Category: MLB

Sunday notes and other things

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG

Spring training is officially underway and here to catch you up, are some notes and other things.

Big (League) Things

 

Hernandez, known for his fiery attitude and will to win, showed up to camp with the same attitude but a brand new blonde goatee. “I know you guys said last year at the end of the year I was hurt, but I wasn’t,” he said to reporters, including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. “I’m fine. Physically, I’m fine. I’m ready to throw.”
Bart Hernandez, an MLB player agent (most notable for representing Leonys Martin), was arrested on Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury on human trafficking charges. Hernandez faces up to 20 years in prison and a minimum sentence of three years. It’s expected he’ll appear before a U.S. District Court judge in Miami on Friday afternoon.
UPDATED: Martin’s statement on the issue can be read here.
After a quick 15 pitch bullpen session, Mariners setup man Charlie Furbush reported feeling fine after throwing for the first time since mid-August. Furbush still figures to be the primary lefty for Manager Scott Servais. Plus, with the lack of dependable lefties in the ‘pen, Furbush is a major factor for the M’s bullpen.
As part of a total organizational shift, Mariners pitching coach Mel Stotlemeyer Jr. said he’ll change how often pitchers throw bullpen sessions. Instead of every two days, as former pitching coach Carl Willis (now with the Red Sox) had it operating, they’ll now throw every three days. The article cites “giving them an extra recovery day to battle early stiffness and fatigue” as the main reason for the change.

Minor (League) Things
Trying to get the most out of his pitchers, Servais announced LHP Vidal Nuno will be competing for a bullpen job instead of a rotational spot. This sets the stage not only for a better bullpen competition this spring (with former first-rounder Danny Hultzen being moved to the ‘pen) but for a more refined starting rotation contest.
Baseball American recently obtained the bonus pools for every club’s international signings (aka how much they have to spend). The M’s will have exactly $2,875,400 to spend on the crop of international talent.

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h/t Ryan Divish for the original video

M’s prospect throws eight shutout innings in WBC Qualifier

By Ethan Novak @ethannovak

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Baseball prospects were created to break your heart, and yet–because they’re always around, playing in the shadows of the minor leagues and winter leagues you’ve never heard of and stringing together the occasional hot streak you’ll undoubtedly hear about–they were created to fill it.

Prospects doing fun things is fun, and I couldn’t help but picture Mariners minor-leaguer Dylan Unsworth in navy and teal as he dazzled his way through eight shutout innings tonight in South Africa’s 7-1 win over New Zealand in a WBC qualifying game.

When the ninth-inning came, when the ball was no longer his to throw, Unsworth had tallied four strikeouts, two hits allowed, no walks, and just 89 pitches. Even more impressive, Unsworth’s best inning was his final inning, as the 23-year-old struck out the side in a perfect eighth.

It wasn’t the most dominant performance–Unsworth left several pitches over the middle of the plate that New Zealand hitters failed to take advantage of–but his fastball-change combo induced plenty of weak contact and he managed to work ahead of just about every hitter he faced.

It was the kind of performance that reminded me of Blake Beavan on a good day (as few and far between as those days were). Pound the strike zone, limit hard contact, rely on defense, and so on.

This was, however, a fantastic start to the 2016 season for Unsworth, who is heading into his seventh season with the Mariners. His 2015 season was his most productive year yet, as he tallied a 3.32 ERA in 40.2 IP in the hitter-friendly California League before being called up to AA-Jackson for 13 starts (4.34 ERA, 66.1 IP). Unsworth doesn’t have magical stuff, but having Double-A experience and eight shutout innings in international play by the age of 23 isn’t nothing.

And most importantly, baseball is back. Four balls and three strikes are back. Questionable umpire calls are back. And prospects who capture my heart in a single night are back. I’m ready.

