Where The Mariners Were, And Where We Are Now (Part 1)

I hope everyone had a great New Year, and that everyone stayed safe.

Now let’s talk about this thing I found…

 IMG_3303Hey, remember me??

As I was packing to get ready to travel for the holidays, I found a computer bag with a copy of the only Maple Street Press Mariners 2010 Annual. It’s probably the most Annual that ever annualed, since the likes of it have not been seen since. Need a memory refresher? In 2010, when Don Wakamatsu was our manager and 2009 was showing us a bunch of promise, a bunch of bloggers and a bunch of the Mariners beat team got together and produced a nice magazine with heavy glossy stock, plenty of pictures, and a lot of smart packed inside. It was awesome, informative, and…never happened again. This is a shame, but it has provided me with something interesting that might take a few posts to get through.

2010 was a year that I was really getting into the team and what baseball had to offer as a thinking person’s sport. The 2009 was a great season full of bullpen antics, a Felix Hernandez that was showing more and more flashes of what we hoped he could be (and then became and most definitely is), an Ichiro that was still here, and a general sense that with new GM Jack Zduriencik and a freshly-signed Cliff Lee, we were going places in 2010. And we so didn’t. We all know how 2010 ended, I’m not going to recap.

Meanwhile, the good bloggers and Mariners beat staff were putting together this magazine. I decided to browse through it this morning, a little walk down memory lane. I got that in the form of the article by Jay Yencich called Down on the Farm, listing the Mariners top 10 prospects at the time. I read the list of names, and thought it might make for an interesting review. Sometimes, baseball memories can be short, and looking back on what we thought was going to happen can be not only enlightening but entertaining as well. We’ll start with number 10, if for no other reason than that it makes the most sense, given the eventual futures of the players in question.

10. RHP Dan Cortes. At the time of the writing, Cortes was still in double A. Cortes came to us via the Royals in 2009, and bounced back and forth between the Ms and Rainiers for 2009 and 2010, after starting 16 games in the Ms AA system. Yencich cites a lack of command and a good change-up as blockades to his advancement. After grabbing two losses in relief for the Ms in 2011 and breaking his hand that September, Cortes was moved to the Padres single A, then the Diamondbacks double A, then the Padres again in 2013. Per FanGraphs, he did not play at all in 2014.

9. CF Julio Morban. This is a guy whose name I know, but never heard much about him outside of, well, being a prospect. I can’t even find anything about him on FanGraphs, so I have nothing to compare him to to even fill me in, without doing far more research than I want to get into right now. Yencich speaks of Morban getting into bad counts and being too eager to swing as issues for the Dominican player, and ends the segment by saying he could start 2010 with the Clinton Lumberkings. I’m not convinced he made it that far, and he seems to have disappeared into the ether.

8. RHP Michael Pineda. Jay’s assessment of Pineda coming into 2010 isn’t really all that much different than what we saw that year; the movement of his fastball, his change-up, and improving slider. The same things that caused Dave Niehaus to legendarily yell “Ooooo that STANK!” over the air. But those were apparently Pineda’s golden years already gone. And we know what happened to him, showing up at the Yankees camp in horrible shape, fighting multiple injuries, spending his time back in the Yanks’ farm system, and not being anywhere near as “diabolical” as a lot of us had hoped. This is not to say things went horribly for him, though. He finished off 2014 in the majors with a 5-5 record. He’s still around, and at 25 years old, may still have room for improvement and a good career.

7. 3B Alex Liddi. I never really knew much about Liddi, other than that he was Italian and was being touted pretty heavily as the golden child of the future in 2010 because of a good degree of power in his swing. FanGraphs has him at 126 (!!!) plate appearances for the Mariners in 2012. Either that is a typo, or his tenure here at Safeco was pretty forgettable. Or I slept through that whole season. Guessing it’s a little from the latter two options. In any event, Liddi is now chilling out at Triple A, being tossed between the White Sox and Dodgers after leaving the Ms in 2013.

