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Written by Jay Yencich | 18 March 2010

Bodies are dropping left and right, I swear. I’m beside myself. I don’t know what to do anymore.

The Geoff Baker blog today reports that OF Michael Saunders and RHPs Mike Koplove and Levale Speigner have all been moved out of the big camp. Additionally, yesterday RHP Yusmeiro Petit was released and this morning the M’s sent RHP Miguel Celestino to the Red Sox to complete the Kotchman trade. The M’s also released RHPs Jeff Breedlove, Tyler Brundridge, and Terry Engles according to the BA transaction register, while Gerardo Esparza was also released by the Pirates after they picked him up in the minor league Rule 5. Busy busy busy.

Saunders, 23, stopped having much of a shot at breaking in camp with Bradley, Langerhans, and Byrnes all running about. This seems like a shame, because he did hit .310/.378/.544 in half a season in Tacoma last year and then .353/.421/.529 in twenty games in Venezuela in the winter. And yet for some reason I seem to be one of his few remaining backers? Anyway, it was one of the more easy to improve positions after third, where we probably were not going to stick Tui for a full season if we could help it (sorry Tui bakers). Baker notes that the Doc Elliott thinks that Saunders may have the wrong type of strength at the moment, or may be built for the wrong type of strength, it’s hard to tell, but keeping him in Tacoma would be one easy way of keeping tabs on him while he improves on areas like that and hitting left-handers.

Koplove, 33, has a terribly unflattering Gameday photo from his tenure with the Phillies. He also hasn’t pitched more than ten innings in the majors since 2005, while he was still kicking around in the D’Backs org. There’s enough of a sampling there to suggest that he’s able to get ML-caliber hitters out at a passable rate, but his last two seasons in the majors were not as statistically pleasing as the previous two, so I wonder now if he was perhaps “figured out”. I would kind of hope that rather than talk about Koplove maybe getting some time, we end up with Fields figuring things out, but that’s hoping a bit much at the moment.

Speigner, 29, got a lot of attention hereabouts because he ran a 1.10 ERA in Puerto Rico over the winter. He also had something like 17 strikeouts in 32.2 innings, which is not nearly as cool. It highlights a problem Speigner has had since reaching the high minors. His Ks have dropped off from around eight or nine to six, if that, and that doesn’t bode well for future success in his case. We’ll likely see him in a Rainiers uniform for the majority of the season.

Petit, 25, was previously by common acclaim one of the top prospects in baseball. That was about four years ago. Petit racked up incredible K numbers in the minor leagues in part because his deception was so very good, his actual stuff being little to write about, but deception can only compensate for so much and his appearances as a #5 starter have been rather pedestrian. Petit wasn’t making this club. Not with about four other guys fighting him for the fifth spot, all of whom may be pushed out anyway when Bedard comes back. To release him now, early on in camp, was a courtesy so that he could try to find an opening elsewhere.

Celestino, 20, was something of an also-ran in the DSL arms race for a number of years. His first year was weak and he rebounded by displaying much-improved command in his second season, going from a 0.83 K/BB to a 3.13. His first year in Arizona was unexceptional, as he finally started giving up hits and wasn’t showing the same level of command, falling to about halfway between those two marks from earlier. With DSL pitchers it can often be difficult to tell what they’re going to do until they get here and do it, case in point being Pineda, but I would say that Celestino probably did not have similar potential.

Breedlove, 22, is from Muskogee, OK, according to his B-R page. He had nearly nine Ks and less than one walk per nine innings for Peoria last season, and as a college arm, that much could have roughly been expected of him. Breedlove, I would use to illustrate the idea that just because an older player busts up a weak league doesn’t mean that he’s highly thought of or that the organization is going to keep pushing him. There could be other issues involved, he could be injured, he could have off-field stuff, he could have asked for his release, but the caution still applies whatever the circumstances.

Brundridge, 23, is also the only player with his last name in the B-R database. He is also not to be confused with former Rainiers manager Dave Brundage, to whom he is no relation. I’m filling this out because Brundridge’s are truly not worth revisiting.

