at Dow Diamond. Listen Here: Anthony Vasquez Interview 8.2.09
And, since Vasquez was back as a LumberKing again last season, here’s my interview with him from 2010: Vasquez Interview 4.20.10
In case you’re keeping count, Vasquez is the 232nd former Clinton player to reach the Major Leagues since 1937.
While we get ready for the Major League debut of former LumberKings’ lefty Anthony Vasquez with the Mariners tonight, I have a special treat for you. Former Kings’ right-hander Forrest Snow, now also knocking on the Big League door with the triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, joined me yesterday for a phone interview.
Snow, the closer for the Kings during their run to the West Division title last season and this year’s Opening Night starter, made the jump from high-A High Desert to Tacoma in mid-July as an extra arm for a maxed-out bullpen. After striking out nine over 6.0 innings of relief in his PCL debut at Salt Lake on July 24, Snow found his way on to the roster for a more permanent stint. The Seattle native struck out seven in his next relief outing and eventually joined the rotation on August 9. His best start to-date came in front of friends and family at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, an outing in which he limited Omaha to a run on four hits over 7.0 innings and struck out nine in a no-decision.
He’s now back into the bullpen, but still pitching just one step away from reaching the team he grew up rooting for. And, clearly still humble about the whole experience, Snow shared some time with me yesterday.
Snowman talks about getting the call to the Rainiers, advice he received from former LumberKing Kyle Seager in his first outing, the tremendous start at Cheney Stadium, being reunited with former Clinton pitching coach Dwight Bernard, watching former Kings’ right-hander Erasmo Ramirez dominate the PCL (he’s 3-0 in four starts) and plenty more.
Listen Here: Forrest Snow Phone Interview 8.22.11
Snow did officially go back into the pen last night, but pitched 2.0 scoreless innings at Reno in a game ultimately lost by the Rainiers, 7-6 in 12 innings. His current stint in Tacoma (0-2, 5.40 in 6 games, 2 starts) looks to be just the beginning of big things to come for the man who squeezed the final out for Clinton’s 2010 West Division championship.
After allowing a career-high five earned runs in his previous start, it’s clear that left-hander James Paxton had a rebound outing last night against Quad Cities. He set a new career high with 13 strikeouts and yielded just one run on four hits over 6.1 innings as the LumberKings beat the River Bandits, 5-1 at Alliant Energy Field. Paxton struck out six-straight batters at one point in the game (listen: Paxton 11th Strikeout 6.16.11), but left in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out. Right-hander Tyler Burgoon came on and left them loaded as he induced a highlight-reel double play started by second-baseman Jorge Agudelo (listen: Agudelo Flip to Ramirez for DP 6.16.11). Burgoon did not allow a run over 2.2 innings to secure his seventh save, making Paxton a winner for the third time. Mickey Wiswall had the clutch hit of the night, singling home two runs to open up a 4-1 lead in the fourth (listen: Wiswall 2-R single 6.16.11).
The efforts for K-Pax and Burgoon were well-timed as they took place in front of Mariners’ Minor League Pitching Coordinator Rick Waits. After coaching for 15 seasons with the New York Mets (including 2003 as their Major League Bullpen Coach), Waits has inherited a minor league system chock full of potential impact arms. Waits is my pregame guest tonight, and he shares plenty of his own insight into Paxton, tonight’s starter Taijuan Walker, Burgoon and the Clinton bullpen, former LumberKing and current Tacoma Rainier right-hander Blake Beavan and how close he is to a Seattle call-up, the outstanding arms in double-A Jackson including Andrew Carraway, Erasmo Ramirez, Anthony Vasquez, Kenn Kasparek and Tom Wilhelmsen and more. It’s definitely a worthy listen.
Tonight’s Game Notes: 6.17.11 kingsnotes
Today’s Roster Move: Despite the potential game-saving play last night, Agudelo has been sent to short-A Everett to clear space for infielder Shaver Hansen, who has been reinstated from the DL and will play tonight in Kane County.
