October 2013

Notebook: Chris Taylor, Chihuahuas and M’s managerial search begins

It’s so hard to get consistent play in the Arizona Fall League. Sharing positions with one or sometimes even two other players is not easy, especially considering these guys are used to playing day in and day out. That belief was in the Mariners’ 2013 Minor League Player of the Year, Chris Taylor’s mind, but he is proving it otherwise so far.

“Yeah, I thought it would be, but I don’t think (the inconsistent playing time) has really affected me so far,” added Taylor on not playing every day.Taylor Janet

The numbers agree with that assessment by Taylor.

He’s leading Peoria in AVG (.409), OBP (.500), SLG (.545), without a home run mind you, and OPS (1.045). His .409 batting mark in six games ranks third in the AFL.

“I’ve been seeing the ball well,” said Taylor. “I’ve only played six games though so things can go up or down in a hurry. Still nice to get off to a good start though.”

I get asked often, what you can take away from these stats from the fall league. Well, what does Nate Roberts, Jedd Gyorko, Brent Morel and Dustin Ackley have in common? Have no idea? They are the AFL batting champions the last four years. So, while Gyorko and Ackley had their moments, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will tear it up at the Major League level soon. Eric Hosmer batted .203 during the 2010 AFL season. Logan Morrison, Daniel Murphy and Gordon Beckham were in the top 7 in batting in 2008. Matt Kemp finished second in the AFL in 2005 with a .383 batting average. In 2007, Jed Lowrie hit .163 in 24 AFL games. Get my point? There is no rhyme nor reason, but it’s fun to keep up with.

Taylor draws a lot of comparisons to Brad Miller. Both are terrific young middle infield prospects that come from the ACC. Neither are franchise changing players, but both can be solid pieces to a club. Taylor is more of a natural shortstop than Miller and Nick Franklin, while Taylor does not possess the power of Miller or Franklin.Taylor Mike Brantley

Who does Taylor remind me of?

Taylor reminds me a lot of young Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett. Gennett played for Huntsville in 2012 and hit .324 with 11 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs, 21 RBIs and 2 stolen bases in 69 games this season for Milwaukee. I think that is Chris Taylor in a nut shell.

Winning the Mariners MiLB Player of the Year award hasn’t really been an oman for future success. See Vinnie Catriciala’s epic fall from grace and Stefen Romero’s battle with injuries and position change. Although, I do believe Romero will end up being a solid player. Taylor has the potential to have a breakout season in 2013 more than likely starting in Triple-A Tacoma and knock on the door for an MLB promotion relatively quickly.

Mariners interview Chip Hale for managerial opening

GM Jack Zduriencik is in Arizona and met with Chip Hale of the A’s about the M’s managerial vacancy.

Interesting tidbit from that story is that Hale interviewed with the Mariners in 2008 when they hired Don Wakamatsu. Also intriguing is that Ted Simmons’ name was mentioned as a potential candidate. The former St. Louis Cardinals star catcher has spent many days at The Ballpark in Jackson over the last few years watching the young players in the organization. That’s an interesting name to keep an eye on in this process.

Taijuan Walker tweet of the week

I think he’s is referring to a Lil Wayne song, but it still made me laugh and is just random. But, that is just one of the million reasons why we love you dude.

There’s a new dog in town!

San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate has relocated to El Paso, TX from Tuscon and was named the Chihuahuas  on Wednesday. The name has been greeted with mixed reviews, but as this tweet below represents. It’s merchandising genius!

I personally don’t like the name and the dog logo looks a little strange, but I would probably buy a hat. So, El Paso, you win!

Haunted Stadium Continues

Don’t forget the Generals Haunted Stadium continues this Friday and Saturday from 6-11pm. The first weekend was a lot of fun and everyone that went through the tour was extremely happy and in some cases, soiling themselves scared. Come on out if haunted houses are your thing.

Notebook: AFL off and running, M’s add minor league outfielder, Southern League top prospects

The Arizona Fall League is off and running and it didn’t take long for Peoria Javelinas manager Jim Pankovits to turn to the last addition to the roster, Kyle Hunter. The Javelinas dropped the opener to Surprise 7-6 after a comeback fell short at Surprise Stadium.

Hunter was magnificent in his AFL debut tossing two scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth, allowing just one hit and striking out three.Hunter AFL

“I thought I pitched pretty well,” added Hunter. “I had all of my pitches working and just tried to pitch to contact. I had great defense behind me so I tried to make the hitters put the ball in play. There’s a lot of talent down here and I look forward to watching and playing against some of the best in minor league baseball.”

Hunter threw 28 pitches and 21 of which were strikes.

Stefen Romero batted third and played left field for the Javelinas finishing 1-for-3 with two runs scored, while 2012 Mariners fourth round draft choice Patrick Kivlehan was the DH and was 1-for-4.

