Mariner Minors
Saturday, April 03, 2004
I've cooled down a bit since the initial post on the trade, so I'll revise my stance on the trade a little:

*I don't mind Looper being gone, other pitchers probably have a better future with the club. Makes no difference to me.
*Cabrera is not useless, but the trade almost hinges on the idea that 2003 was the year when he finally "got it" and now he's going to hit doubles en masse while still being servicable at nearly every position. But the M's could have gotten a similar type of player just by bringing up Leone (who I believe could play anywhere) or Bocachica (who already has) and would have had a similar inherent risk without having to give up anything, except in Boca's case when you'd need your roster spot.
*Ketchner is where this trade really burns me. As I've made fairly evident before, I was pretty high on Ketchner. He isn't really the best pitcher we have, even for his type of pitcher. At best, he might have been a step or so below Blackley, who is now looking to be almost a left-handed Mussina, but Ketchner could end up close to the Reuters and Redmans of the baseball world. I didn't really see Ketchner as a rotation candidate. Not in our system, though he'll probably crack someone's rotation sometime in his MLB career. In my mind, Ketchner was the near ideal swing man; he can pitch in any situation, no adjustment period, no complaints. The Dodgers have their supply of arms as well, and if they keep Ketchner and decide to be smart about the way they handle things, they might use him to that capacity. Pitchers with his flexibility are rare. But as Jeff pointed out to me, first on the ESPN boards and now on his own blog, those Ketchner fans among us still have some alternatives.
*One of the primary reasons for the acquisition of Cabrera may very well be the duo of Dan Evans and Bill Bavasi, who liked Cabrera enough to trade for him during their LA time. Almost every management team will do something like this at some point. Look at the Tampa Bay roster.

In the meantime, we'll have to wait and see how everything turns out from here. Santiago is gone to the minors. Mulholland didn't make the team. This year is shaping up to be an interesting one, I'll give you that. The coming years should only be more fun, assuming the arms come up and start doing their thing.

The M's have just traded RHP Aaron Looper and LHP Ryan Ketchner to the Dodgers for 2B Jolbert Cabrera.

I don't know anything about Cabrera, but looking at the career stats offhand, comparing them to the spring performances of guys such as Santiago and Bocachica, I feel as if I speak for a large percentage of Mariners' fans when I let out a loud WTF?

Offhand, it looks like we have acquired the 30+ version of Willie Boomquist. Except Willie gets on base better.

Granted, Looper didn't really have much of a future with the club, and it was only a matter of time before they got rid of him. Ketchner, however, seemed like he could have had some practical use, being a fungible left-handed arm that was pretty consistant considering the fact he rarely had a defined role. Ketchner is a bit of a soft-tosser, and we have our share of those already, but I think he could easily be the superior of C. Anderson.

Think of it as your typical blogosphere doomsaying, but I would have rather traded Looper by himself for a C grade prospect because at least that way we might have been able to add Bocachica to the 40-man.

Thursday, April 01, 2004
OF Chris Snelling and RHP Aaron Taylor were placed on the 15-day DL and the 60-day DL, respectively.

Snelling broke the hamate bone in his right hand early in spring training and hasn't seen any playing time as a result. Taylor, meanwhile, had a partial tear in his rotator cuff which was repaired Sept. 5th of last year. Both injuries BA mentioned are represented now in our camp.

Anyway, the 60-day DL comes as a bit of surprise considering some expected Taylor to be ready by the end of camp, though I'm not sure of the recovery times comparing partial to full tears of the rotator cuff. The placement of Taylor on the 60-day DL allows us some roster flexibility and chances are that either Myers or Mulholland will be added to the 40-man, most likely Myers. It's possible that by the time Taylor will be eligible to come off the DL, Jarvis will be dealt to another team, allowing Myers to stay on the roster without any difficulties. However, I would like to see something done to give Bocachica a roster spot, if he continues his hitting at the Tacoma level.

Aaron Looper was also optioned down to Tacoma, in a move that should surprise nobody, as described by one Mike Thompson. There are 27 players in camp now, and the primary battles will be Bloomquist vs. Santiago and Myers vs. Mulholland, though the latter should be resolved early tomorrow when a clause in Myers' contract dictates he must be informed whether he has made the team. I don't really think that Mulholland will stay in camp to prove he's more valuable than Bloomquist/Santiago, especially considering the roster situation, but stranger things have happened.

