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Winter Updates

There are lots of Mariners playing baseball right now. Some just wrapped up their season in Arizona, while others are playing in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Australia. For a complete list of M's spanning the globe right now, click here. I could give a few thoughts on each player, but the list is quite long. Instead, I will pick out players from the crowd to highlight.

To start with, some position players of note:

  • 2B Dustin Ackley - I won't spend much more time gushing over Ackley, because I just did that twice over (two separate links there). He would have been a player of note as the M's top prospect. However, even if he were some no-name, he would still be the biggest story, thanks to how good he was in the Arizona Fall League. He did everything he could in Arizona to position himself for an opening day roster spot.
  • 3B Alex Liddi - There isn't much doubt about Liddi's natural power, but strikeouts continue to be a concern. He is striking out in about a third of his at-bats in Venezuela right now, which only adds fuel to the fire. Even though Liddi will likely start the year in Tacoma, I think he is still a fair amount away from the majors.
  • OF Carlos Peguero - I could copy and paste Lidd's write-up here. Peguero has power, hits AAA this year, and still needs to find a way to make more consistent contact to let his power shine in the majors. He is having similar issues to Liddi in winter ball, except in the Dominican Republic instead of Venezuela.
  • OF Johermyn Chavez - The Brandon Morrow deal might look decent yet. Chavez had a fine season in High Desert, and is making a nice showing in the winter leagues too. His power is showing some in Venezuela, along with noteworthy plate discipline. The strikeout rate is a little high, but he is young, and the aforementioned plate discipline is even more impressive. The winter leagues are generally known to have large strike zones, so working walks is more difficult. He is looking more and more like a September call-up this upcoming season.
  • OF Nate Tenbrink - Buried by Ackley's sizzling fall league performance was a commendable showing by Tenbrink. Much like he did in AA, there is nothing great about what he did, but nothing bad either. He continued to show a knack for making contact with a bit of an eye at the plate, a bit of a power, and a bit of speed on the basepaths. Even though Tenbrink is not on the 40-man roster, I would call him up Liddi, Peguero, or Chavez in 2011. He is worth getting to know, even though he isn't likely to generate any headlines in the near future.
Now, on to some pitchers making noise:
  • RHP Josh Lueke - He just won't go away, because he's too good. Lueke looked like an MLB-ready reliever in the Arizona Fall League, which only further asserts his claim to an opening day roster spot. There is no good reason on the field that Lueke should not be a front-runner to make the bullpen in spring training. It will be interesting to see how the Mariners handle him if/when the mainstream media realizes that he should make the opening day roster.
  • LHP Fabio Castro - Castro was only signed a little bit ago as a minor league free agent, so he is not a prospect. However, the diminuitive southpaw will be only 26 years old on opening day, and he has always had a knack for striking batters out. So far, he has a whopping 52 strikeouts in only 35 innings in the Dominican Winter League this off-season! However, the issue has always been control with Castro. While it seems like he has made progress this off-season, it is hard to tell in the Dominican, because the strike zone tends to be bigger. Still, the M's might have found themselves a nice lefty for the bullpen, or even a surprising starter.
  • LHP Cesar Jimenez - A couple years back, Jimenez seemed to be taking hold of a bullpen spot. Then, he suffered a major arm injury, and has been on the comeback trail since. His recent addition to the 40-man roster indicates that the Mariners think he is back to what he was, and his numbers in Venezuela back that up. Jimenez will be one of the bigger stories in spring training.
  • RHP Tom Wilhelmsen - Currently, Wilhelmsen is one of the bigger wild cards in the M's system. He had a so-so performance in the AFL, but his strikeout numbers can't be ignored. He is older, but is mounting a comeback (which is really more like a re-entry) into baseball. A strong spring training will get Tom some attention. He could make a Chris Jakubauskas-esque voyage into the M's bullpen.
  • RHP Dan Cortes - There is no doubt that Cortes has incredible stuff, but there is plenty of doubt that he can locate pitches consistently. In an admittedly small sample size, walks have really plagued him in Venezuela, which is especially concerning given that it is a league that tends to have a big strike zone. Cortes gets away with it because nobody can hit him really, but it is still something that could keep him off the opening day roster, especially with some of the other options already highlighted.
Winter league production is less insightful than MLB and minor league production, and probably even weighted less than performances in spring training. It is not much, but it is something. It at least provides some direction for some roster battles heading into spring training. If the winter leagues are any indication, Seattle might have found some rather young, cheap depth for 2011.