The following position preview was originally posted on Booth, Justice, and the American Pastime and is the second installment of a multi-part series looking at the Rainiers possible 2018 Opening Day roster.
Next up in our positional previews series as spring training approaches is a look at the Tacoma Rainiers middle infield candidates.
The organization is not strong in upper-level middle infield prospects right now, so the Mariners went out and acquired some players to provide middle infield depth - and they also re-signed an experienced player from last year's Tacoma squad.
Gordon Beckham is back on a minor league contract, after serving as Tacoma's second baseman in 2017. A major league veteran who earned a September call-up to Seattle last year, Beckham hit .262 with nine homers in 83 games for the Rainiers in 2017. Beckham can play second base, third base, and in a pinch shortstop for Tacoma. He also provides strong clubhouse leadership skills in the (unlikely) event that there will be any young position players on the 2018 Rainiers.
The M's acquired 26-year-old shortstop Zach Vincej from the Cincinnati Reds this winter, and if the reports on his strong glove are accurate he should handle shortstop for Tacoma. Vincej hit .270 with three homers in 110 games for Triple-A Louisville last season, and he made his MLB debut in September. Even if he turns out to be the Rainiers best defensive shortstop, the M's may groom his for a utility role and move him around various defensive spots for the Rainiers.
Rey Navarro was signed from the minor league free agent list. A 28-year-old switch-hitter, Navarro batted .278-7-82 for Salt Lake last year. He has four years of Triple-A experience, and a little major league time with the 2015 Baltimore Orioles. Navarro can play shortstop, second base, and third base.
We can list him at just about any position, so we'll stick him here: super-sub and everyone's favorite Rainier Zach Shank should be back for his third season with Tacoma. Last season he appeared at every single position for Tacoma except for catcher - and there was even some talk about having him play all nine positions on the last day of the season, but that ended up not happening. Shank shot out of the gate hot at the plate last year, but ended up cooling off to a .215 average with two homers and 43 RBI - yet he does a lot of things very well, defensively and on the bases.
A wild card to watch in spring training is Taylor Motter, who runs the risk of being aced out of a roster spot with the Mariners, and he has minor league options remaining. Seattle acquired utility infielder Andrew Romine from Detroit and it appears he has the lead as a glove-oriented back-up with the Mariners. Motter can still make the big league team, with his ability to play outfield helping him, but if he were to get optioned to Tacoma… then say hello to the Rainiers No. 3 hitter in the lineup. He destroyed PCL pitching to the tune of a .350 batting average with seven homers in 100 at-bats in 2017.
The middle infielders are a veteran group. We'll preview the corner infielders next week.
Baseball America released its annual Seattle Mariners Top Prospects package on Friday, and it's not a pretty sight. The publication has the Mariners ranked last in baseball in terms of talent on the farm.
Most of the quality content is behind the subscription paywall, but here is the free stuff: the list of the Mariners Top Ten along with a couple of notes, and a chat with the author of the Mariners section. (Edit: looks like the chat is now behind the paywall).
Big week ahead: tomorrow we learn if Edgar Martinez is voted into the Hall of Fame, and on Thursday the Mariners host their annual pre-spring training media luncheon. New blog post coming Friday, with all of the Tacoma-related news that emerges from the Mariners media event.
- The Mariners claimed right-handed reliever Chasen Bradford off waivers from the New York Mets. He's been with his hometown team Las Vegas for all or parts of the last four seasons, posting a 4.18 ERA in 176 Triple-A games - which is not a bad ERA for a Vegas pitcher (if you are new here, Las Vegas's home ballpark is a launching pad). A solid pick-up for the Rainiers, but he'll be in the mix to compete for the major league bullpen, too.
- Ryan Divish has a story on Baseball America's rankings, with a bit of information on each of the Mariners Top Ten Prospects. In addition to the M's list, Baseball America released its Top 100 Prospects for 2018, with the lone Mariner Kyle Lewis checking in at No. 67.
- USS Mariner has a commentary on the Baseball America prospect rankings. As a fan of grim humor, I chuckled at the headline.
- Prospect analyst John Sickels filed his annual Mariners report, with brief write-ups on twenty players.
- Sometime on Wednesday, Edgar Martinez might get a phone call informing him he's been elected into the Hall of Fame. Or maybe he won't - this election is too close to call, Larry Stone writes.
- In this week's Minor League Transactions we learn that former Rainiers pitcher Forrest Snow has signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.