Engles, 24, is also not to be confused with Bob Engle. Just to make sure everyone is clear on that. I don’t have much to contribute on him either, but mostly because he was only with the organization for a few months after being grabbed in the minor league Rule 5 from the Nationals. I barely know anything about him, but I imagine he’ll latch on somewhere. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 16 March 2010

One of the downsides to filling out one of these posts late is that I always know that there’s this existential thing going on in the background where the universe will spite me the next day by making additional moves. Do I wait? Do I have one post instead of two? I don’t know.

The M’s cut six more today, sending out OF Ezequiel Carrera to Tacoma and optioning 2B Dustin Ackley, RHPs Danny Cortes, Ricky Orta, and Anthony Varvaro, and LHP Edward Paredes to West Tenn. We are now down to 45 in camp, with 32 on roster and 13 off it. If you’ve noticed something strikingly different about today’s cuts, you aren’t alone.

Carrera, 22, did nothing to hurt himself by hitting .364/.467/.455 in his eleven at-bats. If anything, it supports the fact that he led the Southern League and came in third for the entire minor leagues in on-base percentage for a reason. The Tacoma outfield suddenly gets a lot more interesting merely because he’s around. There are reasons why you’re not going to see him on prospect lists, such as his lack of power and the fact that he plays defense on a good but not elite level, but a good ’10 season could get him on a few lists, with or without the power.

Ackley, 22, actually does have a Baseball-Reference page despite there being nothing on it yet. The big thing for him in camp was that everyone was praising of his abilities to adjust and get better day-by-day and the second base position, which was entirely new to him. They would probably have been nice either way, but I’m willing to take the fact that we’re not enduring the platitudes of “oh, it just takes time, like it would for anyone else” to be something of a good sign. As the hitting went, we did get the trope of “he put the ball in play”, which is a nice way of saying we gave him 19 at-bats and he hit .158/.227/.263, but only struck out twice (and walked the same number of times). Perhaps we were secretly harboring some flighty hope about him coming to the major leagues without ever logging any official time in the minors, but alas it was not to be.

Cortes, recently 23, will get his third season starting in double-A, which is not good, let’s say. Also not good was the allowing four runs on five hits, including a home run in an inning and a third. What is good is the radar gun readings for him, which had him hitting 96 a couple of times, and all the other factors going in on him. Cortes has made a startling amount of progress in terms of his offerings since turning pro and seems at times to be thisclose to putting things together. There is, at the moment, no compelling reason to say this will be the one year he does it and he’s going to be gangbusters from here on out, when he’s been languishing so far, but I’m hopeful for something, and perhaps irrationally so.

Orta, 25, had eight strikeouts and no walks in Venezuela this winter over eight innings. He also gave up two runs on seven hits, with a home run mixed in. I don’t know that he’s as good as he seemed to be in West Tenn last year because he hardly had any hits drop in against him. Nor would I think that his spring training line of two runs in an inning and two-thirds on five hits, a hit batter, two walks, and a K would be representative. He’s another source of intrigue at this point.

Varvaro, 25, is another fellow to watch this season because he had major command issues all of his career and then suddenly got to Arizona for the Fall League and didn’t. His walk rate his first two seasons in the minors was four per nine, not good for any pitcher, and it was six his first year in High Desert before they converted him to relief last year and it jumped to seven. This is a bad trend. But then in Arizona it suddenly dropped to two per nine, albeit in 13.1 innings and suddenly I’m quite interested. More spaghetti for our bullpen consumption in the event that it’s possible that he can sustain it. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 05 March 2010

I’ve been sitting on this for a few days because I wasn’t sure if it would develop any more, but in the interest of talking up some other international signings possibly in the works, it’s come to my attention that the Mariners are one of eight teams currently looking at Taiwanese right-hander Min-tzu Chen.

Chen, who turned twenty in December, is currently playing for Taiwan PE University. What makes him a bit different from other prospects you typically see coming out of the area is that Chen has only been pitching for about three months now. In the past, he was an outfielder, with speed as his best tool by a wide margin. As is typically the case, that didn’t garner a lot of interest from other teams, and tryout in Los Angeles in late 2008 yielded nothing. Switching to the mound seems to have been a bit of a boon for him, and he’s presently throwing in the low 90s, with an accompanying change, curve, and slider. These secondary offerings, however, are just as raw as his mechanics, which reflect a guy who only recently started throwing from the mound. I’ve been trying to track down any available videos of him, but have had no luck finding any so far, even when I’ve been searching using Chinese characters.

