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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 25, 2009 at 3:21 PM

The Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League will be loaded with top M’s prospects (UPDATED WITH ZDURIENCIK QUOTES)

The Arizona Fall League rosters were released today, and the Mariners will be sending some of their top young players to the Peoria Javelinas.

The Peoria team, which also includes prospects from the Tigers, Dodgers, Brewers and White Sox, will include the Mariners’ last three No. 1 picks — Dustin Ackley, Josh Fields and Phillippe Aumont, as well as highly regarded infielder Carlos Truinfel. Also participating will be LHP Nick Hill, RHP Anthony Varvaro, and OF/1B Joe Dunigan. Truinfel is coming back from a broken leg that he suffered in the second game of the season for Class A West Tennessee.

The league’s big draw will be Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick of the Washington Nationals, who will be playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. The AFL starts on Oct. 13.

Here’s what Jack Zduriencik said today about the AFL selections:

“We put our heads together, spent time with the minor league staff, and got their recommendations. This is a group of guys we think are formidable guys, guys that are going to be with us for a long time. You’re anxious to see them against the best competition.

“When guys go to the Arizona Fall League, there’s different cases. Truinfel, obviously, it’s playing time. Same with Ackley. For the most part, what you’d like for these guys to realize, all of a sudden, here I am, with the best young minor-league kids in baseball. I’m playing in a great environment. And this is an opportunity for me to step my game up a little bit, and set the tone. You can almost call it like All-Star teams, where you’re against, in essence, the elite of Double-A baseball.

“There are many players that have gone there and have been successful, and boom, you turn your head, and next thing they’re in the big leagues. That’s what our hopes are. All these guys are talented guys. All these guys we think an awful lot of. And they all earned the right to be there.”

Zduriencik said Ackley will play all three outfield positions, and possibly some first base, but will not work at any other positions. Prior to joining the AFL, Ackley will work out in Arizona, come to Seattle to take some batting practice with the team, and then report to the Arizona Instructional League on Sept. 19. After two weeks, he’ll move over to the AFL.

As for Truinfel, Zduriencik said he didn’t know yet if he will join West Tennessee for some games before reporting to the Instructional League.

Here’s what Zduriencik said about Aumont’s transition to the bullpen: “There’s been given days he’s just been dominant down there. As high as 98, good breaking ball, and sinker, and aggressiveness, and all that. It’s still a learning process. He’s still a young kid. He’s got a way to go yet, but you have to be very happy with the stuff he shows. On given days, the reports were that he over-matched hitters.”

When someone alluded to the health issues facing Aumont — a report by Jason Churchill on Prospects Insider that he has a degenerative hip condition — Zduriencik said: “He’s in the bullpen because of what we think he’s going to be. We even went back to when he was a junior in high school. We looked at this big, physical guy, and said that guy has the stuff to be a back-end of the game type of guy. When we made the decision, it was strictly because of what he is. He’s a big, physical, strong guy. It takes longer to develop a guy as a starter. This guy could be there in a hurry. We think he has the mental capacity to eventually handle that role.”

Aumont worked out of the bullpen for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic this fall.

“I think that jump-started his mind,” Zduriencik said. “I know when that happened, he sought me out in spring training to tell me how good he thought he was in that role. That was in his mind. He was afforded the opportunity, and he’s done a very nice job with it.”

Zduriencik also had some interesting comments when asked if Aumont and Fields were on the same course toward competing for the Mariners’ closer job.

“No. No,” he replied. “The reason I say that, this is philosophical more than anything else. There are very, very few people ever come into the big leagues as a closer. You walk in and the first day you put a uniform on, you’re closing games out. David Aardsma was how many years in the big leagues before he had a chance to close his first game this year.

“Philosophically, when a guy gets to the big leagues, you don’t put him in that closer role initially. You let him work his way. What we’d like for Aumont, or Fields, or any guys along those lines, is to be able to throw more than one inning. You’d love him to be able to throw three innings, we’d certainly like them to throw two. If they come up and have success, and Josh Fields is a seventh-inning pitcher, or Philippe Aumont, whoever it is, and they go out an have success, eventually they matriculate into a closer’s role.

“But to stamp a guy and say this guy is a closer — we might think that, but there’s so much of a mental game that goes into that. Not only does he have to be physically ready, he has to be mentally ready, too. Sometimes that’s just a matter of experience.”

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