The following position preview was originally posted on Booth, Justice, and the American Pastime and is the third installment of a multi-part series looking at the Rainiers possible 2018 Opening Day roster.
Today we'll preview the potential Tacoma Rainiers corner infielders for 2018.
We've gotten into a habit of previewing third and first base together because for several years the Rainiers had players who appeared at both positions, often moving across the infield from day-to-day. That may happen again this year - but not with our most notable returning player for 2018.
Daniel Vogelbach is expected to return as a Rainiers first baseman and designated hitter. A Triple-A All-Star last season, Vogelbach hit .290 with 17 homers and 83 RBI for the Rainiers. He's still on the Mariners 40-man roster, and he'll get a chance in spring training, but unless there is an unexpected injury it is hard to see how he could carve out a spot on the Mariners 25-man opening day roster. It looks like either a trade or an option to Tacoma is in his future.
If it's an option to Tacoma, we'll happily take him. Vogelbach has hit well in the PCL for two straight seasons, and he'll fit right into the middle of the Tacoma lineup.
Joining Vogelbach in the middle of the lineup is local product Matt Hague . The 32-year-old product of Kentwood High School hit .297 with ten homers for Rochester last season. Hague has plenty of Triple-A experience in the International League, and he spent the 2016 season playing in Japan. The veteran can play both first and third base, giving manager Pat Listach some defensive flexibility.
Three players we covered in the middle infield section (scroll down two posts) have experience playing third base: Rey Navarro , Gordon Beckham , and Zach Shank can each handle the hot corner.
And while we will be listing him in the outfield group next week, Danny Muno is another possible Rainiers third baseman, having played 50 games at the position in 2017. Muno posted a high on-base percentage (.387) for Tacoma last year after being signed out of an independent league, and the M's decided to bring him back for another season.
Seth Mejias-Brean is, as far as I can determine, still in the organization. He was acquired in a trade from the Cincinnati Reds early last season, played in 19 games at third for Tacoma, then was sent to Double-A Arkansas where he finished the season. He hit .268 with three homers in 74 games for Arkansas. He does have additional Triple-A experience from when he was in the Reds system.
One corner infielder who will probably see a lot of time in spring training games but is unlikely to appear for Tacoma is first baseman Mike Ford . As a major league Rule 5 Draft pick, Ford has to either make the Mariners opening day roster or be returned to his previous organization (the Yankees). However, there is always the possibility that the M's work out some sort of trade with the Yankees, enabling them to keep Ford and send him to the minors. But this doesn't happen often with Rule 5 picks, so for now Ford is unlikely to play for Tacoma.
At this juncture it looks like we've got Vogelbach and Hague handling first, and a real hodgepodge of players at third. Bring 'em all to spring training and let the baseball gods sort 'em out.
- John McGrath has five reasons to be excited about the coming Mariners season. The column comes complete with a classic McGrath opening paragraph.
- The Mariners announced they are expanding the protective nettingbehind home plate to the ends of the dugouts. This is a common move across the majors and much of the minors now, for the purpose of fan safety.
- Outfielder Oscar Gamble - owner of the most famous Afro in baseball history - has passed away.
- College baseball starts soon. In its Pac-12 Preview (free), Baseball America projects Washington as an NCAA tournament team.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.