The following position preview was originally posted on Booth, Justice, and the American Pastime and is the first installment of a multi-part series looking at the Rainiers possible 2018 Opening Day roster.
Yesterday the Seattle Mariners announced their preliminary list of non-roster spring training invitees, which is often made up of eventual Tacoma Rainiers players.
The list includes 22 players this year, plus the members of the 40-man roster who are required to come to camp. That's 62 players - already too many for the MLB and Triple-A 25-man opening day rosters.
One area where the organization invited players from the lower levels to spring training is in the catching corps. There are a lot of pitchers in spring training - 31 invited so far - and someone has to catch all of these guys. Lower level catching prospects get invited to camp to handle this.
So far, there have been six catchers invited to major league spring training. Three are on the 40-man roster, and three are on minor league contracts. From this pool we will get two - or possibly three - catchers on the Tacoma Rainiers opening day roster.
Tacoma's catchers will be the "losers" of one of the few true roster battles in spring training: the fight to be Mike Zunino's back-up.
There are two catchers on the 40-man roster who have about one month of major league experience, and are the leaders in the competition simply because of their roster status: David Freitas and Mike Marjama.
Freitas was claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves in November, shortly after making his big league debut. His reputation is that of a defensive catcher who doesn't hit a whole lot - he went 4-for-17 in his first taste of the majors, and batted .263 with three homers in 263 at-bats for Triple-A Gwinnett.
Marjama is his opposite, a better hitting prospect who is still relatively new to catching. Marjama was acquired in a late-season trade with Tampa last August 6th, and spent a month with the Rainiers before making his major league debut as a September call-up. Marjama has power, hitting 13 homers in 350 at-bats last year including his first big league dinger.
Those two are the leaders in the Battle to Back Up Zunino, but there is another, more experienced candidate. Tuffy Gosewisch re-signed a minor league deal with the Mariners, and he could go into camp and win the back-up job. Gosewisch has more experience (nearly three full years of big league time) and a better defensive reputation than both Freitas and Marjama, particularly in the areas of game planning and pitch selection. However, he did not hit much in 2017 - even in Tacoma (.229-4-33 in 85 games).
Manager Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto are going to decide during spring training if they want their once-a-week catcher to be an offensive threat or a defensive stalwart. At this point we don't really know what they are thinking.
As for Tacoma, barring spring injuries or further roster moves we'll end up with two of those three catchers on the opening day roster.
The two other catchers invited to major league spring training are John Odom and Joe DeCarlo. The recently acquired Odom (another former Braves minor leaguer) appears on paper to be slated for Double-A, although that could change if he impresses once the Mariners see him in person this spring. DeCarlo is a former Mariners second-round draft pick as an infielder who the organization converted to catcher; he played at Class-A Modesto last season and is not quite in the Triple-A picture yet.
That's the Tacoma catching situation going into spring training, and it appears to be pretty set: two from the group of Freitas, Gosewisch, and Marjama.
I do this post every year in the position previews, and for the first time in several seasons there is no mention of Steven Baron, Marcus Littlewood, or Tyler Marlette. These three Mariners draft picks each timed out of the organization, reaching free agency and leaving with only Baron seeing significant time at the Triple-A level. In terms of player development, catchers are slow to boil.
Next week we'll look at potential Tacoma Rainiers middle infielders.
- Larry Stone caught up with our Sunday broadcaster Bob Robertsonin the wake of Keith Jackson's passing, and includes an embedded emotional interview the duo did in 2014.
- Ryan Divish runs through the Mariners non-roster spring training invitees.
- If you have been a close follower of the M's and their farm system since 2001, you will enjoy marc w's praise of catcher Rene Rivera over at USS Mariner. And yes, despite how the story starts, it is a praise.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.