LumberKings (22-45): Julio Morban/CF, Mickey Wiswall/1B, Tim Morris/D, Matt Browning/3B, Kalian Sams/RF, Shaver Hansen/2B, Robbie Anston/LF, Billy Marcoe/C, Anthony Phillips/SS, Taijuan Walker/RHP
Kane County Cougars (27-39): Angel Franco/2B, Ryan Stovall/3B, Brett Eibner/CF, Brian Fletcher/LF, Jake Kuebler/1B, Geulin Beltre/DH, Orlando Calixte/SS, Travis Jones/C, Julio Aparicio/RF, Leonel Santiago/RHP
First pitch is at 7:00 PM here at Elfstrom Stadium, listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com.
A few things of note regarding former and future LumberKings and this blog:
- The Seattle Mariners’ Organizational All-Stars list came out last week, and it’s finally up on LumberKings.com. Nick Franklin (’10) was a natural choice as the All-Star shortstop after hitting .281 with a Midwest League-best 23 homers last year. Kyle Seager (’09) makes the list at second base, while left-handers Anthony Vasquez (’09-’10) and Brian Moran (’09-’10) also show up as the top left-handed starter and top reliever, respectively. Potential future King Kevin Rivers is amongst the three outfielders after posting a .332 average in Everett last year.
- Former Kings’ right-hander Maikel Cleto (’09) was shipped to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for shortstop Brendan Ryan yesterday. The hard-throwing Cleto was recently added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster despite a rough go of it in the Cal League (4-9, 6.16) and a less-than-steady showing in the Arizona Fall League (2-1, 7.91). This is Cleto’s third new organization since he signed with the New York Mets in 2006. Revisit an interview I did with Cleto and an interpreter in 2009:
Maikel Cleto Interview 8.21.09.mp3
- Last Friday’s post on the 2010 Baseball Winter Meetings was my 500th on The LumberBlog. That’s a lot of posts. It appears that you’re still reading, as I finished #41 out of the Top 50 ProBlogs in November. Thank you again!
In case you missed it today, the LumberKings took both ends of a doubleheader against the Peoria Chiefs at O’Brien Field. The twinbill sweep is the first for Clinton since they did it on April 12, 2008 against West Michigan. That itself is great news, but here’s the better news…they did it with six home runs and outscored Peoria 24-5 in the two games.
Mario Martinez went 3-for-3 with a three-run homer and six RBI in the 13-3 victory in game one, becoming the first LumberKing to drive in a half-dozen since Ian Gac did it on May 4, 2008 at Kane County. Henry Contreras, making his first start of the year (1-for-3 as a pinch hitter/reserve) went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, a solo home run and two RBI as well. And that was only the beginning.
Rather than hold back all the highlights until tomorrow, here’s the audio from today’s games.
- Bantz RBI single 5.11.10.mp3
Martinez 2-R single 5.11.10.mp3
- Catricala Solo HR (2) 5.11.10.mp3
- Jones RBI double 5.11.10.mp3
Hansen 2-R single 5.11.10.mp3
- Martinez 3-R HR (6 RBI) 5.11.10.mp3
- Contreras RBI double 5.11.10.mp3
- Vasquez Strikes Out Side 5.11.10.mp3
Jones 2-R HR (2) 5.11.10.mp3
- Cerione HR onto the street (2) 5.11.10.mp3
- Contreras solo HR (1) 5.11.10.mp3
As you can see, it was a fun day of baseball. Hopefully it continues tomorrow as we close out the series in Peoria.
With back-to-back tough losses to the Peoria Chiefs the last two days, I figured it was time to revisit our “Crossing Enemy Lines” feature. Today, I catch up with the broadcaster for the Chiefs, Nathan Baliva.
The longtime voice of Chiefs baseball talks about a few painful, yet relevant topics (Nick Struck’s no-hitter, last night’s 3-2 Peoria win), Peoria’s 11-game home winning streak, the bunt-and-run “Peoria Kernels”, international prospects like Hak-Ju Lee and Su-Min Jung and gives us a scouting report on today’s starter Trey McNutt.
