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MiLB Notes: High Desert, Wisconsin

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on January 4, 2007

Moving on, as I not-so-coyishly put off the prospect rankings for yet another day due to the loss of Internet service in my area on Tuesday, the A-ball clubs in the M’s organization will be a lot more interesting than, say, entertaining.What do I mean? Well…

The rosters aren’t likely to excite the typical fan and they are certain to be loaded with raw talent that struggles as much as anything else.

But if I have learned anything from Bill Bavasi this winter it’s not to judge a baseball team by the names on the roster.

The M’s move to High Desert means several things, most of all the bandbox of a ballpark and increased altitude that is certain to make for some interesting ERA totals and dozens of crooked frames this summer.

The move also means a new play-by-play man, going from the sensational Mike Saeger to Jon Rosen, who remains a bit of an unknown to me, though you can bet I’ll be tapping into MiLB Radio to check out Rosen’s broadcasts, and the riddance of the annoying, yet possibly innovating marketing ploy…

…the 7:11 PM start time.

High Desert Mavericks

Manager: Scott Steinmann

Hitting Coach: Rafael Santo Domingo

Pitching Coach: Scott Budner

Trainer: Matt Toth

Steinmann took a year off from his skipper’s gig with the Timber Rattlers to tend some personal issues near his home in Arizona. He spent the summer coaching the rookie leaguers and will now be rewarded with a promotion.

Scott Budner has worked with several of the better pitchers in the organization over the past half-dozen years, including Travis Blackley, Mark Lowe and Felix Hernandez.

Santo Domingo has a reputation within the organization as a strong teacher with top communication skills, which bodes well when one is working with such young players.

I feel for the pitchers that do time in High Desert this year, and some of the candidates include lefthanders Julio Santiago, Steve Uhlmansiek (above left), Jose Escalona and David Asher, as well as righthanders Anthony Varvaro, Marwin Vega, Edgar Guaramato, Roman Martinez, Austin Bibens-Dirx and Doug Fister.

Brandon Morrow could conceivably begin his first full year in pro ball where he ended his first partial season and retired all nine batters he faced, fanning four in three innings. Money says the club pushes him, barring injury setback, and the M’s first rounder from last June starts ’07 in West Tenn.

One of the wildcards here is Jason Snyder, a 6-6 righty that I was particularly high on two years ago after seeing him in Everett. Snyder, who will be 24 in April, has battled shoulder problems the past two seasons but ended his 2006 campaign with a strong showing in AAA Tacoma as a fill-in arm in late August and September.

Snyder tossed four shutout innings at Salt Lake, striking out three and did not issue a walk. When he’s at his best, the Utah native sits around 90-91 with a four-seam fastball and rolls a tight-spinning deuce as his out pitch.

He’s not much of a prospect anymore, thanks to the health issues and therefore a lack of any record of success, but he’s an interesting arm to look for in the middle of the farm system in 2007. If he can get a grip on a change-up, look out.

The physically imposing Kameron Micklio has a shot to break camp with the Mavs, too, but like Foster and others who spent last season with Everett, their most likely destination is in Wisconsin.

A crowded Rattlers rotation could allow for Fister and perhaps Ricky Orta to skip the Midwest League and jump into the fire in the Cal League.

Offensively things could get boring, to be honest. We’re not likely to see anyone of major interest playing in High Desert, though the numbers may suggest there are some bats in the lineup.

Catcher/first baseman Adam Moore and outfielder Kuo-hui Lo lead the charge. Infielder Minelik Pimintel may have a chance to start the year in High-A ball after impressing last year with the AquaSox, leading the team with 10 home runs and 42 RBI.

Luis Valbuena and Jeffrey Dominguez SHOULD be the starting middle infielders, though as I mentioned yesterday, the club could continue to push these kids and see what they can do in West Tenn, which is of course a big mistake.

Tenth-round pick Chris Minaker is likely headed for High Desert and will probably play every position on the infield and possibly even some outfield. The Mariners like his bat in a future reserve role.

It’s not all that far-fetched to expect to see Greg Halman, Gerardo Avila and Carlos Peguero in the Cal League in 2007, depending on how aggressive the Mariners wish to continue to be.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Manager: Jim Horner

Hitting Coach: Dana Williams

Pitching Coach: Lance Painter

Trainier: Tim Higgins

Horner played catcher for the Rainiers in 2004 and is already managing full season ball. He was to make his debut last season in Everett but after Steinmann’s scenario played out, Horner was re-assigned to run the Rattlers.

