Mariners Look at First Base

All Mariner fans know that the priority of the off-season is pitching especially in the starting rotation however far as the regular everyday lineup they have to look at first base.

The two guys who played the majority of time at first base are now free agents; Danny Valencia who began the season as the regular first baseman and Yonder Alonso who they picked up from the Oakland A’s in August.

Alonzo says that he would be interested in returning to the Mariners however whether he does or doesn’t will depend on what the asking price is on the open market. Alonso had his best year including being in the all-star game. Haven’t heard about Valencia either from him or the Mariners; he is likely come a less expensive price than Alonso. There is a possibility that the Mariners could resign both of the guys and have them platoon once again although Alonso will likely want to play every day. Valencia on the other hand can substitute at third base and play the corner positions in the outfield.

Right now Daniel Vogelbach is the only first baseman on the forty man roster. If the Mariners decide to keep him and not resign either Alonso or Valencia the Mariners could go with Taylor Motter as the right handed hitter in a platoon situation if he is still with the club as the utility player. If he isn’t whoever is the utility player could do the same at first base. There is a good possibility that Vogelbach could be traded by the Mariners during the off-season. A lot will depend on how they feel about him as an everyday player at first base. With Nelson Cruz still being the designated hitter Vogelbach would have to wait another year at least to fill that spot. Cruz has one year left on the contract he signed with the Mariners as a free agent. Depending on he does in 2018 the Mariners will have the choice whether to bring him back in 2019 or not. At this point Cruz is not looking at slowing down.

Former Mariner Logan Morrison who had his best year in the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays is a free agent as well. I am not sure whether the Mariners will look at bringing him back or not. Although I like the guy I am not sure whether I would want him once again. Whatever the case it still comes down to how much money the Mariners have for pitching and who they can go after. Go M’s.

 

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The Mariner Minor Leagues

The Seattle Mariners minor leagues are the players they use to develop for the major league squad or for trading to get established players that they are in need of.

Under Jack Z. and Bill Bavasi the farm system was terrible. Actually Bavasi was the main celebrate just Jack Z wasn’t able to turn things around. The Mariners are hoping to now under Jerry Dipoto. The Mariners have developed a few pitchers however in recent times Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino have been the only everyday players that made it to the major leagues. In the year that Kyle Seager was drafted the only other player to make it to the major leagues was Dustin Ackley who was the second overall pick in that draft. He wasn’t a success because most believe he was rushed to the major leagues too fast. This last season he played at the Los Angeles Angels triple A team so he trying to make back to the major leagues. Zunino most feel he was rushed to the major league as well by Jack Z because of the lack in catching the Mariners have had. In 2016 the Mariners had Zunino play most of the season at triple A until there was an injury to the backup catcher. He started 2017 in Seattle but was sent down in May for almost three weeks because he started off slow batting way below .200 and having one home run. When he returned he had a good rest of the season though he had times where he struggled again. In June he was the Mariners hottest hitter though he tailed off in July and August but had a good September. He ended the season with twenty-five home runs. Some are wondering whether the Mariners should sign him to an extension. My answer would be no until at least May. The Mariners should see whether he can start off the season where he left 2017. If he can I would consider signing him to an extension in the middle of the season.

Right now the Mariners have ten pitchers in their top thirty prospects. The rest of them are mostly infielder and outfielders. Andrew Moore who came up a couple times during 2017 is not considered one of the prospects and likely because he pitched too many innings. Kyle Lewis the number one prospect who is an outfielder and drafted number one in 2016has had some injuries since signing with the Mariners. The number three prospect is 2017 top draft pick first baseman Evan White who struggled with injuries as well when he signed. My thought is the Mariners should think first before sending their top picks to minor leagues after signing since it has been a problem. I would have them work out in Peoria until at least the Arizona Fall League or the next spring training.

Right hander Nick Neidert who is the number two prospect spent most of the season at single A Modesto though he did end the season at double A. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the season at double but then is promoted to triple A Tacoma. Sam Carlson who was the second draft pick in 2017 struggled with injuries as well. He was drafted out of high school so we won’t see him any time soon.