Nathan Baliva (PEO Broadcaster) Interview 5.2.10.mp3
That was fun. Now, let’s end with three positive things for the LumberKings…
Mario Martinez hit his first home run of the season last night. He’s batting .313 (5-for-16) over his last five games after hitting just .164 over the first 16 games. Listen to the HR here:
Martinez solo HR (1) 5.1.10.mp3
- Daniel Carroll went 3-for-4 atop the order to raise his average to .258. Carroll has four multi-hit games in his last six starts. One of his hits was a game-tying single in the eighth…listen here:
Carroll game-tying 8th inning single 5.1.10.mp3
- Left-hander Anthony Vasquez, despite getting a no-decision, lowered his ERA from 1.25 to 0.94 and is now third in the Midwest League in ERA. Read more about Vasquez in today’s Game Notes:
Right-hander Tyler Blandford (0-2, 4.11) makes his fifth start of the year today in Peoria. Game time is scheduled for 1:00 PM. You can listen on line at 1390kcln.com. Now, let’s end this three-game losing streak!
The pregame interview is taking a hiatus tonight following last night’s 4-0 rain-shortened, no-hit loss to the Peoria Chiefs. I hope to be back with something that’s enlightening, stimulating and positive prior to our 1:00 PM game at O’Brien Field tomorrow.
Instead, I’d like to introduce the first volume of “On the Bright Side”, the newest entrant to the LumberBlog’s jam-packed lineup. “On the Bright Side” is my way of presenting something positive instead of dwelling on a tough loss. I hope this is the only volume, but we’ve still got 117 games to go.
Here we go…
While the LumberKings lost, 4-0 and were no-hit by the combination of Peoria’s Nick Struck, his middle reliever Rain Storm and his closer W.F. Conditions…
- At least we weren’t the Kane County Cougars last night. They were no-hit over the traditional nine innings by three Cedar Rapids pitchers at Perfect Game Field.
- At least we aren’t Tiger Woods. He missed the cut for just the sixth time in his career yesterday at the Quail Hollow Championship.
- At least we’re staying at a cool hotel in Peoria. I was running short on time this afternoon and I was able to buy two burritos from the front desk store area. That’s right, my lunch consisted of hotel burritos. Maybe that’s not a bright side.
- At least the O’Brien Field infield is now drier than Churchill Downs.
- At least you still get LumberKings Game Notes:
- At least we’ve got Anthony Vasquez (0-2, 1.25) on the mound tonight.
- At least today’s another day in professional baseball, where even your bad days consist of watching the greatest game in the world.
Feeling better? Me too. This was very constructive. Let’s not do it again tomorrow.
Game time is at 6:30 PM. Tune in to the pregame show at 6:15 on 1390kcln.com.
My six-day journey through the Cactus League officially kicked off today at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, AZ, and boy what a start it was. Today’s game between the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants featured all the great Spring storylines…a Cy Young award-winner getting roughed up, a host of new faces trying to make good first impressions, a late four-run rally, a future star tying the game in the bottom of the ninth, and a pair of former LumberKings getting hurled into some unexpected duty.
Where to begin? Well, not more than 20 minutes after my arrival, I ran into some old friends.
That’s left-hander Anthony Vasquez (left) and 6’10″ right-hander Kenn Kasparek (right), both members of the Clinton starting rotation last season. I spoke most with the 2009 Midwest League ERA champ Kasparek, who told me that he and Vasquez were essentially the “emergency” guys for the game. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, various pitchers from minor league camp are asked to sit in the bullpen for big-league games in case the team burns through its scheduled pitchers or the game goes to extra innings. More on that later.
After catching up with Vasquez, Kasparek and former pitching coach Lance Painter, I settled in for the start of the game. I shot some video on both the Peoria Sports Complex, the Mariners taking the field for the first time and right-hander Doug Fister’s first pitch of the Spring:
Fister didn’t fare well after that first-pitch strike, yielding a three-run homer to Aubrey Huff in the first inning for a 3-0 Giants lead. That lead would be short-lived as the Mariners responded with a three-run home half on the strength of a Ken Griffey Jr. sac fly and a pair of RBI singles by Jose Lopez and Casey Kotchman. By the way, all that damage came against an erratic ace in Tim Lincecum (pictured below, staring down Ichiro).
