The following position preview was originally posted on Booth, Justice, and the American Pastime and is the fourth installment of a multi-part series looking at the Rainiers possible 2018 Opening Day roster.
Today we'll take a look at the candidates to break camp as outfielders on the 2018 Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster. There are quite a few of them.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has brought in four potential Triple-A outfielders from outside the organization. In addition, the outfield is one of the few areas (along with the bullpen) in which there are some homegrown prospects getting close to reaching the Triple-A level.
Let's start with the established Triple-A outfielders.
Cameron Perkins was picked up from the Phillies during this offseason, he's a member of the Mariners 40-man major league roster, and he has minor league options remaining. At this point it is hard to see him cracking the M's opening day roster, although you never know how spring training will play out. At age 27, the 6-foot-5 right-handed hitter figures to put up good numbers if he is playing in the PCL. He hit .288 with seven homers and a .373 on-base percentage in 76 games for Lehigh Valley in the pitcher-friendly International League last year.
The Mariners signed veteran Kirk Nieuwenhuis as soon as minor league free agency opened in November. Nieuwenhuis has nearly four years of major league service time with the Mets and Brewers, and lots of PCL experience with Las Vegas and Colorado Springs. Nieuwenhuis is a good outfielder capable of handling center, he has some power at the plate, and at age 30 he brings veteran experience.
After three full seasons with the Iowa Cubs, John Andreoli became a free agent and the Mariners signed him to a minor league deal. He has something of a speed and power combination, batting .258 with 31 homers and 102 stolen bases over three years in the PCL. The power has come on the last two seasons, and he hit a career-high 14 homers in 2017. Andreoli draws quite a few walks and reaches base at a good clip (.366 OBP over the last three years).
A returner from last year is Andrew Aplin . The left-hand hitting Arizona State product was an early season acquisition from Fresno last season, but he appeared in just 47 games for Tacoma due to a knee injury. He hit .243 with five homers for the Rainiers, and I get the feeling we didn't really see him at full strength.
Speedster Ian Miller should be back. He hit .326 and was 30-for-34 stealing bases in 83 games for Double-A Arkansas last year before being promoted to Tacoma in July. His average dipped to .268 in his first taste of Triple-A ball, but they couldn't stop him when he reached base: he was 13-for-14 stealing in the PCL.
That's five outfielders right there, but there are others in the organization who are ready for Triple-A now, or soon will be.
Two multiple-position players from last year's Rainiers team are in the picture. Danny Muno can play both the infield and the outfield; he's a PCL veteran who will be in camp. We'll list Dario Pizzano as an outfielder, though he also plays first base and sees a lot of time as a designated hitter. The likable Pizzano has split the past two seasons between AA and AAA, putting up strong numbers for Arkansas but scuffling a bit in a bench role when in Tacoma.
Chuck Taylor hit .274 with a .367 on-base percentage as an everyday player for Arkansas last season; he showed a little power with nine homers. He kept it going in Winter Ball, travelling to Venezuela and getting a whopping 228 extra at-bats in, batting .333 on the nose for Cardenales de Lara. He's a 24-year-old switch-hitter who has not yet appeared in a Triple-A game.
University of Washington product Braden Bishop is generally considered one of the better prospects in the M's system right now, and he could reach Triple-A at some point this season. Bishop spent most of 2017 at Class-A Modesto, where he hit .296 in 88 games, but he also hit for Double-A Arkansas after a late-season promotion: .336 in 31 games. Bishop carries the reputation of being a good defensive outfielder who figures to hit for average without much power. He's slotted to open at Arkansas, but a mid-season promotion looks like a possibility if things go well.
A notable omission from this list is Eric Filia , who crushed it last year at Class-A Modesto and then tore up the Arizona Fall League. He was a candidate to possibly jump Double-A with a good spring, but alas: he tested positive for "drugs of abuse" (which is not PEDs - quite the opposite, some would say) and has to serve a 50-game suspension to start the year. Hard to see him jumping Arkansas now.
Also ommitted is top prospect Kyle Lewis , who will be playing in the lower levels of the farm system if he is healthy. Hopefully we'll be writing about him at this time next year!
All told, the outfield is an area of strength for the Rainiers as we head into spring training. Looks like a good group.
- As he packs his bags for six weeks in Arizona, Ryan Divish is churning out his pre-spring training articles for the Seattle Times. Here's one on the Mariners expected strength: the starting lineup. Another article focuses on the bullpen.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.