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10 things Mariners fans should look forward to in 2016

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG

Only 10 days stand between the fans and their first glimpse of the 2016 Seattle Mariners doing actual baseball things near an actual baseball field. So to fill the void until February 19th, here are 10 things all Seattle fans should look forward to in 2016.
1) Felix doing Felix-y things. Again.
Year in and year out, Felix Hernandez performs. As sure as the world rotates, Felix dominates. Now, with what should be a reasonably decent offense and some defensive upgrades behind him, Hernandez is poised to do some pretty incredible things.
2) Cano getting back on track.
Even the most pessimistic outlooks for Cano’s projected performance have him returning to semi-regular form. And let’s be honest here, who isn’t looking forward to seeing this swing again?
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3) Playoffs? Playoffs? Who said anything about playoffs?
The playoffs aren’t out of reach anymore. That feels weird to write but the Mariners are still in a win-now mode, with their core players coming up to or eclipsing their prime — it makes plenty of sense. That said, we’re still a long ways away from October.
4) More of Kyle Seager.
Do I really have to say more? Take this Seager .gif and enjoy.
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5) Rotation depth.
Felix-Iwakuma-Miley-Walker seems solid enough to contend. Throw in a healthy James Paxton, as well as Nate Karns, Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno all vying for the fifth spot. You know what they say: competition breeds excellence.
6) A lineup that can get on base.
GM Jerry Dipoto knew what he was looking for the second he took the gig: players who can get on base. With Cano and Cruz right in the middle of it all, it seems more likely we’ll see a major offensive boost.
7) A revamped bullpen.
Seattle has Steve Cischek, Joaquin Benoit, and Charlie Furbush poised to be at the back end of a young and bounce-back ready bullpen. Additions like Ryan Cook plus the return of a promising Tony Zych and David Rollins, the Mariners shouldn’t be too far off from a 2014 lookalike ‘pen.
8) Cruz mashing.
There’s a pretty good chance we’ll be seeing more of Cruz crushing just about everything. Like so.
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9) New faces in Safeco.
With a brand new field staff, starting with manager Scott Servais, the M’s have a load of fresh faces ready to tackle the 2016 season. Optimism should abound for, at the very least, the first few weeks of the season.
10) More of this.
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Sunday notes and other things – 2/7

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG


This is the last Sunday without baseball activities until the season concludes with a World Series champ being crowned. So, to ramp everyone up, let’s take a look at the action affecting the M’s and their division rivals.

Big (League) Things

Mariners sign slugger Dak ho-Lee 

Lee, 33, signed a minor-league deal (with a ST invite) but will be competing with Jesus Montero and Gabby Sanchez to be the backup first baseman and a right-handed option off the bench for Scott Servais. The lumbering first baseman hit 31 HR for Japan’s Fukuoka Softbank. He also posted a .282 batting average.

Seattle “probably done” with big offseason spending

At a luncheon on Thursday morning, Jerry Dipoto said the club is “probably done making significant moves.” Which makes sense, considering there hasn’t been much action in the Northwest (transaction wise) for awhile.

Minor (League) Things

Angels continue reshaping their club, add Christian Friedrich 

L.A. claimed the big left-hander off of waivers from Colorado. In return, the Angels designated infielder Taylor Featherson for assignment.

M’s pick up Cuban infielder Dayner Moreira

At 31 years old, Moreira isn’t a top shelf prospect. He isn’t going to post 2013 Yasiel Puig numbers but he will provide depth for a team in need of additional guys up the middle.

Orioles DFA Rifenhauser

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because C.J. Rifenhauser (whose name is now committed to my memory for no apparent reason) was a part of the Dipoto’s very first deal as Mariners GM. Ah, how the days and trades seem to fly by.

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How we’ll all feel once baseball is back

What’s Next?

By Jake Garcia @JakeFG


In a recent interview with MLB Network, Jerry Dipoto declared “the outfield, as it stands, is about done”, adding yet another check to Dipoto’s offseason shopping list. Thanks in part to the recent acquisition of Adam Lind, the infield seems to be looking more solidified. And it’s only December.

So with that in mind, I asked my followers this:

And here are two of the tweets that stood out the most to me:

While I think adding another solid, slightly more than an innings-eater type would be beneficial, I really don’t see Dipoto going out and signing another starter. A sturdy, dependable closer has been hard to come by in Seattle lately, so if Jerry can land that type of guy — I’m all for it. And as Bob Dutton (of Tacoma News Tribune) reported, Dipoto’s only remaining area of need is the bullpen.