The Giants built a 7-3 lead thanks in part to a two-run double by shortstop Emmanuel Burriss, but the Mariners fought back with two runs in the sixth and two more in the ninth. Former Wisconsin Timber Rattler Michael Saunders doubled to help set up the late rally, and the game-tying run came across on an RBI groundout up the middle by super-prospect Dustin Ackley.
That’s when Kasparek was suddenly summoned to warm up. Pitching coach Rick Adair had used all seven of his scheduled pitchers, leaving only former LumberKings in the pen for the 10th. That meant it was Kenn’s turn to jog to a Major League mound for the first time.
Despite Painter’s “just have fun” advice, Kasparek looked a bit nervous while struggling to find the strikezone. He walked all three men he faced before getting the hook from Manager Don Wakamatsu. The only arm left in the cupboard? Vasquez.
The other former King couldn’t strand the bases full, yielding the game-winning RBI single to pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman. He did, however, execute a brilliant 1-2-3 double-play (unfortunately no video of this) to end the inning. The Mariners then went quickly in the bottom of the 10th for the 8-7 loss.
Kasparek took the loss in his first pro appearance, but today still must have been a thrill for both he and Vasquez. If not for them, it certainly was for me. Any taste of the big leagues, even if it’s only an early-March Spring Training game, has got to be sweet.
One “LumberBlog Programming Note” to pass along…
Unfortunately, due to $14.95 internet access here at the hotel in Scottsdale, I will likely be postponing the rest of my Cactus League blog updates until I return to Clinton. Still, expect plenty more pictures and video, including more from Peoria as the Mariners take on the San Diego Padres this Friday.
The second and final installment of my look at the potential 2010 roster finally makes its way to the LumberBlog today. I had originally planned on getting it out before the Hot Stove, but last week was a busy one.
In a way, it’s nice to save this second part till now. I had the opportunity to talk with manager John Tamargo about the team during our car trips to and from the Quad City Airport in Moline, IL. It was good to pick his brain on some of the talent he had in Everett last year.
With that being said, I want to preface my following predictions. At this time, we do not know the 25-man LumberKings’ roster for next year. The Seattle Mariners will not finalize that until camp breaks in early April, and at that time we will know for sure. It is common for changes to be made even after that point. Many people didn’t know that Scott Savastano, the man who turned into the offensive MVP of the team last year, was a last-second add to the roster. Two years ago, Mitch Moreland was scratched from our Opening Day roster because of a minor injury. You just never know until the bus shows up.
A First-Rounder Not Named Ackley
In my post last week regarding the Top 10 Seattle Prospects as selected by Baseball
America, I mentioned a young man by the name of Nick Franklin (pictured right). While Dustin Ackley has attracted most of the spotlight, Franklin is also a rising star. The 18-year-old shortstop was Jack Zduriencik’s second first-round pick (taken 27th overall) out of Lake Brantley (FL) High and had a nice showing in six games with Tamargo’s AquaSox (.400, 3 XBH, 2 RBI in 20 at-bats). Seattle scouting director Tom McNamara liked his confidence and fielding ability in a brief workout with the big-league club last August. I don’t think you’ll see Ackley in Clinton next year, but Franklin could very well add some first-round flavor to the roster.
Franklin might not be the only talented shortstop to head here. South African-born Anthony
Phillips made 67 starts at short for Everett last season and put up some respectable power numbers at the plate. The 19-year-old hit .247 with 8 doubles, 7 HR and 28 RBI over 68 games in the Northwest League last season. Venezuelan shortstop Gabriel Noriega could also make the club, following an impressive second season at Pulaski. Noriega hit .311 with 14 doubles, 4 HR and 26 RBI in 61 games last year.
Avila Following the Gac Path?
Staying on the Everett infield, a lot of folks have asked me if Gerardo Avila (pictured left) might head to Clinton. As Midwest League diehards already know, Avila is a three-season veteran with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (’06-’08), but never hit above .260 and had just one career homer in the league in 63 games. Then, following the Ian Gac pattern, Avila went to High Desert in 2008 and found his way back to the Northwest League in 2009. There, he finally went off for a league-high 13 HR while also finishing first in slugging (.582), second in RBI (54) and third in hitting overall (.333). As Gac-like as this story is going, he could very well be in Clinton. However, he could also go back to the Cal League, where he hit .303 in nine games two seasons ago as a Maverick.
