Mariners On The Farm: Tacoma Rainiers Positional Preview
Weather permitting, the first pitch thrown at Cheney Stadium tomorrow night will mark the start to the 2018 minor league season as the Mariners Triple-A affiliate Tacoma Rainiers host the Sacramento River Cats. On Monday the Rainiers announced their Opening Night roster and to kick off our first installment of the 2018 ON THE FARM series we’ll take a look at who will be starting the season in Tacoma.
With the Mariners dealing with early injuries to Mike Zunino and Nelson Cruz, the Rainiers roster has already been adjusted before playing a single game. David Freitas was originally tabbed to be the starting catcher for the Rainiers on their Opening Night.
Instead, he was added to the Mariners active roster and has already logged two MLB starts. This decision came after Zunino was placed on the DL with an oblique strain. How long Freitas will remain on the big club is yet to be seen. However, Ben Gamel suffered a similar injury in spring training and will wind up missing between four and six weeks, so that could be a fair time line.
Injury Update on Gamel: As was reported by Greg Johns, Mariners skipper Scott Servais is optimistic that Gamel will begin the season with the Rainiers when they open the season on Thursday night.
On Tuesday, Cruz was placed on the DL after he suffered a sprained ankle resulting from a slip off the bottom step of the Safeco Field home dugout during Saturday’s loss to the Cleveland Indians. Taylor Motter, originally assigned to Tacoma and slated to be a participant in the Rainiers Opening night, was recalled to replace Cruz on the Mariners 25-man roster.
Needless to say, the Rainiers depth chart presented on Monday already looks different from expected leading up to Thursday’s first pitch. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at who will be suiting up at Cheney Stadium tomorrow.
CATCHER: Tuffy Gosewisch, Garrett Kennedy
I wrote about the organization’s depth at catcher last week. With Freitas now in the bigs, based on my article the Rainiers would have been left with Tuffy Gosewisch, Joe Odom and Tyler Baker as the rostered catchers. Instead, the Mariners made a trade on March 29 that brought 25-year-old Garrett Kennedy over from the LA Dodgers. Now, neither Odom nor Baker are with the Rainiers and instead Tacoma will be running with Gosewisch and Kennedy.
FIRST BASE: Matt Hague
Many of you likely assumed you’d see Daniel Vogelbach’s name on this list. Vogey had other plans. A monster spring forced the hand of the Mariners and after beating out Rule 5 player, Mike Ford for the backup role, Vogelbach is in Seattle. With Healy back from injury and Cruz at DH, the move was somewhat of a surprise. At bats were looking to be far and few between. However, with Cruz out for at least 10 games (retroactive to April 1), Vogey looks to get some time at DH once they leave San Francisco. As for the Rainiers, they look to Matt Hague who stands as the only1B on the Rainiers roster..
SECOND BASE: Gordon Beckham
As a non-roster invitee, Beckham went into spring training hoping to play his way onto the Mariners 25-man roster. Instead he found himself with a minor league deal to man second base for the Rainiers. Last season Beckham played 83 games as a member of the Rainiers and slashed .262/.313/.393/.706 with 9 HR and 45 RBI. Barring any unforeseen injuries to Segura, Cano, Romine, or Motter that games played number will increase. Main reason being, it would require a 40-man roster move for Beckham to get the call to the big club.
SHORT STOP: Zach Vincej
Another non-roster invitee to spring training, Vincej will be playing the season on a minor league deal. Similar to Beckham, not being on the 40-man roster will make it difficult for Vincej to break into the majors this year. Injuries could pave a way, but I’d expect to see this 26-year-old in Tacoma most, if not all of the 2018 season.
THIRD BASE: Danny Muno
Last March Muno was released by the Tigers Triple-A affiliate, Toledo Mud Hens. In May he was signed by the Mariners and assigned to the Rainiers. In his 90 games with the Rainiers Muno slashed .273/.387/.430/.817. Danny has experience at second base as well. With Gordon having played some third base in his day, we could see the two switch positions from time to time. But for now, expect Muno to man the hot corner.
OUTFIELD: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Cameron Perkins, Ian Miller, John Andreoli
Lead by top Mariners top 20 prospect Ian Miller, this outfield could be the most exciting position group in Tacoma. The Opening Day contingent doesn’t jump off the page. Yet, looking into the future you can’t help but get excited for a potential outfield of Miller, Perkins and Braden Bishop. Bishop won’t be there on April 5, but come June 5 he may have earned his way. Until then, Nieuwenhuis, Perkins, and Andreoli – all with other organizations last season – will be the dudes.
STARTING ROTATION: Ariel Miranda, Rob Whalen, Max Povse, Christian Bergman
Miranda will likely be the Ace of the Triple-A ball club. Going into spring he was a bit of a long shot to earn the No. 5 starting spot in the Mariners rotation. In the end though, Scott Servais decided to go with a 4-man rotation while he awaits the return of Erasmo Ramirez. Rob Whalen opened a lot of eyes this spring with 21 strike outs in 15 innings pitched. It wasn’t a flawless March as he did give up 10 ER, 19 H, 7 BB, and 2 HBP. But at 24 years of age, Whalen should improve on last year’s numbers in Tacoma (10 starts, 0-7 record, 6.58 ERA, 1.519 WHIP, 43 K, 20 BB).
Povse will continue his transformation into a starter and Christian Bergman will be the veteran arm of the starting rotation. There is a lot to like in the starting four and between Miranda, Whalen and Povse. I would expect to see quite a few MLB innings out of this group throughout the season as well.
BULLPEN: Mike Morin, Dario Alvarez, Shawn Armstrong, Chasen Bradford, Ryan Cook, Erik Goeddel, Ashton Goudeau, Pat Light, Josh Smith
A fresh look out in the ‘pen this year with a lot of new faces. Morin, Alvarez, Bradford, Goeddel, Goudeau, and Smith are all going into their first season in the Mariners organization. Armstrong, Cook, and Light are the only returnees. There is also a ton of experience in this group as every one of these arms in the bullpen have MLB experience except for Goudeau.
As is the case with most minor league teams, there will be many players to come and go throughout the season. Looking at the roster as it sits today though, the Rainiers look to be a solid mix of solidified veterans and eager youngsters.
Next: Kyle Seager is Good: A Mariners Fan's Yearly Reminder
It should be a fun group to follow. I’m sure at least a few of these guys will be getting an opportunity with the big club at some point this year. So, stay in the know and come on back when we check in on the future of the Mariners down on the farm.