Feb. 25, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Cole Gillespie (2) hits an RBI double during the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Gillespie: Missing Piece To Seattle Mariners Offense?

It’s been an interesting few years for Cole Gillespie. After helping the Oregon State Beavers win the College World Series in 2006, Gillespie was drafted in the 3rd round of the MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Gillespie spent the next few years rocketing up through the Brewers organization, from Rookie Ball to Triple-A Nashville in three seasons. But near the trade deadline in 2009, Gillespie was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks and assigned to their Triple-A team in Reno. He continued to show tremendous promise, batting around .300 through the 2012 season.

It seemed that the call-up was inevitable and that Gillespie was bound to be a perennial All-Star for years to come.

But, the call-up came and his .236 average in 110 at-bats with the Diamondbacks between 2010 and 2011, left the organization wondering if they had an AAAA ballplayer on their hands – the kind of talent that more than succeeds at Triple-A but can never quite make it in the Majors.

Gillespie spent 2013 between the San Francisco Giants organization and that of the Chicago Cubs. Again, performing well in Triple-A Fresno (.277/.361/.455) and falling short with the Giants and the Cubs (.203/.294/.237).

So when the Mariners took a chance and signed him this past offseason, no one really batted an eyelash. No one really thought much of it. That may change. Through Tacoma’s first 15 games, Gillespie is hitting better than he has at any point in his professional career. Triple-A or otherwise, Gillespie has a slash line of .364/.453/.709 with 4 HR 13 RBI and 13 R.

And he’s cleaning up his defense, having not committed an error yet this season (19 chances). Does any of this mean that we will see Gillespie in a Seattle uniform anytime soon? It’s hard to tell. The club already has a backlog of outfielders both on the 25-man roster and waiting in Tacoma.

James Jones was just sent back down to Tacoma after one at-bat in the bigs – in which he legged out a base hit – and manager Lloyd McClendon stated that he would be back. Logan Morrison presumably won’t be on the DL forever and Corey Hart has proven so far that he can play right when needed.

So where does that leave Gillespie? Trade bait? The St. Louis Cardinals could use some depth in their outfield. As could several other teams. Is Cole Gillespie that missing link to a potential trade package that would bring in David Price or someone like him?

I would like to see him get the call-up, get a chance to prove that he is a major leaguer and not just a AAAA guy. If he can do that, you have to make room for him on this club. He could be that right-handed bat you were looking for to help balance this lineup.

Then you can afford to move Justin Smoak down the lineup, where he belongs in my opinion. Think about this potential lineup:

1. Abraham Almonte CF
2. Brad Miller SS
3. Robinson Cano 2B
4. Corey Hart DH
5. Cole Gillespie RF
6. Justin Smoak 1B
7. Kyle Seager 3B
8. Dustin Ackley LF
9. Mike Zunino C

And I know Miller and Seager – and Smoak for that matter – have been struggling, but once they get going, and they will, that could be a very potent lineup.

But it’s all on Gillespie at this point. If and when the Mariners call him up, he has to prove that he can be a contributing member of a major league club and not just a very good Triple-A player that can’t hit major league pitching.

If he gets the call, and I hope he does, and he’s up to the task, it could be that this forgotten transaction made by the club in December, could be the key to turning this offense around.

Tags: Cole Gillespie Seattle Mariners

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