Outside of the top four prospects I would have no problem trading any of them since the odds are great that they won’t make the majors unless it is Daniel Vogelbach at first base besides the pitchers. The players the Mariners in the past they traded that were mistakes like Jose Cruz and Jason Veritek were top draft picks. We just hope that the Mariners can develop more players that make the start lineup. Go M’s.

Look Toward Next Season

I was disappointed somewhat with the viewership of this site during the season. I appreciate everyone though who have read the final report card for this season. The viewership was shown more for the report card than during the season so I figure that to keep viewership up for the upcoming season that I will do something different than last season. I figure my other sports blog herbslookatsports  I will do more the daily look of action on the Mariners while here it will be more two or three times a week instead. I will look at how the team is doing during that period. It will sort of be like the report card except on a lower scale. It will be not only how the team is performing as a unit but how each player is doing. For instance I may write a full post on a player like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Haniger. I will look at how the starting pitcher and the relievers are doing as well.

During this off-season I will look at what I think the changes the Mariners should do to make the ball club better for 2018. I will comment on any trades or releases that the Mariners make as well. It will be my version of Hot Stove League.

When it comes to our opposition the Houston Astros have made it to the American League championship to take on the New York Yankees. I am sure that many thought it would be the Cleveland Indians instead however the Yankees pulled the upset. The Astros are favored to beat the Yankees however most people outside of the American League West division no little about the Astros. After this season regardless of who wins people around the country will know about their players.  The Astros should be favored to repeat next season for the Western Division however the Mariners will look to be able to make the players even if it as the wild card. The Yankees showed though that being a wild card can get them into the Championship Series.

Although they won the World Series last year the Chicago Cubs will be the underdog to the Los Angeles Dodgers. How this series will be anyone’s guess.  The World Series should come down to the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers however if the World Series ends up to be the New York Yankees verses the Chicago Cubs it would not surprise me either. In any case the World Series should be another classic.

Anyway until next time thank you again for reading my post and tell your friends about it. We hope that next year we will finally see the Mariners in the playoffs. This year I believe the team was exciting despite the injuries and we should see more next year. So what we can say now Go M’s.

 

Mariners 2017 Report Card #3

I have to stay this is probably the easiest part of the report card to write about because the designated hitter and the outfield were the successful part of team in 2017.

The Designated Hitter : Nelson Cruz was the primary designated hitter where he played in 155 games. Most of the seven games he didn’t play in were because the Mariners played inter-league on the road and he did play in right field in five games. At age 37 he isn’t slowing down and he just missed hitting at least forty home runs in four straight years. In 2017 he had 39 home runs and drove in 119. The 119 runs batted in were the most he had in the same period of time. He did have a period time where he wasn’t getting home runs however he still was driving in runs which are the most important thing. This was likely because Jean Segura was the primary leadoff hitter along with Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger being the main guys in the number two spot. Cruz has one more year on his contract that he signed with the Mariners as a free agent on a four-year contract. It will be interesting what will the Mariners do if he has another year like he has had and not slowing down at all. Would not surprise me if they sign him to a two-year contract with an option for a third; what made Cruz willing to be the full-time designated hitter this year over any of the past years is that he knew the younger outfielders the Mariners have are better defensively and at dh he would stay healthy though he did wrestle with some nagging injuries but he is as tough as they come. He was the Mariners player of the year and named to the all-star game though he didn’t play in the game. I grade him an easy A the only player on the team.

Outfield: This group I will grade on each one and not as a whole group.

I will start with Leonys Martin who had a disappointing season for the Mariners including being designated for assignment twice. When he passed through waivers the first time he spent almost all season at Tacoma where he played well but couldn’t apply it to Seattle. He did have flashes at the plate and his defense was good. It was a disappointment as well because he was such an important part of the 2016 team and all the players liked him very much. After his second designated for assignment he was picked up by the Chicago Cubs as an extra outfield. His batting average for the Mariners was .174 in 34 games and he had only three home runs along with eight runs batted in. With the Cubs he was a pinch hitter and his average was even lower. His career is at cross roads however I am sure someone will give him a try out in spring training if it isn’t the Cubs. I don’t want to give him an f so the next closest thing is D minus.