The M’s sent their Pac Rim guy, Pat Kelly (previously the head Australia scout), to go watch him in a tryout. Right now, the M’s aren’t exactly the favorites to pick him up. The Royals sent their international scouting director over to Taiwan to check him out, and the Padres are not far behind in their own pursuits. Both have already made contract offers in the $150-200k range, a testament to his arm strength, but he’s probably not going a whole lot more than that. More polished pitchers tend to get something in the half million range, and I don’t see Chen getting that kind of offer right now.

Hat tip to the Taiwan Baseball blog for nearly all the info you find above. TTT does good work over there.

No further updates on dePaula as of yet. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 27 February 2010

Aside from Chad Cordero, whom we know from last season, the M’s don’t really have anyone fitting the spring training profile of the guy trying to make a comeback after a long layoff. Or rather, they didn’t, until yesterday. Meet Tom Wilhelmsen. He’s a right-hander and (surprise!) a former Brewer from Zduriencik’s time as the Director of Scouting. Wilhelmsen is a bit different though. For one, he’s twenty-six, and for another, he only had one season of pro ball under his belt.

To recap the points that Baker went over, Wilhelmsen was drafted in the 7th round of 2002. He signed too late to really make an impact that season, so he had to wait until the next season, when he got a few appearances in the AZL and then was promoted directly to Beloit, where he ran a pretty ERA, though his components were not totally amazing, 6.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 8 H/9. Still, it was enough to get some people intrigued. By the end of the season, BA had ranked him as the number nine prospect in the league, talking up his heater, which was in the 92-4 range and touching the upper 90s, and his secondary offerings, which were unusually polished for a kid his age. He was still learning how to use them, which led to some lackluster results, but he seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. The only concerns were that his makeup was a bit off.

About that... He ended up being suspended by the Brewers twice for substance abuse violations. The nature of these I don’t really care to look into, as I’m willing to let it slide in the hopes that he’s put it behind him, but it was nonetheless a serious issue. He pitched with the Tucson Toros in the Golden League last season, garnering enough interest from his original club to re-sign him, but that was late in the season and he was released without making an appearance. Now he’s with the M’s, hoping to latch on with a full-season club when the camp breaks a little over a month from now.

A little human interest story for your spring training consumption. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 24 February 2010

January is still international prospecting season, to some extent. And with that, via various Twitter updates from prolific Tweeter Jorge Arangure, we know that the Mariners are hot in pursuit of one Dominican RHP Rafael DePaula. As is commonly the case in these kinds of situations, should the Mariners sign him, multiple Yankees fans scattered across the eastern seaboard will begin to open veins. Red Sox fans may also join in, but in an embarrassing, obnoxious little brother sort of way.

 

De Paula’s case is an interesting one, one that indicates that scouting in the Dominican is far from perfect. While it seemed for a while that we were out of the era in which falsifying documents was common practice, a few fellows still get nabbed every year and de Paula was one of them, reporting his birthdate to be April 1, 1992, though this was later proven to be false. The loss of him was considered a serious blow to the strength of the crop, as he was expected to command seven figures.

 

Coming into the opening of last year’s period, he was regarded as one of the top pitchers available, a tall (6’3) projectable right-hander who was already throwing in the low-90s while touching the midrange. On top of that, he featured both a curve and a slider which got good reviews, along with a good change-up. But what impressed people the most about him was his mechanics, which were considered to be extremely polished for a kid (?) his age (?), which in turn allowed him to command his offerings quite well.  What I've seen of his mechanics would confirm the fact that they are indeed pretty and he doesn't seem to do anything with his elbow that would warrant a whole lot of flashing red lights.  It also appears that he repeats his release point fairly well.

 

Now he’s back on the market, hiring a new agent now that his suspension has passed, and the Mariners are in on the action along with the usual suspects. On top of that, he seems to be touching 97 now, which shows that he was still working at it during his off year. If the Mariners do in fact sign him, it would certainly be a boon to the system, which competes rather poorly with the Rangers at this point. A high pricetag is certainly no guarantee of success, but the Mariners seem to be quite enthusiastic in the attention they are giving him and, on matters of Latin American scouting, I’m happy to defer to Bob Engle.

