In my shortstop article, I said that the shortstop position has the best minor league depth of any spot in the field. However, the more I think about Seattle’s minor league options at third base, the more I am convinced that third base truly has the most depth. The hot corner may also be the most secure position going into next year as well.
Due to Kyle Seager’s sophomore surge, he has a solidified job in Seattle’s order for next year, but that doesn’t mean that he is the third baseman of the future. There is a chance that he won’t repeat this year’s performance in the future, or that he will be traded. In addition, Seager’s versatility could also lead to him moving to second base or shortstop depending on how the pieces fall.
Alex Liddi is a good young option at third base. As I discussed in my first base article, Liddi can hit, but his inability to make consistent contact is disturbing. If he can resolve that, he could be a good major league hitter.
A guy that I have spoken highly of in the past is Vinnie Catricala. “Cat the Bat” has a beautiful line drive swing and the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields and hit for power as well. Unfortunately, his 1.052 OPS from AA in 2011 dwindled down to .640 this year in AAA. His prospect status decreased as well, and at twenty-three years old, he doesn’t have a ton of time to make the majors. While his poor 2012 campaign doesn’t mean that we should rule him out of the future of Seattle, it certainly is disappointing. If he has a good spring training, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in Seattle next year. Catricala has versatility, so he may be better suited in the corner outfield, but he could still be a decent guy at third base should he be needed there.
While he’s not usually thought of as a third baseman, Nick Franklin could also find himself at the hot corner. I’m not sure if he will hit for enough power to project well there, but if his glove isn’t enough for the middle infield, he could be thrown in at third.
Stefen Romero is a name that has recently begun to pop onto the radar of Mariner fans. The twenty-three year old was in just his second full year in the professional ranks this year, and he thrived. After hitting the cover off the ball in class high A High Desert, he was promoted to AA Jackson where his production improved. In 56 AA games, he posted a triple slash of .347/.392/.620 which adds up to a 1.012, and he also hit 12 bombs. While his low walk rate is a problem, it’s excusable after seeing his 178 wRC+. Some people think he will end up at second base, but personally I tend to think that his 6’3” 225 pound body is built for third base. Hopefully Romero will be in AAA next year, and if he can produce, he may have a chance to be a September call-up.
While Romero has been a great surprise, his AA teammate, Francisco Martinez, has been a great disappointment. Martinez was a main piece in the Doug Fister trade last season and became one of Seattle’s top prospects with his arrival in the organization. This season, he hit just .227 with a .295 SLG% and a 21.1K%. His lack of power and good speed will likely force him into the outfield, but he is currently listed as a third baseman. Some people think he will have a chance at second base, but I don’t believe his glove is good enough to stay in the middle infield. He just turned 22 years old, so he will have time to figure out his swing, but this year was a setback for Martinez, and with the kind of depth Seattle has at third base in its farm system, a bad year could be enough to write him out of the future.
Class High A also had a pair of 22 year-old power hitting third basemen in Steven Proscia and Mario Martinez. They both put up huge numbers in the California League this year, but they also shared the problem of a K% close to 20% and BB% below 5%. While the pure power stats were impressive, it’s hard to determine how much their numbers were inflated by High Desert. Regardless, these guys need to refine their plate approaches and learn to make more contact before they are MLB options.
Everett’s third baseman this year, Patrick Kivlehan, is yet another name to remember in the future. Kivlehan has also had a crazy journey to where he is now. He began as a safety on the Rutgers University football team before switching to baseball in his senior year. In his only year of collegiate baseball, he became the first player to ever win the Big East Conference Triple Crown and also earned conference MVP honors.
The Mariners snatched him in the fourth round which was a selection that many believe to be Seattle’s biggest steal in the draft. In a full year in short season Everett, he had a line of .301/.373/.511 before being named as a Northwest League all-star and Northwest League MVP. In the last calendar year, he went from a college football player to Northwest League MVP. It’s an unlikely story, but Kivlehan continues to progress at a rapid rate. He has learned to hit very quickly and there’s no reason to think that he will stop anytime soon. Keep an eye on this converted football player, because he could be in Seattle before you know it. He will probably make the switch to outfield, however.
The last player in the legion of minor league third baseman I will cover is Joe DeCarlo who was a second round pick in the most recent draft. He was taken out of high school and just turned nineteen years old, so he has a lot of learning to do. In rookie ball this year, he had a 13.9% BB%. That is very impressive from a teenager, because pitch selection is not usually something that young power hitters possess. His mature pitch selection is a good sign and also differentiates him from other power hitters at the hot corner.
If you had asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell you that Justin Smoak would be the Mariner’s all-star first baseman by 2013. It’s unbelievable how things change, isn’t it?
The man that was supposedly a future all-star first baseman has done absolutely nothing in a Mariner uniform. He even whiffed his way into AAA this year. Smoak’s struggles have created a vacancy at first base as well.