Ben Gamel is next because I decided to go left to right. He played more left field than anyone though he started the season in Tacoma because he was outplayed by Heredia during spring training. He was recalled from Tacoma on April 26 and made immediate impact. For about three months he hit over .300 while batting first or second in the lineup most of the time. Against lefties he was moved down to seventh or eighth in the order. Not only was his hitting very well his defense was spectacular at times. A little Ken Griffey Jr not worried about crashing into the fences. Later in the season he started to slump which is understandable for a rookie and the pitchers starting to figure him out. Even during the slump periods he made some key hits as well. He ended with a solid .275 batting average with eleven home runs and fifty-nine runs batting in. Very good job for someone’s job is to get on base. So I give him a solid B on his report card and look for it to go up in 2018.

Next to look at Jarrod Dyson who started the season in left field as a platoon player than was switched back to his more comfortable position of center field when Leonys Martin was sent down to Tacoma. He platooned in left going against righties while Guillermo Heredia played against lefties. This continued when Dyson took over in center field though he did play against some lefties. It is easy to forget his accomplishments since he went out for the season with an injury that he had to have surgery on. He had just an average batting average going .251 and being a little below for his career however he had twenty-nine stolen bases to give pitchers fits on the base paths. He did have a career high five home runs as well. He will be a free agent going into 2018. Being injured in September the Mariners may be able to bring him back at a reasonable price if that is what they want to do. The Mariners present and future in the outfield are Haniger, Gamel and Heredia though they may decide to go out and get another outfielder with some power. All three of them may show more power into next season. Whatever the case the Mariners have a solid outfield. I gave Dyson a report card score of B.

Since I just brought him up the next one on the report card is Guillermo Heredia who played most of the season as the fourth outfielder and platoon player against lefties. He showed us that he may be the best defensive outfielder in the American League especially playing in left field. He played a solid center field as well but left field looks like where he really shines. His hitting started declining at the end of the season and we found out the last week of the season because of injury to his shoulder that he had most of the season. He will have surgery on that should and we hope will be ready when spring training begins. Whether he will be one of the three starters in the outfield next season or the fourth outfielder we expect more from him. Another good season from a rookie and his batting average for much of the season was in the mid two-seventies he ended with a .249 average. He had only one stolen base however I am sure that will improve next season as well. What I liked about Heredia besides his defense was that he seemed to always be in the middle of any rallies where the Mariners scored several runs in an inning. I give him a grade of B as well.

The next guy is Mitch Haniger who lived up to his billing coming out of spring training. Like the other guys plays solid defense in right field and had a good average as well along with power at the plate. He went on the disabled list on April 26 with a strained right oblique and returned about six weeks later on June 11. He struggle when he returned at the plate. He was hit in the face with a pitch and put on the disabled list again on July 30. His second return was on August 12. This time he fared much better and was one of the hottest hitters on the Mariners throughout September; his final stats for the season was a .282 batting average with sixteen home runs and forty-seven runs batted in. They look real good when you find that he played in only ninety-six games. Playing a full season he could hit more than thirty home runs for the Mariners so he could be the power hitter they are looking for. I give him a grade of B plus.

Final note: If the Mariners infield can play next season like the outfielders did both at the bat and in the field along with improvement by the pitching staff the Mariners should play in the playoffs for the first time in seventeen years. I don’t see them having that many injuries next year either. Best to Jerry Dipoto in getting players to fill the holes they have on the team. I will look at Mariners on a weekly basis including talking about transactions they have made. Go M’s.

 

Mariner Report Card #2 2017 Season

Now I am going to look at grading the catcher’s position and the infielders for the Mariners. There will be a #3 that will cover the outfielder and designated hitter.