Speaking of which, I'll be curious as to how Spezio's recent back problems will work out. If the problems persist, will he start on the DL? Who will be called up in his stead? Dobbs seems like a good choice, but he could still be recovering. Leone could work as well, but he didn't exactly make an impression in camp. Perhaps they won't have to decide between Santiago and Bloomquist after all.

Meanwhile, there have been widespread rumblings about the possible acquisition of Indians OF Milton Bradley. The link will redirect you to USS Mariner take on it, where we learn that the Mariners have been interested in Bradley before (despite his attitude), but the deal fell through when the Indians mentioned Nageotte. Perhaps they won't ask for so much this time around.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


BA has put out a series of free articles on the various injuries suffered by prospects. One is on the hamate bone, which is the latest in a long series of injuries to Chris Snelling. The article seems to indicate that there is a loss of power, despite popular belief, but it attributes that primarily to the recovery process and not the surgery itself.

The other article covers rotator cuffs and labrums, which any Mariners fan should already be well aware of. There are some quotes from Jeff Heaverlo and Mickey Clarizio, one of the Mariners trainers, along with some details on how it might affect Ryan Christianson as a catcher (though they spell his last name like the OF did). Late in the article, they also mention Mariners second round pick SS Jeff Flaig, who is coming off of a labrum tear AND a rotator cuff tear (though I think his injury was due to a collision on the field and not his pitching).

The M's made quite a few cuts today, trimming the roster to 30 by optioning J.J. Putz and reassigning Hiram Bocachica, Pat Borders, Jose Lopez, and Mickey Lopez.

Bocachica was the surprise cut, for me. I guess it's understandable that the bench battle ends up with Santiago and Bloomquist, who are both on the 40-man. Considering they are planning on using 12 pitchers to start the season (which isn't all that bad an idea), they could have McCracken for OF duties, Hansen for corner IF backup (though since he's a left-hander, why?), and Santiago for middle IF backup. Of course, Santiago has had a few defensive miscues recently, and it seems like they're going to go with Bloomquist no matter what. I suppose my campaign to trade Hansen so they can put Bocachica on the 40-man is over.
Speaking of Bocachica... he seemed to do what was asked of him for the entire camp. He hit for power, he played wherever they asked him, defensively, and apparently turned in a gem at first base. But they didn't fully seem to utilize him as he could have been. Granted, with McCracken around, I don't think they would have used him in CF or LF anyway. Maybe they'll try to use him at more positions down in the minor league camp and if he continues to hit, they'll bring him up. The whole 12 pitchers thing complicates things a little. I'm still trying to hold out hope that these decisions will eventually make sense. (Yes, I support Bocachica, because I'm easily impressed by players that start to show clear improvement)

Borders should come as a surprise to no one. Funny how this move was made the day after Davis asked to catch a minor league game to get more time in. Borders will continue to help the guys down in Tacoma, which is good because if his time with Freddy is any indication, he'll make the pitchers down there work on their game. Maybe that means Nageotte will get the changup going with some confidence.

Jose seems to have done his part to lock up SS for the 2005 season. I expect his Tacoma campaign to be more impressive all around, and the recent articles in the paper have seemed to indicate that maybe, just maybe, they'll keep him at SS and stop moving him around. Some are still complaining about his plate discipline and inability to take a walk, but he did seem to be taking a few more pitches after watching the other players in camp, and that will help in the long run.

Mickey must have made some deal when he resigned that he'd be among the last players to be cut. That's the only explanation I can seem to come up with. He wins the Invisible Man award for the 2004 cactus league season, being used for all of 14 at-bats, and getting one single to his credit. With how overloaded Tacoma is going to be this season, resigning him doesn't make sense anymore, since Santiago/Ugueto/Bocachica can probably do everything he can, plus they're better and younger. Who knows what's going on...

Putz, despite his ERA being okay, was definately a guy to cut. I just wonder why Looper wasn't cut as well. Comparing the two, Putz' opp. batting average was .244 while Loopers is .265. Then again, Putz has allowed four more walks than Looper. Putz will be in the Tacoma mix for this season until further notice. Looper will make it there shortly, perhaps even after this game, which he is scheduled to pitch in.