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Written by Jay Yencich | 22 February 2010

This isn’t totally a response to the storm John Sickels unleashed, nor is it a response to the also-not-a-response Jeff posted last week. It’s its own thing that I’ve been laboring over for about a week now, and I’m still not sure I have a point.

 

My position in the M’s blogosphere has always been one that felt slightly unusual, in that I’ve never specialized in a “hard science”. The USSM crew has Derek, who is a programmer, and Dave, who works in economics. Over at Lookout Landing, I know Jeff, Matthew, and Graham have all done work in the sciences or math[s], or frequently both. I’m the liberal arts guy. I study creative writing (this is not a sample) and English/Comparative Literature. Still, I feel obligated to point out now and then, out of whatever motivation, that my line of work is not lacking its own depth despite being a little more touchy-feely in the subject matter.

 

Here’s an example. I’m reading The Divine Comedy for a class right now. Each Canto is about four or five pages long. The pages are only thirty-five lines long or so, on average. After I transfer the end notes to the actual text, about twenty-five minutes have passed (longer with something denser like Purgatorio XXX). Reading and making my own commentary will take about ten to fifteen minutes on top of that. I am spending ten or more minutes on each page, and am no doubt capable of doing more. And we only read a third of the whole Comedy. There’s a class taught here that is a yearlong venture that goes over two Cantos per session and the instructor still wishes she has more time for Paradiso by the end.

 

Is it worthwhile? As anything else, that depends on each individual. I think it’s worthwhile, as I’m reading St. Augustine, to note that when he refers to “the swarm of unpurified notions flying about there”, he’s referencing a scene early on in The Aeneid where the Trojan refugees encounter a pack of harpies. What that signals to a reader familiar with these texts is not insignificant. That the death of Pallas and Aeneas’ response to it later in The Aeneid nods to both the earlier Patroklos/Achilles dichotomy and Emperor Augustus’ relationship to his nephew Marcellus is deserving of further exploration. When Achilles, raging about the battlefield in front of Ilium, goes through spear-fodder that happens to share names with major figures in Trojan history, it is hardly coincidental. And that’s just classical literature. I can, and have, spoken for hours about Wilfred Owen’s manipulation of rhyme and classical tropes, the psychology operating behind Jean Toomer’s vignettes, or Rilke’s subtle Buddhist influences, or how time and memory are at odds with one another in W.G. Sebald’s work. I’ve taught discussion sections about poetic metrics basically on my own.

 

Some physical science major just had their eyes glaze over reading that, I’m certain. That’s okay too, as I can get the same way in their field. This is not entirely representative of the whole, in the same way I wouldn’t berate science as a whole for a few chumps coming up with a study in which academics determine what emotion Mona Lisa is feeling as she smiles, and spending a few mill in the process. I can speak from my own background, and while I’ve been here, I’ve heard of prized students writing master’s theses on Kant’s apostrophe usage or the citation styles of obscure medieval theologians. Thus, when Sickels complains about having to study the weaving in the Netherlands in the 19th century as part of his work in a history PhD, I can sympathize. I have little interest in being the n-th person to try to go toe-to-toe with the Old Bard and firmly believe that after a certain point, academic pursuits risk turning into insular, self-congratulatory wankery, the likes of which nobody listens, and nobody should. It would be a waste of attention, to most of us at least, but someone is always out there to be interested in it.

 

Have we reached the point where baseball has been overscrutinized in such a way? I can see why some might think so because of the sheer number of research projects going on, attempting to give a tangible meaning and value to what we either infer or have managed to overlook to this point. It can be numbing at times. Jeff talked about clicking around and having hours go by and ultimately realizing that he still isn’t ready to shake the hands of some of these folks. And he has a far stronger scientific than I can boast, having not done calculations in anything more than fits since graduating from high school.

 

But this is the reality of our situation. The more intimately you become aware of your field, the more you realize how little you actually know about it. Or, to go back to the old trope, the wisest among us realize how limited our knowledge truly is. I can’t walk through stacks on campus without feeling like I’m going to suffocate. To be surrounded by thousands of years of human knowledge, parsed and reassembled, is daunting. To realize how quickly it accumulates is even more humbling.