So, who is the first baseman of the future?
Call me crazy, but I think Smoak deserves a little more time. Not much time, but a little. Essentially, I think that he gets Spring Training and a few months of next year to prove that he is a better option than anyone else. There is simply too much potential and too much value in him to give up on him now. Switch hitting first baseman with plus gloves don’t come around very often. Smoak knows that his career is on the line, and he might be able to make a few adjustments and pull a move like Michael Saunders did this spring.
A lot of people, including myself, had given up on Saunders, but he has turned in a solid season. I think that we should give Smoak an opportunity to turn around his career in a similar way.
In all likelihood, Smoak will not figure out how to hit over the course of an offseason which means that it will be time to look for better answers. There are a few options from within the organization including Mike Carp, Alex Liddi, Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Luis Antonio Jimenez, Vinnie Catricala, Rich Poythress, and Taylor Ard.
I’m not sure what we can expect from Carp. Following an impressive 2011 campaign, Carp has hardly produced and has been constantly bogged down by injuries.
Liddi, who is just 24 years old, has flashed power in his stints in Seattll. Through 144 professional at bats, Liddi has 6
homeruns which averages out to a homerun every 24 at bats. That’s not fantastic, but that should give you a 20-25 homerun season with a starting job. Liddi’s real problem is his strikeouts. While his plate selection and ability to make contact have improved with experience, he still has a contact% of 69.2% and K% of 36.8 in limited time with the big club in 2012.
As soon as Mike Zunino is a catcher, there is a decent chance that Jesus Montero will no longer be given catching duties. When this happens, he will have to either move to DH or first base. Montero could be a good fit at first considering that his bat will profile well there.
Dustin Ackley is another potential first baseman who is already in the system. I would prefer to see Ackley at second since his bat doesn’t provide enough pop to be a good offensive first baseman. Nevertheless, he is a solid last resort.
At the ripe age of 30, Luis Antonio Jimenez could also receive consideration for the MLB job. After demolishing AAA pitching this year, he earned a place on the 40-man roster and a September call-up. Sure, his glove isn’t anything to write home about, but his bat speed and natural power is impressive. I believe that his ability to hit for power is similar to that of Carlos Peguero. The difference between the two players is that Jimenez can actually put the ball in play. Jimenez’ 18.1% K% in AAA isn’t great, but it’s acceptable if you can get good power production in return, and his ISO in AAA was not a big step down from Peguero. The 30 year-old also had a higher OBP and wRC+ than the Peguero. Jimenez becoming the first baseman for the Mariners is certainly a long shot, but it’s also an idea to keep in the back of your mind.
At this time last year, I was convinced that Vinnie Catricala would be a starter on the Mariners in 2013 or 2014, but his 2012 campaign in AAA saw his batting average and OBP drop around 120 points and his SLG% nearly get cut in half from his 60 game stint in AA the previous year. Even worse, his wRC+ went from 184 in AA to 65 in AAA. This drop off is certainly discouraging, but he certainly should not be given up on yet. If “Cat the Bat” can create an assemblance to his 2011 minor league season, he will be a legitimate option at first base in Seattle. He could also play at third base, left field, or right field as well. Last spring training, Catricala challenged for a MLB roster spot, so perhaps he will do the same this year.
Rich Poythress and Taylor Ard were both high level draft picks that play first base as well. Both of them are a ways from being major league caliber hitters, but they are still names to remember in the long run.
Seattle could also look outside of the organization for a first baseman. There are several options which have been discussed in several different articles on this blog, but some of those names are Billy Butler, Ike Davis, Nick Swisher, or Justin Morneau. I am not hugely in favor of dumping lots of money or prospects on anyone right now, but Billy Butler and Ike Davis, who are 26 and 25 years old respectively, could be good trade acquisitions for the right price.
As JJ said in this article, he expected that acquireing Butler would take, “LHP James Paxton, OF/3B Vinnie Catricala or SS Brad Miller, and Erasmo Ramirez and/or Stephen Pryor for Butler and a reliever/AAA throw in.” I’m not willing to give up that much, especially since Butler will end up being a DH. If there was a way to avoid trading Paxton, I would be in, but I don’t think that that is possible.
It has only been less than two weeks since Eric Wedge finally gave up on Chone Figgins. The entire city of Seattle breathed a sigh of relief knowing that they would no longer have to watch him and his sub-Mendoza line batting average every night. … [visit site to read more]
News and notes…For those of you who have suggested moving Kyle Seager to short in order to see more of Alex Liddi, don’t hold your breath. Wedge once more today said that Seager was not an option at short. Not a surprise. What was a … [visit site to read more]
At what point do you shorten the leash of an underperforming player?
I’m trying to be generous here, since this is a post about visit site to read more]
With a look at the stats, you will see the Mariner’s disappointing .238 batting average and .275 BABIP. These are pretty discouraging numbers, but don’t mark this offense as a failure yet.