Like I said previously, while a starter isn’t necessarily a priority for the new GM, it would be nice to add depth to a weak farm system. We’re probably going to see another big league free agent. The position? No one can say for sure (except Dipoto) but the smart bet would be in the bullpen.

It’s pretty safe to say Mariners fans want bullpen depth and another starter.

Fair enough.

It’ll be interesting to see how he pursues a closer, in particular. The acquisition of said closer is probably going to be an under appreciated move for some. Mostly because if we learned anything, it’s that Dipoto likes the comeback candidates. Sure, there’s probably another move up his sleeve (I’m pretty sure he invented #TeamNoSleep) but I doubt it’ll be much of a blockbuster.

What we do know: he called the outfield pretty much done, as well as the infield, and we can expect to see the rotation wrapped up in the upcoming weeks. The only spot that remains is the bullpen.

We’ll see soon enough what’s next for Seattle.

Prospect Watch: Austin Wilson, Tyler O’Neill heating up for surging Bakersfield Blaze

By Ethan Novak @ethannovak


 

Over the course of the 2015 season, the Seattle Mariners’ farm system has been filled with disappointment on both the team and individual level. Nearly every one of their affiliates find themselves in the bottom half of the standings, leaving us to appreciate the living hell out of Everett Aqua Sox and AZL Mariners teams that are loaded with exciting talent (let’s ignore the fact that the Aqua Sox were just no-hit by Eugene).

Worst of all, the inconsistency has been fairly consistent, with hot streaks and winning streaks totally absent for the most part. The hitters aren’t hitting. The pitchers aren’t pitching. It’s been ugly, and we’ve all been left with a desire for a sliver of hope from any of the couple hundred minor leaguers in the Mariners system.

Enter the High-A Bakersfield Blaze, who are 12-3 in the month of August. Their run may have come too late for a shot at the playoffs, with the Blaze sitting 7.0 games out of first place with just three weeks left in the season, but it’s never too late to display signs of future promise.

Perhaps the most exciting part of their hot streak is that smack dab in the center of it all are top 2013 picks Tyler O’Neill (3rd round) and Austin Wilson (2nd round).

Wilson struggled mightily in the first half of the season, as reflected by his .223/.335/.334 line, but he has rebounded in a big way. Over his past 24 games, the toolsy outfielder out of Stanford has posted a line of .301/.442/.458 with a 157 wRC+. He still whiffs too much and walks too little, but he’s clearly starting to figure things out. Considering he was viewed by many as a bit of a project coming out of college, this is a very promising sign for the Mariners. Oh, and he’s been plunked 14 times in those 24 games, including three multi-plunk games. Interpret this as you wish.

O’Neill, meanwhile, has been mashing ever since his return from the 2015 Pan Am games, where he helped Canada to a gold medal victory over USA. Since July 23rd, the 20-year-old is slashing .299/.382/.724/1.106. In that same time span, he’s hit 10 home runs, all of them looking like they were shot out of a cannon:

If just one of these two power-hitting outfielders pan out for the Mariners, it’d be huge, especially considering the Mariners unfortunate history of developing outfielders. It’s not ideal to start getting excited about prospects every time they go on a two or three-week hot streak, but numbers like O’Neill’s don’t get put up by accident and the view of Wilson has always been that he’d be dangerous if he ever figured it out. Fortunately for the Mariners, he may be doing just that.

Ramon Flores suffers compound fracture, done for season

Mariners prospect Ramon Flores, who was acquired by the M’s in the Dustin Ackley trade, will miss the remainder of the 2015 season after suffering a compound fracture last night when he slipped in the outfield.

Injuries involving players leaving on carts are typically more serious than not, leaving us all to assume the worst for Flores. The fracture was confirmed this morning:

The contest between AAA Tacoma and Sacramento was delayed because of rain, which likely left the playing surface slicker than usual. For Flores, the series of events couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

In 14 games with the Rainiers, the 23-year-old was hitting .423/.524/.654 and figured to be called up in September, if not sooner. There were talks from some scouts that he was already better than present-day Ackley and could become a decent contributor in the big leagues in the not so distant future.

Now we’re left to wait and hope all goes well with his recovery. Get well soon, Ramon.

Go Mariners.