2018 Mariners Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees – Infielders
In the second installment of the spring training non-roster invitees review, we look to the infield. Again, a tough task for any of these players to crack the Mariners fairly solidified 40-man roster. However, with this group the reality is a few of these guys have a legitimate shot to do so.
Beckham being on this list is somewhat perplexing to me. In 2009 he was listed as the #20 prospect in all of baseball while playing in the Chicago White Sox organization. He logged 150 and 151 games for the White Sox in 2011 and 2012 respectively and looked to be well on his way to every day status.
Injuries eventually plagued the second baseman which hindered his ability to get things going offensively. 2014 was the last year Beckham hit for an average over .212 and his career slash line of .239/.303/.369/.672 leaves much to be desired.
Cowan is a soon-to-be 23-year-old utility infielder, who has spent his entire 5-year career in the Mariners organization. A local kid drafted out of Kentlake High School in the 37th round, Cowan has played in 354 minor league games. All but eight of those have come at the Single-A level.
Offensively Cowan hasn’t set the world on fire with the bat, but his .269/.341/.343/.683 career slash line isn’t terrible. He has zero power (8 career HR), but as a projected utility player that isn’t a huge deal.
In 2016 he put up his best numbers slashing a combined .319/.383/.431/.814 while playing in Everett and Bakersfield. And last season in 468 at bats with Modesto (prior to that his high in a season was 242) Cowan slashed .271/.345/.335/.680.
At 32 years of age, Hague is the elder statesman of this group and brings with him experience at every professional level of baseball from Single-A to the big leagues. He even spent a year playing pro ball in Japan. He’s another local product having graduated from Kentwood High School (Kentlake’s rival) and played at the University of Washington for three seasons.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, Hague quickly climbed the organizational ladder and made his major league debut in 2012. That year he was given 24 at bats in Pittsburgh and went 16-for-70, slashing .229/.270/.257/.527 and a -0.4 WAR.
He didn’t see the major leagues again until 2014 and was waived in August of that year. He was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays, but after just 12 at bats the following season, he was released. Hague’s major league numbers are bad. But, he has proven to hit at the minor league level (9 seasons: .300/.375/.432/.806 with 89 HR and 599 RBI).
In January, Navarro signed with the Mariners, his 6th major league organization. A former 3rd round pick, this second baseman has collected a total of 29 major league at bats in his 11-year pro career – all coming in 2015 with the Baltimore Orioles. 8-for-29 wasn’t good enough to stick.
The career minor league numbers for Navarro are respectable (.265/.314/.374/.688). And over the last five years at the Triple-A level he has sustained a slightly better slash line of .271/.327/.377.704. As a utility infielder who can play 2B, SS, and 3B speed would be an added benefit, but Navarro has only put together a 60% stolen base rate in his career.
Vincej was a waiver wire pickup last November. A 37th round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2012, he has spent all but nine games of his 6-year career in the minors. From rookie ball to Triple-A, Vincej has been a solid glove up the middle. Slashing .272/.339/.361/.700 he’s also proven to be a solid hitter.
The power numbers are low (16 career HR) but again, not the biggest need out of a utility player. And like Navarro, Vincej is not fleet of foot as he is sitting on a 56.7% success rate of stolen bases.
When trying to determine who will have the best shot at cracking the 40-man out of spring training, it is important to note there is no real benefit to making a 40-man move right away if the intention is for the promoting player(s) to start the season in the minor leagues.
The Mariners could hold off on that decision, waiting for an injury, a trade offer, or some sort of collapse from another player before handing out the promotion. In this case, that is likely. Especially if the guys the Mariners are considering are Cowan, Navarro, or Vincej.
Where things get interesting in this group is with Beckham and Hague. There is a thought in camp that one of these guys could play their way onto the Opening Day roster. If, of course, the stars align just right. They both have experience and being in their 30’s they are running out of time to get back to the big leagues.
Beckham will be competing directly with Taylor Motter and Andrew Romine. In addition to playing infield, both Motter and Romine have MLB experience in the outfield.
They definitely have an advantage – especially with the injury status of Guillermo Heredia. But, with a huge spring from Beckham, the opportunity could still be there.
As for Hague, the injury to Ryon Healy could wind up being one those blessings in disguise. Currently, there are just two other first basemen on the 40-man roster – Mike Ford and Dan Vogelbach – so there is definitely room for competition.
The Rule-5 status of Ford does throw an extra hurdle in there. Vogelbach being a top 15 prospect in the organization is another disadvantage to the aging Hauge. But as I and many others have said before, anything is possible.
Next: NRI: Pitchers and Catchers
I’m not ready to say either of these two are going to get the job done. However, I do get the sense Scott Servais is going to give each of them a real good look. So Beckham and Hague, the ball is in your court.