Peoria plays again today at 12:35 MST against Scottsdale. Expect to see relievers Carson Smith and Dominic Leone to see action today.

Mariners sign OF Travis Witherspoon

The Mariners were active yesterday in claiming outfielder Travis Witherspoon off waivers from the LA Angels. Not hardly the splash addition Mariners fans would like, but a low risk, high reward type of a signing. The Mariners designated journeyman catcher Henry Blanco for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

Travis Witherspoon claimed off waivers by M's. (Photo by Tom Priddy)

Travis Witherspoon was claimed off waivers by M’s. (Photo by Tom Priddy)

“The 24-year-old was once thought to be a high upside prospect for the Halos but health issues last season and poor production this season have hurt his stock.  Witherspoon isn’t too far removed from a time where he drew comparisons to Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin,” notes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com on Witherspoon.

You like the fact that he stole 30 bases last year and played in 129 games for AA Arkansas, but in 183 AA games has posted a .210 AVG with 17 HR’s, 59 RBIs and 39 SB’s.

Baseball America names top 20 Southern League prospects

Baseball America continued their release of the top-20 prospects from 2013 in each respective league. Tuesday was the Southern League’s turn and the depth of talent was evident when the No. 1 guy was one Yasiel Puig. Taijuan Walker was listed as No. 4 on the list while Brad Miller was No. 13 and Julio Morban was No. 17. Morban is really the only “prospect” of the three, but getting mentioned on that list of 20 players is impressive. It shows the respect Morban has earned despite the injury plagued seasons.

Haunted Stadium taking shapeHaunted Park

I was a bit skeptical at first when I heard that we were doing a haunted ballpark. Some can be kind of cheesy. But, after going through a part of the tour that takes you through the clubhouse my mind was changed. There was nothing even set up to scare me and it was freaky. This will be good. Make plans if are in the West Tennessee area to visit the ballpark if haunted places are your thing. It all starts Friday and Saturday, October 18th and 19th and 25th and 26th. Then again on Halloween night.

Notebook: Hultzen has surgery, Hunter going to AFL, fall league update, haunted stadium

Happy October everyone.

As the major league playoffs are in full swing, in a week so will the Arizona Fall League. Play opens on Tuesday and you can follow all the latest happenings in the AFL here.  The Mariners announced yesterday that Danny Hultzen underwent surgery on his left shoulder performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, FL. The surgery cleaned up the labrum and a partial tear of the rotator cuff, and repaired the capsule.

Danny Hultzen during the 2012 season.

Danny Hultzen during the 2012 season.

The good news is that hopefully this will fix things for good. He’s honestly been snake bit with injuries since he left Jackson in June of 2012. In fact, let’s look back and see just how dominant he was during his first three months as a pro.

Hultzen went 8-3 in 13 starts and posted a league-best 1.19 ERA in 75.1 innings at the SL All-Star break, including 79 strikeouts. One can say those numbers came in a pitcher friendly Southern League, but he out-performed guys like Patrick Corbin (ARI), Trevor Bauer (ARI), Tyler Skaggs (ARI), Tyler Thornburg (MIL) and Nate Eovaldi (MIA) over that stretch.

Kyle Hunter fires a pitch during a game in Jackson this season.

Kyle Hunter fires a pitch during a game in Jackson this season.

Kyle Hunter replaces Hultzen on the Peoria Javelinas roster and is a left-handed pitcher to keep a close eye on. Hunter was Seattle’s 31st round pick in the 2011 draft out of Kansas St. and had a breakout season in 2013. In three professional seasons he is 11-8 with a 2.28 ERA in 101 games and five starts. He was arguably the most consistent pitcher on Jackson’s staff this past year going 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in 34 games and four starts. He commands four pitches for strikes including an impressive two seamer. Scouts rave about his stuff and could potentially be a starter. Hunter joins 2013 Generals pitchers Carson Smith and Dominic Leone on the Javelinas roster.

Jackson manager Jim Pankovits will lead Peoria and he told me the team’s first workout will be Thursday.

Generals to host “Haunted Stadium”

Beginning October 18th, every Friday and Saturday night leading up to Halloween the ballpark in Jackson will be a “Haunted Stadium”.Pringles2

“It’s not necessarily going to be little kid friendly,” Generals Assistant Promotions Manager told me. “It’s going to be a really scary haunted ballpark.”

The Generals are partnering with North Side High School in Jackson and funds will go toward their athletics and ROTC programs. Many of the volunteers will be from North Side. Gates will open at 7 p.m. and close I’m told “when everyone is scared”.

The path will take you through the suites, clubhouse and around the outside of the outfield wall. It’s creepy enough just walking into those places in the dark anyway, much less when something is going to be jumping out at you.

Admission will be $12 for adults and $10 for students. For more info you can call the ballpark at 988-5299.