I don't think the roster we see now will be the same at the beginning of May, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Sunday, March 28, 2004
The recent transactions update over at Baseball America is indicating that the M's released LHP Victor Ramirez. No other news organizations are confirming this yet.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise to me. Ramirez was one of the top pitchers on the 2002 Aguirre staff in Venezuela, only a little bit behind fellow LHP Caesar Jimenez, though Ramirez was used almost exclusively as a reliever. Ramirez started last season in Everett, where he was used primarily as a starter, until he started to falter and got knocked around a bit. His control seemed to be all right, having more than a 2:1 k/bb ratio and striking out more than a batter per inning, but opponents batted around .285 against him, and that's including his relief appearances, which would make the overall numbers look a little better. Ramirez pitched for the Lara Cardenales in Venezuelan winter ball as well, though he struggled against the higher level of competition in his limitted time there.

It's possible that he suffered some sort of minor arm injury over the course of last season which wasn't dealt with properly, and when it acted up in spring training, he was released. This isn't a major blow to the system, but it is a little curious.

It seems as if we can scratch another name off the list of possible rotation candidates in Wisconsin.

Baseball America has put together a minor league preview for the AL West which discusses a variety of topics, including what the system has produced recently, where the strengths are, who is the best teenage prospect, who could break out, and who time is running out for.

As would be expected, RHP is the best stocked position, particularly in terms of starting, though the M's have a good crop of lefties as well (the analysis, I imagine, is partially based on who will contribute soon). Similarly, the best teen prospect is none other than RHP Felix Hernandez, who apparently had a signing bonus of only $710,000. That's value right there, considering many believe that Felix would have been a number one overall pick, had he been draft eligible. The player whose time may be running out surprisingly isn't Ryan Anderson, who would be everyone's obvious pick, but is instead C Ryan Christianson, a former first round pick. First round catchers are typically risks. Christianson showed excellent potential with his bat, but only when he could stay healthy. Apparently, his last season was cut short because of a labrum tear, and now, on top of that, he is going in for surgery to remove a bone spur in his arm.

The breakout candidate was a bit of a surprise pick, but BA has been pretty high on him all along...

Ready For Takeoff: While he doesn't have Hernandez' upside (who does?), Ryan Feierabend gives the Mariners another exciting teenage pitching prospect. Seattle was careful with him last year, leaving him in the Rookie-level Arizona League, but the organization will challenge him with a full-season move in 2004. He resembled Triple-A lefty Blackley with his fastball-changeup approach, smooth mechanics and command, but he throws harder than the Aussie.

This would further emphasize the previously suggested idea that the M's plan on starting him in Wisconsin. Feierabend was compared to Barry Zito in's scouting report, but most prospect circles have him drawing comparisons to Blackley now. As stated previously, his change-up seems to be his most polished secondary pitch, though he also sports both a curveball and a slider. His "feel" for pitching is often ranked as one of his best assets.
If Feierabend is that comparable to Blackley (with a little extra velocity), then I'm a little curious as to how he'll end up figuring into the M's system. In some instances, clubs can be hesitant to use pitcher that are too similar in the same rotation, though if the talent is there, it will be hard to argue doing any less.

In unrelated news, Dan Evans has been officially added to the M's scouting department. He'll do some professional scouting and watch the M's minor league affiliates primarily, though until the June draft he'll also be used in Southern California scouting draft-eligible players. Some credit Evans with helping to rebuild the Dodgers' farm system, so I like this move, should he get some say in how the draft is run. I don't know enough about the M's California scouting to say where it stacks up compared to other regions, but it seems like the strength (within the US, at least) seems to be a bit stronger in the Midwest, where players like Feierabend, Nageotte, and Thornton have been drafted from. I expect the numerous scouting moves made this offseason to show up pretty quickly. Perhaps soon, the M's drafting habits will be held in higher regard, and our numerous international signings won't be thought of as a method of patching holes.

I've decided against doing a Seattle-area newslink dump every night. Those who are interested enough should be able to find the sources with relative ease. It's not cutting corners so much as I'd prefer to have more original commentary overall, or at least content that isn't as easily accessible (in other words, I may start a link dump for the minor league affiliates when the season starts). I'm also mulling over the idea of changing the layout, possibly to a Movable Type format, just to give the illusion of being a professional, though making the site easier to read couldn't hurt either.

A closer look at the minor league system of the Seattle Mariners baseball club.

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