Monday, April 20, 2009

*Ahem* Uh, is this thing on?

Apparently, I can still post here!
I'll post this quick, before Paul notices....

The Rainiers season (and their current homestand) began a while ago, and STILL you lack a decent preview. I apologize, morsel readers.

In my defense, I was going to use Chris Jakubauskas as the focal point of it, but he went and got himself a job in the M's starting rotation. To think it was only a month ago or so that I was arguing with Churchill that he deserved a spot on the team.... TACOMA's team. I've never seen perception of a player's value change so quickly. Congrats, Chris - we at MM have some experience in championing indie-league vets, so you're in good company.

Anyway, the Rainiers really should have a good team this year. While they're a bit light in actual prospects compared to years past, that should change fairly soon. They're also extremely deep on offense - something they haven't had in quite some time.
At 1B, Chris Shelton and Mike Carp expected to split time, with Bryan LaHair. Carp is the actual prospect in the group, and as such has cemented his position as the starter (he's tied for the lead in games played). It also helps that he's absolutely annihilating the ball, hitting his 3rd HR yesterday against Vin Mazzaro of Sacramento (a good prospect himself).

Chris Shelton, coming off his scorching spring and disappointing assignment to Tacoma, has been the DH, with occasional starts at 1B and 3B.

C Jeff Clement may be practicing at 1B, but he certainly hasn't played there yet. He's DH'd some, but he's also still catching most games. He got off to a much-publicized slow start, but he's come alive on the recent homestand, going 5-16 with his first two XBH's after starting 1-19.

At 2B the Rainiers are using a combination of Chris Burke and Callix Crabbe.
Crabbe is also playing quite a bit of SS, splitting time with Chris Woodward.
Here's Crabbe:

And here's Woodward:

Matt Tuiasosopo, Mike Morse, and Chris Shelton have seen time at 3b. Paul got some great shots of Tui/Shelton on opening day, which you can see in the comments here....

The OF is still a bit unsettled, as slugging corner OF Mike Wilson (fresh from his record-setting spring training) is currently on the DL. Prentice Redman is back for another year, and he's joined by Freddy Guzman, another defensive-minded OF who was hurt early on in spring training this year. Mike Morse and Bryan LaHair hold down the other corner OF spot, at least until Mike Saunders recovers from shoulder surgery. Chris Burke has also played some CF, and indie-leaguer and ex-Brewers farmhand Steve Moss is on hand as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement in CF.

The rotation so far has featured Jason Vargas, Chris Seddon, Garrett Olson, Andrew Baldwin and Gaby Hernandez. No one's really putting up eye-popping K:BB ratios or anything - as should be expected from a group whose pure stuff isn't awe-inspiring. Still, the group is very solid and it's one reason Tacoma's off to such a fast start.
Vargas pitched 5 2/3IP of 1 hit, 0 run ball yesterday - despite getting 2Ks and walking 4. Just like in Seattle, a good defense really, really matters. Callix Crabbe made some amazing plays on the IF, and Vargas got a number of lazy fly balls. Overall, it's not a surefire recipe for success, but he's been quite solid. The lefty's FB is around 88MPH, and he used a change-up at around 79 MPH fairly often. He threw one big looping curve at 73.

Chris Seddon is another lefty throwing 87-88, who misses a few more bats with a slider and change.

Gaby Hernandez was once a prized prospect in the Mets organization - a righty with a power arsenal and the results to match. Then, in 2007, he started missing fewer bats and his progress stalled a bit. He was traded to the Marlins for a spell, then came to the M's in the Arthur Rhodes deal. He's got a sterling K:BB ratio, but his stuff seems a bit more pedestrian, and that's led a lot of hits (and 2HR in 10+ innings). On the plus side, some of the hits allowed are a result of the fact that he's getting more grounders now than ever before. He's young enough that he could really put a disappointing AFL/Spring/2008 behind him and get back on the map again with a good showing in 2009.
Andy Baldwin was the workhorse of the team in 2008, and he's off to a flying start in 2009. He uses a 90-or-so FB and a decent curve to keep hitters off balance. While he doesn't generate a lot of Ks or swinging strikes, he pounds the zone - he walked less than 6% of batters last year.
Olson was supposed to be the jewel of the rotation; he was a heralded prospect in the Baltimore organization and pitched most of the year for the birds last year. Unfortunately, he's gotten shelled in MLB in 2007 and 2008, and his K-sw% and swinging strikes have been falling since 2006. His tRA so far in 2009 is even worse than his MLB tRA last year, thanks largely to 8 BBs in only 8 IP (to 3 Ks). Olson, another lefty, uses an 87-88 MPH FB and a big breaking curve at 79-80. He's also got a change-up. Like Hernandez, Olson needs a big year to show that his MLB results were an aberration, and not the result of an injury or AAAA stuff. He'll start tonight in the series finale against Sacramento.

The Rainiers sit at 8-3, the top mark in the PCL. They lead Colorado Springs and Salt Lake by a half-game in the Pacific North division. The Bees come to town starting tomorrow evening for a four-game set.


At 4/25/2009 9:46 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Did it seriously take me nearly a week to see this? Man, I HAVE been busy, haven't I...

I wouldn't dare revoke your rights, Marc! Thanks for changing the life-support batteries on the blog :-)

Shelton really needs to step it up a notch. He's really about to lose his playing time with Tui and Morse needing time at third, and with Saunders being close to returning to the outfield...


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