Pidgeon-Holed Minor Leaguers


Sep 5, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Abraham Almonte (36) is congratulated in the dugout after scoring in the first inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Now that it’s September and the rosters have expanded, it’s time to look at the youngsters that have been called up from Triple-A Tacoma.

I don’t want to talk about the specific skill sets of the recently added players, though. So I digress.

A few weeks ago, before the Pacific Coast League season was over, I was fortunate enough to go to a Tacoma Rainiers game. It was a 40 minute drive down to Cheney Stadium from Seattle with some pretty typical traffic, and it was an exciting, fan-friendly atmosphere.

But what I got out of the trip more than anything else is how easy it is to distinguish between different players. No, to those of you thinking “duh it’s easy to tell players apart, they have different numbers“, I am not an idiot. Okay, maybe I am. But back to the point: there are really four different types of players down in AAA. 1) The highly touted, up-and-coming prospect. 2) The Major Leaguer on a rehab assignment. 3) Those AAAA players who only get days with the big club when they are hampered with injuries. 4) Lifer minor leaguers, who have spent more times bouncing around the lower levels than many guys have spent in the majors.

The first guy is easy to spot. He’s got swagger, he’s got energy. But most importantly, there are scores of fans jockeying for position to have a chance to say hi, take a picture, and get an autograph. They look happy and rightfully so– they’ll be in the Bigs soon.

That second guy is also easy to recognize. When I was in Tacoma Guti was on his rehab assignment, playing DH. He was hard to miss because you’ve seen his face on national TV before. And more often than not they look pretty relaxed, because they know once they’ve gotten their at-bats– regardless of their quality– they’ll be back in Seattle.

Here’s where it starts to get tricky with the AAAA players. That guy for the Rainiers is Carlos Peguero.

If you’ve watched the M’s play over the last two years you’ve probably seen Peguero in Seattle. He is a big, lumbering man, who has a decent arm and can hit the ball a mile– if he makes contact. His time spent in Seattle follows injuries to guys like Guti, Saunders, and Morse. It’s short-lived, and he knows it will be. He strikes out too much and he meanders unprofessionally in the outfield. It is doubtful he will ever play consistently in the Bigs.

And he knows it too. Which is why he is easy to spot- those #3, AAAA guys, are usually pretty lazy, unmotivated, and unsatisfied with the minor leagues. They’ve tasted the major league locker room and want to be back, but they know it will take more than their skills alone to get them back.

Lastly, and most painfully, is that last guy who will forever be a minor league player. When I watched the Rainiers play, the guy most prominently filling this role was a recent addition: Ty Kelly. When he botched a routine ground ball at second base– a ball he approached far too casually– he cussed into his mitt, threw it on the ground, and altogether looked angry at the world. That’s because he is well aware that the sweet taste of Safeco is further than it is near. And that, too, shows in his play. These #4 players seem to be aggressive and anger easily. In the field, they botch those routine plays and look mad at the game they love so much.

I was glad to witness the myriad variety of minor league players down in Tacoma. And it’s true what they say: the difference between the minors and the majors is sure as hell a lot more than just a uniform and a ballpark.