Williams is a former AZL skipper with a ton of experience with the raw talents that he will undoubtedly be working with in Appleton this summer.

Painter is of course the former 10-year major league veteran and I can tell you that the young arms in the system absolutely love Painter, who might be a future big-league pitching coach. I think Painter will ultimately be of most help to someone like Tony Butler or Uhlmansiek, fellow southpaws with flaws in their deliveries.

Wisconsin’s roster candidates are very similiar to those above with High Desert, with the exception of Butler and Chris Tillman. Righthander Michael Schilling is also likely to land with the T-Rats, as is Jose Suriel and possibly a few of the arms from the Peoria roster, such as Nate Adcock, Terrence Parker and Doug Salinas.

Offensively things could be pretty damned dynamite. This is where Halman, Avila and Peguero should begin their 2007 seasons, but we have learned how smart the Mariners front office is when concerning the development of their prospects, specifically the bats.

Alex Liddi COULD see some time here, too, if for no other reason than to get his bat going early rather than a long, extended spring training before the short seasons begin.

Catcher Jair Fernandez could end up at either Class A stop.

There has been some talk about how quickly the Mariners want to get their international gems, infielder Carlos Truinfel and outfielder Mario Martinez, into the states to gain experience and begin their trek to Mariner stardom as soon as possible, but at 16 and 17 years of age, I can’t see them starting the year anywhere but Peoria.

Truinfel hasn’t been seen by a whole lot of people but from all I can gather, his physical tools are matched by his desire and acumen for learning how to take instruction and put it into play in game. Yes, at 16, he’s already being taught how to use film to help his swing.

Martinez is a very athletic talent who could end up playing anywhere but shortstop or catcher, depending on how his bat plays out.

Neither is expected, at least at this time, to end up in a Rattlers uni anytime before 2008.

Field Staffs:

Everett –
Manager: Mike Tosar
Hitting Coach:
Henry Cotto
Pitching Coach: Gary Wheelock
Trainier: Spyder Webb

Peoria –
Manager: Jose Moreno
Hitting Coach: Andy Bottin
Pitching Coach: Chris Sinacori
Trainier: Randy Roetter

Dominican –
Manager: Raymond Mejia
Hitting Coach: Franklin Tavares Jr
Pitching Coach: Francisco Gerez
Trainier: Joel Guerrero

Venezuelan –
Manager: Russell Vasquez
Hitting Coach: William Merentes Oropeza
Pitching Coach: Jesus Hernandez
Trainier: Juan Yepez

Player Development Staff:
Coordinator of Instruction:
Pedro Grifol
Pitching Coordinator: Pat Rice
Catching Coordinator: Roger Hansen
Hitting Coordinator: Alonzo Powell
Infield Coordinator: Darrin Garner
Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator: Gary Thurman
Strength & Conditioning Coordinator: James Clifford
Trainer Coordinator: Mickey Clarizio
Special Assignment Coach: Cal McLish, Norm Charlton


41 Responses to “MiLB Notes: High Desert, Wisconsin”

  1. mariners said

    Hey nice article Jason, it sucks to have no interent. Mine has been going out and in all day long.

  2. Goose said

    Odd, so has mine. And I live no where near Jason.

    I wonder if it’s a state wide thing?

  3. SlackMan said

    Why would Chris Tillman be going to Wisconsin? It didn’t look like he did all that well at Everett.

  4. JH said

    The Ms don’t force their prospects to prove themselves at every level before they’re promoted.

    Tillman’s stuff is good enough to handle Wisconsin, and reports are that his changeup’s improving by leaps and bounds. There’s no reason to keep him in EST until short-season starts.

  5. Knuckles said

    JAC: I’m assuming/hoping that Everett will soon follow, but what are the chances of Halman and/or Liddi actually starting the season there?

  6. Lance said

    You made no mention of Michael Saunders. Any particular reason?

    Also, yesterday you mentioned Lance Beus as a possible pen guy with West Tenn. Didn’t the M’s release him? Also, I seem to recall they did something with Jon Lockwood, but I could be mistaken on that one. Did they?

  7. ericthemariner said

    Who has the better chance of making the High desert team….Fister or Orta? Or will, it come down to who performs better in spring?