What the batting average doesn’t show is … [visit site to read more]
Tags: alex liddi, brendan ryan, Casper Wells, Chone Figgins, dustin ackley, featured, Ichiro, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, justin smoak, kyle seager, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, miguel olivo, Munenori Kawasaki, Popular, Stats
Just yesterday I was pondering how much longer the Mariners would wait to trim a few loose strings. Today those strings have been neatly trimmed…kind of.
Here is your Seattle Mariners 2012 Opening Day Roster.
Tags: alex liddi, Blake Beavan, Brandon League, brendan ryan, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chone Figgins, dustin ackley, Erasmo Ramirez, featured, Felix Hernandez, George Sherrill, Hector Noesi, hisashi iwakuma, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Vargas, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, justin smoak, kevin millwood, kyle seager, Lucas Luetge, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, miguel olivo, Mike Carp, Munenori Kawasaki, Popular, shawn Kelley, Steve Delabar, Tom Wilhelmsen
The Mariners play their first game in Japan in less than a week, but there are still position battles that are unsettled. Here is a look at a few of these open jobs and the options the Mariner’s have to fill them.
Third base: … [visit site to read more]
Tags: Adam Moore, alex liddi, Blake Beavan, Carlos Peguero, Casper Wells, Chone Figgins, Erasmo Ramirez, featured, Hector Noesi, hisashi iwakuma, Ichiro, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, kevin millwood, kyle seager, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, miguel olivo, Popular, position battles, spring training, Vinnie Catricala
Tags: Aaron Heilman, alex liddi, Blake Beaven, Caesar Jimenez, featured, Jeff Marquez, Josh Kinney, kevin millwood, Lucas Luetge, luis rodriguez, Mariners General, Matt Fox, Munenori Kawasaki, Oliver Perez, Philippe Valiquette, Popular, Sean Henn, Trayvon Robinson, Vinnie Catricala
Today, Franklin Gutierrez got hurt in an inter-squad game. The Mariners don’t have the results of the MRI yet, but they have identified his problem as a pectoral muscle injury.
As a life-long Mariner fan, I have learned to just assume the worst … [visit site to read more]
Tags: alex liddi, carlos Guillen, Carlos Peguero, Casper Wells, Chone Figgins, featured, franklin gutierrez, kyle seager, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, Mike Wilson, Popular, Trayvon Robinson, Vinnie Catricala
I’m a little late on this one… but, at least I’m not the only one that it’s a behind the curve. But, it appears that the Mariners and their ace Canadian and European scout Wayne Norton have signed another interesting prospect, Alexandre … [visit site to read more]
Tags: alex liddi, Alexandre Roy, Andy Paz, Bobby Madritsch, Cliff Lee, Dylan Unsworth, featured, George Sherrill, greg halman, International Free Agency, Jeroen de Haas, Kalian Sams, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, phillippe aumont, Popular
Well, the Mariners maybe “done” for the off-season but before they’ve called it quits they appear to have added visit site to read more]
Okay, I’ve been fighting the to make a splash all season, all off-season. I’ve been about developing the talent and cultivating the internal youth rather than adhering to the masses as they preach about making a said big splash. But you all convinced me.
There are few talents out there that equal out to what he can produce, and it’s not like there are many if any that often available so I say you dive on the grenade and just pull the trigger. I’m not saying whatever the costs because let’s face it people, if you are willing to pay X immedately then Y just became the new price tag.
Sure, he doesn’t have the prototypical ”baseball players” body and that scares away teams –I also believe it’s why he hasn’t seen much in the way of teams getting into a bidding war for his talents– but it doesn’t mean that he can’t play or that he’s guarenteed to age badly. He’s an incredible athlete for a man of his size. Not to mention quietly being one of the better hitters in the National League.
So here is my plan to nab the Mariners the much needed piece they need for the 2012 season and beyond.
So Jack Zduriencik comes out and says that third base and veteran pitching is a the off-season priorities. That’s fair. I know I have my issues with the current back stop tandem but we’ll get more into that later (yes,that means I’m not done whining about it yet).
Zduriencik’s comments have only further fanned the flame on fan’s speculation on guys such as Sandoval, Gordon and Wright. Though, I believe that most fans believe like me if they are going to “upgrade” the position it should be done so in such a way that you’re not preventing any near ready prospects from contributing, which we obviously have a few.
Alex Liddi, Kyle Seager and Francisco Martinez all are interesting talents and all have promising ceilings but all have specific defects within their game. Before I float this idea by you let’s just cover our bases on two of these guys. I think we can all agree that Martinez isn’t likely to play a role in 2012, at least not a significant one at this point. That’s not a knock on the 21 year-old; he’s just rather young and has been pushed immensely hard by the Tigers organization the last couple of years. I think it wise to take it slow over the next few months and get him comfortable in the organization, just my two cents.