Catcher: This position is hard to grade because Mike Zunino had an inconsistent season however I will grade for the whole. Mike had a terrible April hitting so far below the Mendoza line (under .200) that the Mariners sent him down to triple A Tacoma where he played in twelve games with five home runs and a batting average of .293. In return he had a really good June however he was inconsistent in July and August but had a good month in September as well. For the Mariners he played in 124 games with a batting average of .251 for the season and twenty-five home runs and sixty-four runs batted in. Also he had the same amount of doubles. Carlos Ruiz was the primary backup catcher over the season though he started more games when Zunino was at Tacoma. He played in a total of 54 games with a .216 batting average. Though he had a low batting average he did have his moments during the season. He will become a free agent and is not expected to return next season. My grade for the catcher’s position I will go with C plus however if Zunino can have a season like he did from June through September over a whole season next year the grade will be higher for sure next time.

First Baseman: This is another interesting position where Danny Valencia was the primary first baseman until the Mariners acquired his best friend Yonder Alonso in August from the Oakland A’s for outfielder Boog Powell who had played most of the year at Tacoma when the trade happened. Valencia had a poor start to the season in April however it was on high side the rest of the way until Alonso was acquired. Not only did Valencia hit well he played a pretty good first baseman something special for a player who had played only a little in his career before 2017. The Mariners expected that Valencia would platoon with left handed hitter Daniel Vogelbach in spring training however he was sent to Tacoma instead where he spent the whole season until call ups in September. Valencia had a decent season hitting for batting sixth or seventh in the lineup most of the year. When Haniger was out he batted second in the lineup often against lefties. His batting average could have been a little higher he batted .256 along with fifteen home runs and sixty-six runs batted in. His batting average was lower than in 2016 however he drove in more runs and probably the reason that was those who were ahead of him in the lineup with the Mariners over the A’s. The Mariners started platooning at first base when Yonder Alonso came over from the A’s in August. In forty-two games with the Mariners his batting average was the same as with the A’s but his home runs were down more like in his previous seasons. I am sure some of that had to do with the ballparks and becoming adjusted to a new team. Both Valencia and Alonso will now be free agents going into 2018 whether both will be back or one or neither we will see. The cost of signing Valencia I am sure will be less than that for Alonso but it will depend on Dipoto’s thinking. Most likely if one of them is signed by the Mariners they will be the everyday first basemen. If both of them return they will probably be platooned or Valencia will play more outfield. More of that in report card #3 and I will give a grade of b minus at first base.

Second base: Since 2014 when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano as a free agent he has played almost every game without missing much action. This is how it went in 2017 that he played in one hundred and fifty games only missing action in May when he went on the ten day disabled list. He had a solid first half being named to the all-star team in which he was MVP. His second half wasn’t as spectacular as the first half. The Mariners showed how important it was to have him in the lineup since they didn’t do well when he was on the disabled list. Utility player Taylor Motter played when Cano was out. Cano had a solid .280 batting average though it was low for him and he drove in nearly one hundred runs for the season though his home run numbers were down. He had twenty-three homers for the season which is pretty good for second basemen. In fact in September he became only the third second basemen to hit three hundred home runs for a career. Most likely when his career is over he will be the all-time second basemen in home runs. His defense was not at the same caliber we are used to seeing either however that could be because of injury or age. We won’t truly know until we see him play in 2018. Since he did play in the all-star game my grade for him is a B.

Third Base: This is another position where the Mariners have a player that misses very few games in a season. I would call him reliable in Kyle Seager. His statistics look good for 2017 however I am not sure if he had that good of a season. Again he started out slow in April though his hitting was better than it was the year before in April. His fielding I am not sure was that good as in past years though he still made a lot of outstanding plays but made mistakes in crucial times. He wasn’t playing at all-star caliber that is for sure. What we hope for that it was a down year in a successful career. Seager had twenty-seven home runs and thirty-three doubles but his batting average was .249. His home runs total was the second highest of his career but I think it is when you hit them and what meaning do they have when it comes to winning baseball. I am sure hitting behind Nelson Cruz is much different than it would be if he were hitting in front of him like Cano does. I hope he rebounds for a better season in 2018. I am sure if he does the Mariners should make the playoffs unless the pitching is worse than it was this year. Being the senior player on the Mariners that is under 30 years old it is time that he shows more leadership and not leave it to Cruz and Cano. That is what I believe anyway. So my grade for Seager is C.