6. IF Matt Tuiasosopo. There was a time in my baseball history where I thought Tui was a viable option at 2B. I’d like to say that time coincided with me smoking a lot of crack, but I can’t make that claim. Tui was nearly a staple in Tacoma; so much so that I thought maybe he’d be a career Rainier. Yencich talks about his strikeout rate as a hurdle, and indeed his best years may be behind him. He played quite a bit for Detroit in 2013 with 191 PA, but seems to be much more comfortable at a Triple A level (currently with the Blue Jays system), and at 28 years old, that might be where he stays. I always liked Tui. But it was not to be.

5. 1B Rich Poythress. Poythress was drafted the same year as Dustin Ackley. Poythress’ main issues as a contender in 2010 were pulling the ball and being a RH batter in Safeco Field, though Poythress never made it that far. He is another player whose FanGraphs entry is lacking in…existence. Baseball Reference has him,  and he is currently in Atlanta somewhere, at AA.

4. IF Carlos Triunfel. Triunfel broke a tibia to start off 2009, after being suspended in 2008 for violating team conduct (I never did hear what happened, but I do remember it happening, if only vaguely). According to Yencich, Triunfel used this downtime to his advantage, taking the time to learn more English in order to better communicate with his team, and working out with the team on the field to strengthen himself after his injury. Triunfel was in a Rising Star’s Game in the AZ Fall League, and there was a lot of talk about him until around 2012. Triunfel spent most of his time at AAA, some time in 2013 up here, and then the team parted ways with him and he spent 2014 splitting his time between the Dodgers and AAA. He signed a minor league contract with the Giants in November 2014.

3. C Adam Moore. Remember Adam Moore? I loved Adam Moore! I loved Adam Moore because Adam Moore was not Rob Johnson. Those were a good few days. Yencich finishes his actually-quite-glowing review of Moore with “His work ethic, attitude, and physical abilities could make him a fixture behind the plate in Seattle for years.” But even though Moore fixed his passed balls issue (unlike Johnson), nothing much really developed for him here. Moore went to the Royals and, again, split time between their MLB club and AAA for two years, then found himself in San Diego doing the same thing. Just a few weeks ago, he signed a minor league contract with Cleveland.

2. LF Michael Saunders. Now we’re talking! Yencich says of Saunders in 2010, “Saunders is a classic five-tool player, with the ability to hit to all fields, 20-home run power potential, speed to swipe 15-20 bags, an arm that could play well in right field, and the mobility to be at least an average center fielder.” Saunders hit 19 dingers. In 2012. He stole 21 bags. In 2012. He never saw a lot of right field playing time; the team chose to stick him in CF as a viable option after Franklin Gutierrez started seeing more and more health issues. But Saunders – while certainly a fan favorite due to his high-jumping, home-run-preventing antics over the outfield walls – was also prone to injury and of course a bizarre battle with the FO garnered him a new home in Toronto. Still? I agree with Jay’s statements, and if it were not for the injuries, I think Saunders would have been something far more special than he got to be here. I hope he is able to stay healthy and play well; but not against us.

And now for the number one prospect in 2010.

1. 2B/CF Dustin Ackley. In 2010, Dustin Ackley was, as Yencich puts it, the “consolation prize” for losing out on Steven Strasburg in the draft. At the time, Ackly came highly advertised as the center fielder of the future; but it seemed decided that if he was ever going to see the grass in Seattle, it would be closer to second base. He has, of course, converted nicely to platooning between 2B and LF, now a familiar bearded presence in left since Robinson Cano came on board last year. He was projected in 2010 to be “a lead-off man whose average is consistently above .300, draws about 70 walks a year, averages 20 or so home runs in any given season…” He has unfortunately not done any of that, but he has been good enough to keep, and this last year there was even more improvement. At 26 years old, he still has room to go farther, and slow and steady wins the race sometimes, so here is to an excellent 2015 for Mr Ackley. He is no Steven Strasburg, but as far as consolation prizes go, I’ll take it, and I’m looking forward so much to seeing what he’ll do this year, with the roster we will undoubtedly have to start in April.

 

There will be another part to this article as soon as I can write it, because Jay’s article in the Annual did not end there. Part 2 will feature a look at “Ten More to Watch”. Some of them may surprise you, and at least one will make you very sad. Special thanks to Jay Yencich and the other folks that put this magazine together. I have been in a writing funk for months now, this was just the thing to bring me out of it for a bit.

 

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