If Avila heads back to High Desert, Jharmidy DeJesus could be the man to fill first base. DeJesus was amongst my predictions for last year’s club and was the #8 prospect in the Mariners’ system prior to last year. Hailing from Jose Vallejo’s hometown of Bani, Dominican Republic, DeJesus hit .249 with 7 doubles, 4 HR and 24 RBI in 48 games with Pulaski last year. He made 30 starts at first base in a platoon situation with 11th round pick Tim Morris (.214, 4 HR, 24 RBI in 50 games).
Rounding Out the Infield
Second-baseman Hawkins Gebbers, Seattle’s 33rd round selection hit .301 with 13 doubles, 2 HR and 21 RBI in 54 games with Everett last year. Cesar Fuentes (.261, 4 HR, 20 RBI) and Fred Bello (.250, 5 triples, 2 HR, 12 RBI) each split time at second base in Pulaski. Third-baseman and 10th-round pick Vincent Catricala led Pulaski with 40 RBI, hitting .301 with 14 doubles and 8 HR in 59 games. Blake Trinkler played the utility role for Everett, hitting .229 with 18 RBI in 41 games.
Headlining the group of potential Clinton catchers is certainly Steven Baron, Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick (#33 overall) out of Ferguson (FL) High School. Baron struggled in his first pro assignment with Pulaski, hitting .179 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 30 games. However, his numbers slightly improved towards the end of the season. Baron raised his average 39 points over his final seven games. Taking into consideration that ’09 LumberKing Nate Tenbrink hit just .198 with Everett in 2008 prior to batting .282 with 10 HR and 59 RBI last year, it’s possible that Baron comes to Clinton and improves at the plate. However, Tenbrink was older and more experienced than Baron will be heading into 2010. Tenbrink also didn’t have the added responsibilities of working with a pitching staff like Baron has.
If no Baron, 2009 draft picks Trevor Coleman (9th round) and Brandon Bantz (30th round) could catch for the Kings. Coleman struggled, hitting .184 in 32 games with Everett, while Bantz produced a solid .290, 3 HR, 15 RBI stint with the AquaSox. Given the fact that Juan Fuentes, Tommy Johnson and Henry Contreras all saw limited time behind the plate in Clinton last year and could be back, it’s quite possible that none of these three arrive in ’10.
A Wealth of Potential in the Outfield
When looking at the outfield of both Pulaski and Everett, it’s hard not to get excited about the
group that could be coming in. The AquaSox had both James Jones (4th round) and Matt Cerione (13th round) in their outfield last year, in addition to Jose Rivero (pictured right). Jones hit .311 over 45 games, mashing 3 HR and 24 RBI in that span. Cerione flashed a little more power with 7 HR, hitting .266 with 14 RBI over 43 games. Rivero finished third on the club in RBI behind Avila and Mario Martinez with 32, going along with his .251 average and 4 HR.
Brandon Haveman (29th round) was Pulaski’s standout outfielder thanks to a .339, 5 HR, 18 RBI campaign. Jarrett Burgess (.187, 5 HR, 22 RBI), Mark McGonigle (.283, 2 HR, 14 RBI) and Greg Waddell (.195, 2 HR, 6 RBI) all saw time in the Mariners’ outfield as well. Burgess is still trying to find his way after a 6th round selection in the 2008 June draft.
Much like the catching corps, it’s tough to say which of these players will be LumberKings this year. It’s more likely that we see the return of Ryan Royster, Welington Dotel, Dwight Britton and others at least at the beginning of the season.
The Rotation: A Tough Act to Follow
It’s no question that pitching was the key to success for the LumberKings last year, specifically starting pitching. At times last year, at least three Kings’ hurlers ranked amongst the league’s Top 10 in ERA. Kenn Kasparek finished the season as the ERA leader, Clinton’s first since Salomon Torres in 1991. Quite simply, it’s going to be hard to top last year.