Shortstop: Jean Segura was the primary shortstop on the Mariners playing in one hundred twenty-five games. I am sure the Mariners hope in 2018 he will be closer to playing in one hundred and fifty games. Segura went on the disabled list twice to miss most of the games he didn’t play in. The first time he was placed on the disabled list was early April and returned after a rehab assignment two weeks later and then the second time was in June. He went on another rehab assignment again missing out almost three weeks. Utility player Taylor Motter whose natural position is shortstop filled in for Segura. The first time around he hit well but not so much on the second occasion however his defense was good. The Mariners were so happy with Segura that in May they signed him to a seven-year contract extension. He not only plays good defense and hits well he is the best leadoff hitter the Mariners have had in some time. He can bat second pretty well to if the Mariners were able to find even a better leadoff batter. For the season he ended up batting .300 after leading the National League in hits in 2016. It is quite the accomplishment because the Mariners have had history of players coming over from the National League who have not played well at all. I give Segura and the shortstop positon an A minus for the season. Next report card will be on the designated hitter and the outfielders. Go M’s.

 

Mariner 2017 Report Card

 

Now to look at the 2017 edition  of the Seattle Mariner season and their final record was 78-84. With so many injuries to the team and having to use forty pitchers  it seems to be an OK season other than everyone was hoping that the Mariners would finally make the playoffs. They actually still had a chance to make it despite the injuries going into September. Up until the last two weeks of the season they were fighting for the second wild card spot. These two last weeks on the surface it didn’t look like the injuries that allowed them to come up short however I am sure they still had an effect anyway. The starting pitching that was the major cause for the team to be inconsistent all year long actually performed well in September. It was more the bullpen, the offense, defense and base running that kept them to finally get into the playoffs. The starting pitching though caused the bullpen and the offense to slide in September most likely of stress and burnout. The defense that was performing good most of the season didn’t perform at the same rate in September. Why that is anyone’s guess and probably has in part the reason Tim Bogar and Casey Candaele were released of duties on Tuesday. The base runnings had issues throughout the season and since Candaele was in charge of it another reason for his demise. Jerry Dipoto said that the upcoming spring training working on base running will be very important. Often little things that we may not see can make a difference on a team winning or losing. Although so many injuries can cause the reason a team to have a losing record and not make the playoffs I have to give the team report card a C minus. Next I will break things down by pitching and positions.

Starting pitching: This could be the hardest one to give a report on it other than all season the Mariners had to deal with seventeen different pitchers too start. Only one pitcher made all his starts until the last couple weeks of the season because I believe of burnout and that was Ariel Miranda. Actually he didn’t pitch very well for the last two months of the season but the Mariners had to keep him going since they had little choice. He actually was expected to start the season at Tacoma however the injury to Drew Smyly that turned keeping him out all season and possibly all of 2018 ended up going 8-7 with an era of 5.12. Miranda’s biggest issue was that he gave thirty-seven home runs in thirty-one games in which he started the team high twenty-nine games. I am sure this will be what he has to work on during training camp.

James Paxton who is now called the Big Maple was the Mariners pitcher of the year. His record for the year was 12-5 in twenty-four starts. He missed about a month of service being on the disabled list in August. Andrew Albers who the Mariners picked up from the Atlanta Braves when Paxton went down is a fellow Canadian. He went into the rotation starting six games in a total of nine games with a record of 5-1 with an era of 3.51. So between Paxton and Albers they had a record of 17-6. That means the rest of the pitching staff went 61-78. The only pitcher in the original rotation in spring training Yovani Gallardo started twenty-eight games second to Miranda had a poor season having a record of 5-10. He was sent to the bullpen on two different occasions. The Mariners were hoping that he would rebound after having a poor season last year with the Baltimore Orioles. He actually pitched well when he was in the bullpen. I am sure the Mariners will not ask him back next season. Felix Hernandez was hurt for more than half of the season missing ninety games. On Tuesday Dipoto said that they would have to monitor his pitching next season. We hope that he isn’t injured next year. Having the chance that returns close to his previous form is unlikely however can be done except he will look like a different pitcher.