  8. Saunders just didn’t get mentioned because he’s not worthy of me making a point to mention him specifically. He’s bound for High Desert, most likely.

    Also, I just received an email that strongly suggests the overly-rapid promotions of prospects by the Mariners may very well be over with.

    Lockwood is certainly still with the team… lemme look up Beus, i do think you are right about that…

    Yeah, he’s gone.

    Oh, and apparently it’s Carlos TRIunfel, not TRUinfel.

    I will NOT do a piece on the two short-season clubs or the summer league teams in VZ or DR because it’s even more wide open than any of the other rosters.

    I think both Halman and Liddi will start the year in Wisconsin, and while that may be a little aggressive for Liddi, it’s a choice between him sitting in Peoria for an extra 10 weeks or playing in competitive games. It could go either way.

    Re: Fister/Orta

    Fister was certainly more impressive last summer, so he’s the easy frontrunner between the two. Spring, according to the club, tells all, and sometimes it’s more about conditioning and preparation than about the players’ performance.

    If Player A shows up in shape, ready to go and it’s clear to the coaches that this guy was working on the things they wanted him too, including what shape he showed up in, he’ll have the advantage over Player B, the one who slacked somewhat and showed up needing 10 days to shed 8-10 pounds he put on over the Holidays, even if Player B’s showing in ST is better.

    The Mariners, like most teams, reward hard work whenever possible, though they teeter on that when it comes to a player who they have paid millions to… he will always get the nod.

  9. Free Austin!

    It’ll be interesting to see how pitching in High Desert will affect Austin Bibens-Dirkx. I’ve heard he’s a flyball pitcher, but if that’s the case, his nearly 5:1 K/BB ratio will help minimize the damage. I’d love to see him bumped up to San An… oops I mean West Tennessee. Or, more selfishly for the future “Free Austin!” campaign, to Tacoma.

    I realize that I’m weird in being one of the few AB-D bandwagoners. But, heck, Sickles put him on his prospect list, so I’m not the only one who’s noticed him. Heh. But, after all, being a decent bullpen arm on the cheap has a ton of value in my book (even if, as Dave Cameron somewhat coined it, middle-relief prospects are as common as blond bimbos in Hollywood)…

  10. AB-D is one of those guys who could start as low as High Desert or as high as Tacoma… which probably means he has just as good a shot to end up in the Southern League, which is a good test for him.

  11. ericthemariner said

    Do Tillman, Butler or Schilling, have a chance to move up before the year is out or do you think the MWL will be to much of a challenge for them? I saw Schilling quite a bit and even though his numbers werent that great much like Tillman they both have very good stuff…And Butler is awsome..what are your thoughts on that rotation?

  12. I think Butler and Tillman have that chance, but I also would not be surprised if they spent the entire season, or very close to it, in Wisconsin.

    They are very early in their developmental stages and Tillman in particular may be a little more fragile in that manner and it may ultimately be smart to avoid too many struggles at this point.

    But if anyone is dominating, they’ll be challenged, and that goes from Tacoma all the way through the rookie league.

  13. Schilling is interesting, and I have only seen him for about seven innings myself, but he doesn;t have the potential electric stuff that Butler and Tillman do.

  14. Do you think Morrow will go to AA and then AAA before reaching the M’s in 2009, or will he get pushed faster if he does well in the minors?

    Also, off topic, do you think the M’s might have some interest in Chin-Hui Tsao. He’s 25 and a former top prospect for Colorado. Although he just had surgery last year, he should still have 98-100MPH on his heater and plenty of upside. Any idea why he’s still out there and whether the M’s might pick him up?

  15. I don’t think Morrow, like many college draftees and particularly first rounders, is a year to year guy. He’ll probably split this year between at least two levels.

    I think he’s a mainstay in Seattle starting late in 2008 or sooner, and maybe out of the pen at first, much like the Mariners used Joel Pineiro.

  16. Baseballistic said


    Do you know much about any of the prospects headed to NY in the Randy Johnson deal? I’ve heard opinions ranging from “awful trade by the Yankees” to “Cashman’s best move in awhile”. What are your thoughts on the deal?

    Back to the M’s: should we expect any more major moves (i.e. Beltre or Sexson getting dealt, another SP acquired, etc…) or is the team set, in your opinion?


  17. Goose said

    Personally, the Johnson deal looks to be strictly a salary dump IMO. Probably to free up money to go after Clemens.