 

Sickels, who I would like to point out is trying to do all the work BA does in prospecting as a one-man operation, is in a fairly unique position, and so am I. We can see the tides rising from a vantage point that’s unlikely to hear waves any time soon. We can opt out, if we so choose, because Pitch F/X is not coming to Pulaski or Kannapolis any time soon. We stick to methods or storylines that are familiar to us and go about our work in that manner, though the security of this feels as though it is continually diminishing.

 

However, to claim that we would somehow sap the life out of something by scrutinizing it a bit more, I think is a false positive. That I know Ryan Langerhans to be a middling player does not take the joy out of his walk-off home runs last season. I can hold those two thoughts in my head without my life becoming a shambles. My abrupt realization Wednesday afternoon that the German language could sound so very sweet when spoken by the very attractive brunette sitting across from me in the cafeteria was not diminished by the pervasive existential notion that we’re all just a bunch of meat robots stumbling about hoping to yield replacements before we die. Or, going back to my earlier example, you can read The Divine Comedy and appreciate it for its dense historical, political, and cultural framework, or you can enjoy it for its lyricism and imagination without even knowing what terza rima is. One does not exclude the other.

 

The issue at its core is one of perception. Some of those who are on the fringe of the analytical movement in baseball believe that by infringing on how we have understood the game in the past, we are also beginning to eat away at what allowed us to appreciate it. Instead of “enjoying a game”, we’re exhausting our hours in analysis only to get better approximations to things we hopefully had an some intuitive grasp on in the first place.

 

My answer to this is the same as you’ll find elsewhere from people I respect. The best way to go about looking at it is from as many perspectives as possible. By using more testing methods and either confirming a hypothesis to be true or denying with your results, you eventually come to a better understanding of the situation. Additionally, as these methods are proven to be acceptably accurate, they get integrated into the whole as part of the natural course of things, meaning the average, non-math genius doesn’t have to labor for hours to arrive at a conclusion they can back. I used to spend a day or so every off-season calculating Runs Created and RC/27 for minor leaguers on a TI-83 calculator. Now, you can get wOBA daily for every full-season minor leaguer, because a few guys were able to export the box score data to their databases and worked the programming magic from there. In both cases, you can accept the fact that the larger numbers in that case are better without knowing all the weights and processes involved in bringing those about.

 

It’s true that you can end up at some relative dead ends in analysis if you go about it the wrong way. We’ve all seen it happen. But the failures, or shortcomings, of a few analysts certainly shouldn’t make us abandon the venture entirely. I think it’s exciting, personally, that we’ve gone from valuing on-base percentage and slugging in the early part of the decade while punting glovework to seeing defense enter another renaissance as something we can really benefit from. What ends up being focused on or undervalued may be different at one time or another, but the overall trend is positive.

 

Suffice to say, I’m for it. I like to be able to figure things out to the point where what I’m doing is a bit more than just casting whatever bones I find into the fire and reading patterns where they split, which can be what predicting players based off of low minors stats is like. I was one of the first few to be going after Venezuelan stats, back in an era when you couldn’t really get Arizona League box scores from one week to the next. Back in the day, players wouldn’t even know they were drafted unless they were called by the teams themselves. Now we have about ten different outlets that can get you the full list of the ~1500 or so players picked each year. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but then again, I don’t feel myself to be competing with the giants of sabremetrics, any more than they seem to be intimidated by the efforts of someone in my position trying to figure out what does or doesn’t make a better minor league player. We’re both trying to get to a better understanding with the tools we have available to us.

 

If you’re going to build up your reputation on a certain kind of analysis in this field, you’re inevitably going to have to be able to put new statistics to use. This does not, however, destroy or diminish the sheer number of factors going into everything we see happening. You can choose instead to go at it from the traditional coaching perspective, getting to know the players strengths and weaknesses from watching how they approach their at-bats or fielding or by getting to know them as a person and what’s going on in their lives from one season to the next. Or you could go further in that direction and try to examine players from their relative backgrounds and the resources available to them. Or you could talk up the increasing parity of international and domestic players now that they have entertainer’s, and not seasonal worker’s visas, and figure out how much was lost by the delays in getting that in place. Or you could bring up the two Indian pitchers now with the Pirates, and what that will mean for the game in their homeland. Or you could debate the ethical implications in baseball’s development in Cambodia.

