The Mariners’ Peoria complex gets much busier this week with the arrival of the organization’s minor leaguers (including Carlos Triunfel, pictured here). They will undergo physicals today and hold their first workout tomorrow.
The minor-league clubhouse is adjacent to the major-league facility, but it can seem a million miles away to the youngsters from literally around the world striving to make the jump. And for the players in major-league camp who get cut and have to re-convene on the minor-league side, that short walk can be devastating.
Every one of the (mostly) young players showing up today has an interesting story, and some will be the foundation of future Mariner teams. In perusing the Mariners’ media guide, I saw players from Curacao (RHP Aljeaurreau Bishop), US Virgin Islands (OF Jabari Blash), Nicaragua (LHP Oscar Bravo), Brazil (IF Felipe Burin and RHP Thyago Vieira), Taiwan (RHP Yao Wen Chang and Min-Sih Chen, OF Kuo Hui Lo), South Korea (C Ji-Man Choi), Netherlands (RHP Jeroen De Haas and OF Kalian Sams), El Salvador (RHP Danny Cruz), Columbia (RHP Ivan Julio), Cuba (IF Johan Limonta), South Africa (IF Anthony Phillips), Panama (OF Rigoberto Rangel), Nicaragua (RHP Erasmo Ramirez), and Ecuador (RHP Alfredo Venegas), in addition to the usual assortment from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
Here are just a few other names that caught my eye:
—Lance Abbott. The 24-year-old pitcher, who had a 2.25 ERA last year at Pulaski after signing as a non-drafted free agent, is the son of former Mariner pitcher Paul Abbott.
—Josh Fields. –The clock is ticking on the former No. 1 pick (20th overall in 2008), who hasn’t seemed to quite recover from his holdout that resulted in him finally signing with the M’s on Feb. 19, 2009 — more than eight months after he was drafted. Fields ended last season on the DL with an elbow strain.
—Nick Franklin. Franklin’s stock, on the other hand, is rocketing upward after leading the Midwest League with 23 homers — a Clinton franchise record — in his first full pro season. The shortstop was the M’s second first-round selection (No. 27 overall) in 2009, following Dustin Ackley.
Shaver Hansen. HIt just .167 in Clinton and .217 in High Desert last year, but notable for being the son of a pro wrestler known as “The Lariat.”
James Jones. The M’s love the potential of this left-handed outfielder, who had 10 triples at Clinton last year.
Stephen Kahn. Once a highly regarded pitcher in the Mariners organization, he has been limited to one game over the last four seasons because of knee and shoulder injuries. He’s trying to re-establish his career at age 27.
Marcus Littlewood. Just 18 (he turns 19 on March 18), Littlewood was a late signee after being picked in the second round of last year’s draft, and his pro experience is limited to the Arizona Instructional League. He is an infielder from Utah with a high upside.
James McOwen An outfielder, McOwen is most noted for his 45-game hitting streak in 2009 while with High Desert. The streak was a California League record and eighth-longest in minor league history, helping McOwen to a .340 average for the season. But last spring, the Mariners suited him up for their exhibition game in Albuquerque on the final weekend before Opening Day, and he dislocated his left shoulder crashing into the wall. McOwen missed the entire season.
Rich Poythress. Poythress led all the minor leagues last year with 130 runs batted in at High Desert, while hitting 31 homers. For a power-starved organization, that’s eye-catching, even playing for notoriously hitter-friendly High Desert.
Kevin Rivers. A non-drafted free agent, he opened some eyes by hitting .332 in 71 games for Everett last year with 11 homers and 48 RBI.
Kyle Seager. Ackley’s teammate at North Carolina, a third-round selection, hit .345 for High Desert last year and led all minor leaguers in hits (192) and runs (126).
Carlos Triunfel.Once considered the beacon of the M’s farm system, Triunfel’s stock has fallen a bit, especially after missing most of 2009 with a fractured left tibia. He came back last year to hit .257 with seven homers and 42 RBI at Class AA. This is a crucial year for Triunfel — still just two weeks past his 21st birthday — to re-establish himself as a premier prospect.