  18. If NYY is only sending two million like Newsday is reporting, it’s a pretty good trade by the Yankees.

    And if Zona is only getting two million of the 16 owed, and are giving Johnson a 1-year extension at $10 million along with sending Luis Vizcaino and a few prospects, it’s a terrible trade for the D Backs, at least on the surface.

    Johnson has been pretty bad the past two years, though last year he was about as unlucky and taken by chance quite a bit, which should even out at some point.

    He’s also back in the NL where he’ll face less quality lineups and only 8 hitters instead of nine.

    I think Randy would have been perfect for a team like the Mets, Cards or Astros, but Arizona isn’t winning any titles anytime in the next two years, at least unless they pull a magic trick like the Cardinals did this year.

    They didn’t trade away any prospects that are going to come back and haunt them, and from the Yankees standpoint, they didn’t get a whole lot from the deal, though they may have found a few useful kids.

    Ross Ohlendorf is a 24-year-old control pitcher out of Princeton who’s pretty close to major league ready, but is best suited for long relief in the mold of a Huber or Mateo.

    He sits 88-91mph with a solid change but a below average breaking ball. He’s 6-4 and 235 pounds and is probably headed for AAA Scranton.

    Fellow righthander Steven Jackson, 25 in March, is a decent prospect, kind of in the mold of someone like Yorman Bazardo of the Mariners, with a little bit better statistical track record of late.

    Jackson uses a 92 mph four-seamer and gets good sink that induces a good amount of ground ball outs. He keeps the ball in the yard, too, allowing just six bombs in 145 frames last summer, and just 25 in 342 career minor league innings.

    He’s got a shot as a fifth starter spot at some point, but like Ohlendorf, is useful if nothing else.

    Gonzalez is a solid defensive shortstop with above-average plate skills but a second baseman’s power. He doesn’t run as well as you’d like your middle infielder to run, but he has above-average speed and a good throwing arm. he should be able to stick at short defensively, but if he is turn himself into a starter of any kind, he’ll have get stronger.

    He’s 24 in April and has little time in which to develop his game before being rendered a reserve, so that’s probably where his future lies.

    He does make a lot of contact as evidenced by his 42 ks in 490 PAs in AA last season. He drew a decent number of walks as well, with 37.

    Vizcaino was the best thing the Yankees got in return, as far as talent goes.

    Basically, New York got the 2003 version of Julio Mateo (Vizcaino), Jon Huber, Yorman Bazardo and Oswaldo Navarro for Randy Johnson and two million dollars.

    Thinking about it further, it really appears that NYY was trying to make sure their rotation has a spot open in case Carl Pavano is healthy or Philip Hughes gives them no choice but to bring him north come April.

    Mussina, Igawa, Pettitte, Wang and the open fifth spot.

    Of course, this is where Mr. Roger Clemens is going to play in 2007, so if Hughes is ready, he or Igawa may be banished to the pen for half the year.

  19. I don’t think the Mariners WANT to be set the way they are, I think Bavasi would like to make two or three more moves, one involving a starting pitcher, one a reliever (they’d prefer to add a veteran to the mix of all the kids) and the bench needs addressing, but has needed such attention for what, three years now?

    Jeff Weaver? Nah.
    Ohka, Thomson etc make little sense anymore.

    There are some interesting names out there, but the market is terrible and not even Tony Armas and his 3/21 demands make sense.

    It’s all about the trade route for Seattle, with the possible exception of Dustin Hermanson or Chris Reitsma.

    But they aren’t going to be able to get Brad Penny, Hudson isn’t available anymore, and nobody else is trading away pitching.

    The Mariners are best off by improving the bench and trying to create better platoons if they can.

    By the way, I still like the idea of giving Carlos Pena a flyer, though there really isn’t any room for him in AAA.

    Todd Hollandsworth and Craig Wilson would be good bench additions, though Wilson is said to be looking for two years at 2+ mil per and Seattle isn’t doing that for a righthanded bat.

  20. Salty Dog said

    Hollandsworth would be a nice pickup, but him and Broussard together might be a traffic jam.

    In an ideal world, we’d be able to swap Broussard for a veteran bullpen arm and add Hollandsworth.

    How about bringing Wilson in for a year + a vesting option that kicks in with a not-too-high number of ABs? Dunno if he’d go for it, but a Hollandsworth/Wilson pairing off the bench would be a huge improvement for the bench IMHO.