 

Or you could just kick back, pop open a cold one and work from there. It just depends on what your interests are, but it would be foolish to argue over which one of us is having a better time doing it.

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Written by Jay Yencich | 12 February 2010

Edit: You guys, I just posted about which pitchers are out of options over at USS Mariner!

 

In light of this morning’s new that the Mariners have brought back their designated hugger, it seems appropriate to look over the list of NRIs, which runs like this.

Non-Roster Invitees

Pitchers B/T Ht Wt DOB

37 Jesus Colome R/R 6-2 240 12/23/77

33 Chad Cordero R/R 6-0 225 03/18/82

76 Josh Fields R/R 6-0 185 08/19/85

65 Nick Hill L/L 6-0 190 01/30/85

39 Mike Koplove R/R 6-0 160 08/30/76

66 David Pauley R/R 6-2 210 06/17/83

52 Yusmeiro Petit R/R 6-1 255 11/22/84

71 Mauricio Robles L/L 5-10 160 03/05/89

63 Chris Seddon L/L 6-3 220 10/13/83

64 Steven Shell R/R 6-4 225 03/10/83

30 Levale Speigner R/R 5-11 170 09/24/80

Catchers B/T Ht Wt DOB

41 Eliezer Alfonzo R/R 5-11 220 02/07/79

26 Josh Bard S/R 6-3 225 03/30/78

72 Steven Baron R/R 6-0 195 12/07/90

74 Luis Oliveros R/R 6-1 205 06/18/83

48 Guillermo Quiroz R/R 6-1 215 11/29/81

Infielders B/T Ht Wt DOB

59 Tommy Everidge R/R 6-0 240 04/20/83

60 Brad Nelson L/R 6-2 265 12/23/82

16 Josh Wilson R/R 6-0 175 03/26/81

6 Chris Woodward R/R 6-0 190 06/27/76

Outfielders B/T Ht Wt DOB

17 Corey Patterson L/R 5-10 175 08/13/79

61 Mike Wilson R/R 6-2 245 06/29/83

 

Of course, you can add Sweendog to that list too now. So what of this? In sheer numbers, it’s a little bit short on prospects relative to what you get most years, but there are also a fair number of interesting arms that are already on the 40-man due to this winter’s Rule 5 protections.

 

So what have we here? Of the pitchers, I would be most excited about Robles, recognizing full well that he will be among the first cuts in camps, he’ll hopefully get into a game before he does get reassigned, providing us a video glimpse and potential perspectives on where he’s at now. There are other interesting arms in there as well, headlined by Fields, who probably won’t break in this spring, but has a chance should the M’s need a setup type down the road, and Hill, who will probably miss out on being the lefty in the ‘pen only to get him starting in Tacoma. Colome is also kind of interesting as a power arm with command issues, but remember that he gave up a home run to Ronny Cedeno last year. Ronny Cedeno. The others are fringe setup men or fifth starters/swingmen of varying abilities. Shell could surprise among that group as he’s working his way back, and Petit is a major league pitcher and all, but mostly these guys will be filling out the Tacoma rotation.

 

The catching crew is, as usual, is numerous by virtue of there being so many pitchers around. So you have the usual suspects of Mariner-for-life Luis Oliveros and two-time Mariner-approaching-pension Guillermo Quiroz. Most interesting may be Steve Baron, whom you could argue probably negotiated the NRI into his contract, but then again the alternative probably would have been someone like Travis Scott or Blake Ochoa, and Baron looks really nice behind the plate. Alfonzo and Bard will be the vets fighting to push Moore back to Tacoma. I’d put better odds on Bard, and wouldn’t put it past the M’s to give him a little more time in Tacoma. It would be his first option year anyway, so it doesn’t matter a whole lot.

 

The infielder crop is also a bit thin. Where we might’ve been looking at Everidge/Nelson as our two-headed monster at first (I’d say Orthrus for lack of a third member of the group, but no one would get it), we’re now looking at Kotchman/Garko, which is probably better. The two should be fun in Tacoma though. There’s also the lesser Wilson as a backup infielder in case of emergency and Chris Woodward, who is probably just biding time until he inevitably gets picked up by the Red Sox as all our veteran quad-A infielders inevitably do.