The Mariners picked up Erasmo Ramirez and Mike Leake in August to help down the stretch and for 2018. Leake’s performance will give him the chance to be one of the Mariners top three starting pitchers heading into next season. Ramirez will have the chance to crack the starting rotation as well. He could end up in the bullpen as well. So I will give the starting a report card of C minus although they had little control over it.

The Bullpen:   This had a lot of changing parts over the season. The Mariners had forty pitchers used over the season and seventeen were used in the starting rotation so the rest were in the bullpen though several were used both starting and relieving. For most of the season the Mariners kept bringing relief pitchers up and down between Tacoma and Seattle. These were mostly long relievers because the starters were going five or six innings at the most. When this was going on the long reliever would be up for one relief outing and then sent back down to Tacoma. This wasn’t a bad idea so the bullpen would not be over used. This worked out for most of the season however September the key relievers didn’t have a good month not pitching well most likely because they were over used. Manager Scott Servais tried to use them only when the Mariners were ahead in the game. This is what happened with Nick Vincent who had a good season going into September especially in Safeco Field but performed poorly when the Mariners really could have used him in September. It did not help that Dave Phelps who the Mariners picked up from Miami in August ended up going on the disabled list twice and then had to have surgery to end the season. Mainly because of the first half of the season I give the bullpen a rating of C. My next post about the report card will be the catchers and the infield.

 

 

Changes to Coaching Staff

Before I was able to give out my report card for 2017 the Seattle Mariners announced Tuesday morning changes to the 2018 coaching staff; Tim Bogar who was the bench coach and Casey Candaele the first base coach will not return next season. Like always there is speculation why they are not coming back. Were they fired and released of their duties or did they ask to be released. We may never know or we will be told in days ahead. In Bogars case he might be looking for manager’s position. He was a finalist for the Mariners job and he managed the Texas Rangers on interim basis.

Bogars duties besides being bench coach he worked on the infield defense. What I have seen when it comes to defense on the infield Kyle Seager hasn’t performed as well since he won the gold glove. The last two years he has made more errors especially in critical times. Robinson Cano didn’t do as well this year either. Whether Bogar had anything to do with it we don’t know at all but could have been the reason he is no longer around.

Candaele worked with the outfield were among the best in the American League however he was in charge of base running as well. This was an area that the Mariners have been the weakest in the last several years even before Servais became manager and this could have been his demise.

Manny Acta who was third base coach now takes over Bogars spot as bench coach. Also he will be working with the infielders and defensive positioning. Scott Brosius who was Edgar’s assistant as hitting coach will take over as third base coach and will work with the players on base running. I expect this will be a big emphasis in spring training. On his last radio show of the season this is what he indicated any way.

Edgar and Mel Jr will be returning as hitting and pitching coaches. You have to give Edgar a lot of credit on how Zunino improved over the season along with the other players. The Mariners are expected to name another assistant coach and that should be helping Edgar once again.

I felt that Mel did an outstanding job as pitching coach especially with so many injuries to the starters and having to go with forty pitches in all. Many of those pitchers Mel had no experience with them before this season. I am sure he will look forward to having fewer changes in the pitching staff next season.

Nasusel Cabrera will return but not necessarily as the bullpen coach the position he took over around mid-season when Mike Hampton resigned. He will be up as one of the candidates for bullpen coach but the Mariners may put him in another position as well.

Chris Prieto who was special projects coach was promoted to be first base coach for the Mariners. It will be interesting if someone will fill his spot as special projects coach. We know at this time an assistant coach and bullpen coach will be added on.

We won’t be really able to know whether these changes will improve the Mariners next season however I am sure they will. Like stated earlier the Mariners will need to improve on base running and infield defense. I believe that Jean Segura had a solid season at shortstop better than I think any of us expected after playing second base at Arizona. Danny Valencia played a solid first base before Yonder Alonzo came in August that turned Valencia a part time player for the remaining of the season. Besides playing first base Valencia did see some action in right field. In fact the offense at times looked good when Alonso and Valencia were in the lineup at the same time.

Anyway I will start the report card of the 2017 this week unless the Mariners make other transactions over the next few days. So best of luck to Bogar and Candaele in their future endeavors.