Here’s some of the new names that might try. Right-hander Taylor Stanton (pictured left), Seattle’s 26th round pick in 2008, had a breakout year of sorts with Everett. In 15 starts, he went 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA. Most notably, he led the rotation in innings (87.1), WHIP (1.23) and wins (5). Outside of Stanton, only two other pitchers made at least 14 starts for the AquaSox…Chris Kirkland (a LumberKing briefly last year) and right-hander Luke Burnett. Like Stanton, Burnett was an ’08 draft pick (14th round) that finally saw action last year. He went 2-4, 4.66 in 14 starts.
Righty Taylor Lewis (3-1, 7.82 in 5 starts) and left-hander Nick Czyz (2-2, 3.34 in 5 starts) were also brief members of the Everett rotation. Lewis also logged one start for Pulaski.
Transitioning back to the Appalachian League, the Pulaski club featured four pitchers with eight-or-more starts. Thirty-sixth round right-hander John Housey (3-2, 2.62) was the most successful of that bunch, posting a 1.10 WHIP and a .194 opponent batting average. Righty Brandon Maurer (3-4, 3.61 in 12 starts, 1 CG) and Jean Tome (3-4, 5.18 in 10 starts) put up very similar numbers. Eighth-round lefty James Gillheeney is the top draft pick of the group (8th round), but he went 0-3, 4.84 over six games, four starts.
This is a resounding theme, but with Kirkland, Anthony Vasquez, Maikel Cleto, Andres Esquibel and Jon Hesketh all possible returnees, its not for certain who might join the rotation this year. One thing is for sure, they have their work cut out for them to match last year’s league-leading 3.35 team ERA.
Can the Pen Get Any Mightier?
Much like the conversation on the starting rotation, it’s fairly clear that next year’s bullpen will have big shoes to fill. Last year’s staff featured All-Stars Ruben Flores and Cheyne Hann, plus solid set-up in guys like Brandon Josselyn, Jose Jimenez, Brian Moran and Matt Renfree.
Next year’s pen might very well consist of some of the pitchers mentioned in the above section, but here’s a few more to consider. Right-hander Christian Staehely (pictured right) went 4-2 with a pen-best 3.16 ERA in Everett, striking out 40 while walking only nine over 31.1 innings. Pulaski right-handers Jorden Merry (40th round in ’09) and Chris Sorce (26th round in ’09) were the most serviceable relievers in an otherwise lackluster pen. Merry led the club in saves, converting 5-of-6 in addition to his 2-1, 3.06 statline. Sorce was 2-1, 3.45 with a save in two chances over seven outings.
Some AZL Standouts
At about this point, I’m sure you’re thinking “what about the guys in Peoria?”. Well, many of the players listed above (Franklin, Rivero, Housey, etc.) did spend some time in the Arizona League last year. I’ll list a few more below who could see Clinton this year.
First-baseman Rich Poythress, last year’s second-round pick and a Golden Spikes finalist while at Georgia made his pro debut in AZ and hit .300 with a HR and 6 RBI over six games. It’s very possible Poythress’s college experience (.376, 25 HR, 86 RBI as a junior) will help him move directly to High Desert like fellow second-rounder Dennis Raben did a year ago. First-baseman Evan Sharpley, Seattle’s final draft choice in 2009 (50th round) had a nice showing over 37 games, hitting .333 with 12 doubles, 7 HR and 29 RBI. Second-baseman Kevin Mailloux (45th round) hit .311 with 14 doubles, 5 HR and 37 RBI before a brief call-up to Everett.
On the mound, Peoria’s most impressive man was their closer. Right-hander Jeff Breedlove went 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA and converted 10-of-12 saves. Opponents hit just .205 against him over his 20 appearances. In the rotation, Miguel Celestino (5-3, 4.73) and Chris Kessinger (5-3, 2.45) were the only pitchers with at least seven starts. Kessinger was a 37th-rounder last season.
And there you have it, my preview is complete. Again, this is all speculation and we won’t know until early April who has actually made the 25-man roster. Once that announcement is out, you’ll see it here and on LumberKings.com before anywhere else. Finally, as I said at the finale of Part One, if there’s anyone I’ve overlooked, any mistakes you’ve caught or any differing opinions you might have, feel free to add your thoughts/comments.
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.