 

The outfield crop is also small, by virtue of the fact that we have Byrnes/Bradley/Gutierrez/Ichiro/Saunders/Langerhans/Halman/Carrera all kicking around on the 40-man. The M’s are going to be eager enough to see what they have on that front that any more outfielders would be a mess, as they wouldn’t get playing time and would only steal it from more likely contributors if they did. Wilson, who I now think of sort of as a lesser, right-handed Joe Dunigan, had a messy year last season in which he only made it into 66 games and OPSed .664. Patterson is the ML vet around who is there if other backup CF options fail to pan out and they need speed or something. Both those things seem somewhat unlikely.

 

That’s a hardly exhaustive rundown of what there is available to look at. Ordinarily I might be mildly disappointed at the lack of prospects in the group, but I think that on the whole the team is likely to provide so much to talk about that no one will find this to be lacking. It’s startling because this is one of the first years in a while, perhaps as long as I’ve been working this gig, that I felt like I could say that.

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Written by Jay Yencich | 11 February 2010

One of my favorite activities in preparation for pitchers and catchers reporting? Browsing the media guide for new and heretofore unrecognized names of international players, many of which will hopefully be silly. Past gems have included such top prospects as Westlonder Marcelino and Jetsy Extrano, both of whom aspire to be, perhaps if everything breaks right for them, the next Arquimedez Pozo.

 

On that note, the media guide is now available, props to InsideThePark vet Jason Churchill on making it available, and so I’ve gotten into the mid-February spirit by going through the time-honored ritual. This will not include the group I reported earlier at USSMariner, so we’re only going over the new guys, who are above average, by and large, please welcome…

 

LHP Leonel Cortorreal, a 6’5 Dominican lefty signed more than a year ago(?) who combines the first name of a door-to-door salesman or bumbling attorney with a last name that sounds like either something that happens in the upper atmosphere or a surgical maneuver involving a corkscrew.

C Ricardo Gonzalez, a Venezuelan with the blandest name of the season.

RHP Yeuri Gonzalez, who sounds slightly more exotic via the bastardization of Russian.

IF Jose Kalbakgi, a big kid who played with the parallel league squad in the offseason and whose last name sounds like an eastern European food dish or the sound you make when you get punched in the gut hard enough to vomit.

LHP Wander Marte, a southpaw from Boca Chica who I can only hope walks everyone.

OF Raysheron Michel, from Curacao!, and Engle signing whose first name I will really struggle to spell (it took me a few tries to stop typing Rayershon).

RHP Osmer Morales, who has a first name (surprisingly!) rooted in Anglo-Saxon tradition but no longer common in English speaking cultures (I have met an Osmer, and he was from Brazil).

RHP Jochi Ogando, another 6’5 Dominican pitcher, whose name will bring a smile no matter how you pronounce it.

C-OF Carlos Posso, a Colombian!, and one of the rare multi-position listings.

RHP Kevin Quintanilla, a Salvadoran whose signing was reported while I was on a plane or something.

And RHP Dylan Unsworth, whose nickname is “Sharkie”, and whom I will refer to as Sharkie as often as possible.

 

Among other interesting notes within the system were that Kalian Sams was out with a hamate injury, Nolan Gallagher finally had Tommy John, Joe White is on the restricted list (rarely a good sign), and Yubing Jia and Wei Wang, the two Chinese prospects signed forever ago, are still in system and still have not yet played. I’m beginning to lose faith that they’ll ever show, but if they do, and show well, well at least they’d have a fourth option year?

 

It’s worthwhile now to chat a bit about some of these mystery [young] men emerging from the mob to join the system. I’ll start out with Unsworth and work back. Yes, his nickname really is Sharkie. He’s a right-hander, seventeen, from South Africa, been in various U-18 and U-16 tourneys, and was at the European Academy this past season. He was also on the WBC tournament for the national team last year. I haven’t managed to find any video of him, so if anyone had any insights as to what he throws from that, let me know.

 

The Lookout Landing crew covered Quintanilla, so I’ll move on to Posso, who was a big deal in his native Colombia. Teams were following him for a number of years before he signed and the Mariners were right there with them. Curtis Wallace made the signing, as he has with basically every Colombian signing for a while now. There are other details thrown out there too, like he can hit for decent power, is active behind the plate, and runs well. I’d be inclined to think they’d keep him on catcher until they have to move him, but if he has wheels as opposed to being a smart runner, they may try him elsewhere.

 

Ogando was expected to get the number twelve bonus as projected by Baseball America coming into this year’s signing period. He’s a big kid who throws hard, and those are his strong suits. Everything else is a work in progress, and I mean everything. You can safely say he’s a big deal, but by standards of Dominican prospects only, which means there’s a good chance of him never doing anything special or getting physical talent into skills.

 

As for Morales, I’ve got nothing, nor do I have much on Michel aside from his playing on a few national teams, nor Marte, nor either Gonzalez, or even Cortorreal. All I have on Kalbakgi is that he hit .226/.385/.355 in 31 ABs in the parallel league in the winter, while running a less than impressive 13/4 K/BB. A sizable part of his OBP came from leaning into pitches.

 

That about covers it, but any other interesting details, or lack of details (mistakes in Unsworth’s profile), feel free to note them.

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Written by Jay Yencich | 05 February 2010

Hello and welcome to the third and perhaps more permanent iteration of my site. It’s certainly fancier, I’ll give them that. I suspect some of you have been following since my monochromatic Blogspot days, and many more since my slightly-more-polychromatic MVN days, where I was among the last to abandon ship. Now, I’m here at Bloguin, and navigating with increased caution for the fear that I might break something more valuable than I am. Also I picked up an S or something along the way. I think it will stand for Seattle.

For those of you that are just now joining us, salutations. I’m Jay Yencich. You may have heard rumors of me as being that guy who stares at stat lines from the Venezuelan Summer League trying to make sense of them. If that doesn’t make any kind of sense to you right now, don’t worry we’ll get to it. I’ve been following the Mariners minor league since 2001, when I stumbled onto San Antonio Missions broadcasts late in the season, and have been blogging about it since the beginning of 2004. That means I have tenure in the M’s blogosphere, one of the biggest sports communities I know of and also one that has had a lot of turnover in its time. I can also get away with saying crazy things for public consumption, because hey, I’ve done my time.

During the regular season, I post daily updates of the four to nine active teams, recapping the night’s box scores and generally going over other items and bits of interest. I’ll also do transactions, most large but some minor, live blog the draft, write team previews, comment on the international market, share insights from games attended or listened to, and most other things that fall roughly under that umbrella. I also post weekly wrap-ups for public consumption at Mariners uber-blog USS Mariner, as well as float about various sites making comments, not all of which are snark. In the offseason, I do some review, plan for more review that I don’t actually do until it becomes preview, and chip in weekly stat wraps of the assorted winter league goings on from areas well-known to the media like Arizona to stranger stopovers in Nicaragua and Colombia. In summary, I keep busy, even with the obscurer stuff.

Some may wonder at this point, well, why now? What’s been keeping you? Did New Year’s really go that poorly for you? Well, in reality, even though I haven’t kept a home proper for a little while now, I’ve been quite busy being a rock star or something. I contributed a top ten list, a first for me I think, to the Mariners Annual project Dave Cameron kicked off, along with a bunch of other bigshot analysts, and ended up with one of the longer pieces in the magazine. In recent days, I posted an article on what the offseason has meant for player development over at USS Mariner.  I’ve also conducted a number of interviews at Lookout Landing, where I sat down for a few questions along with Baseball America’s Conor Glassey, Mariner Central, and recently, a two-parter with the folks over at Sodo Mojo, which marked the first time I had conducted an interview via Facebook messages. Note: you can find me there, but the odds of me responding are extremely low unless I personally know you. Also I am secretly a computer that spits out nothing but numbers and subculture references. And sometimes snark.

 

What does the future hold for Mariner[s] Minors? More numbers, probably. Continued irrational excitement over silly names and the international scouting that brings them to us. The laughs, the struggle, the tears, the hate mail. I’ve not yet started Twittering like a fifteen-year-old girl, but that’s one possibility, as there’s this feature there and some kind of market for it, owing to reasons I can’t fully understand. Other projects will probably come up and I’ll participate with them as time allows (despite popular conjecture, I have a life, and this is not my primary job). In the meantime, I’m happy to have you here. Get comfortable, because by the time July rolls around, oh man… Well, you’ll see.

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