  21. marc w. said

    I’d agree with that, #20 – I’m shocked at the lack of interest in Craig Wilson, and at this point, he may be willing to live with a 1 year + vesting option 2nd.
    There were soooo many intriguing minor league FAs this year, and it’s just criminal that the M’s overlooked them all in favor of Rey Ordonez. When the Yanks are grabbing Josh Phelps, and guys like Hanrahan, Andrade (who would’ve been nice as a power bullpen arm to help replace Soriano), Jeff Bailey, etc. are all picked up over the course of a few months, you realize just how stubborn the M’s can be about these little moves that can cheaply improve the team.

  22. SlackMan said

    Is Paul Fagan still in the M’s organization? If so, where is he headed?

  23. Lailokenin said

    In answer to #14, according to a notebook on the Rockies’ mlb.com site six days after Tsao was released the Rockies were still interested in re-signing him to a minor-league contract. Also, his rotator cuff procedure might mean a loss in the velocity you mentioned.

    Jason, of the young relief arms in the system who stands the best chance of pulling a Mark Lowe gaining a big jump in velocity? With the losses of Fruto & Soriano are the M’s going to have any plus-velocity relievers besides Putz? You’d think after the run the Tigers had with a young, power-armed bullpen that should be the current model for success.

  24. J said

    Fagan is still around, and probably headed to High Desert, but Jason seems to be mainly sticking to guys that interest him in some way in this. He could probably break down a whole roster and project who was going to be on it with a little variance, but it’s just not necessary. Fagan hasn’t done a whole lot in the way of making himself look like a prospect lately.

    Nice work, man. I’m going to miss Saeger too, and the crew over at KKYX, Acuff and the rest of them.

    Unfortunately, this whole thing is just making my need to see or hear minor league baseball again that much worse.

  25. ericthemariner said

    M’s sign Reitsma 1 yr 1.35…..Pretty low risk move could make up for Lowe being out good sign by the M’s

  26. This deal is for a little more than 2 mil guaranteed.

  27. JH said

    This isn’t based on any access to the stateside development people or anything, but I’m guessing Triunfel starts in Wisconsin.

    The Ms have started players they feel are special above Peoria at 17 before – Snelling, Lopez, and Felix – and even if the insanely aggressive promotion policy is over, the fact that a guy like John Manuel has come out and said he might be able to handle it this far out from the minor league season tells me the Ms guys are seriously thinking about it.

    Just a hunch, could be completely wrong, but there it is.

  28. JH said

    Of course, as far as I know they’ve never started a 17yo in Low-A before, so that’s also something to consider.

  29. Baseballistic said

    I like the Reitsma signing, although it could back-fire, albeit mildly since it’s not expensive. If Reitsma struggles though, the M’s basically wind up without a proven set-up man.

    How does the Soriano-for-Ramirez trade look if you make it Soriano and $2M-for-Ramirez and Reitsma (I know that’s not what the trade was, but I’m trying to figure out what the overall effect on the M’s is)? I’d say it’s a bit better with Reitsma coming to Seattle, but, er, I just hope Raffy doesn’t blow away every hitter he faces for Atlanta and rub in our faces (make that Bill Bavasi’s face).

    My take: the M’s got slightly worse in the short-term and got screwed big-time for the long haul. Reitsma and Horacio Ramirez better do well, otherwise I’m going to really miss Soriano…and hate Bavasi that much more.

  30. Goose said

    Dave take on the M’s attitude with Soriano vs Reitsma is sickening.


  31. WOW…what the heck are Bavasi and Hargrove smoking?

    Reitsma might want the ball every night, but he’s a guy to whom you don’t want to give the ball every night…consistency…NONE.

  32. Gookie said

    bavasi and grover are 420 friendly

    this team cannot handle turning a prospect into a major leaguer, get rid of the FO.

    sign thompson!!

  33. marc w. said

    “as far as I know they’ve never started a 17yo in Low-A before, so that’s also something to consider.

    Well, it wasn’t on this FO’s watch, but the M’s started 16 year old Edwin Nunez in the US, at short-season Bellingham, then moved him up to the MWL at 17.

    God that guy was good…check out his age 18 season at Wausau.

  34. Felix had just turned 17 in 2003 when he dominated the NWL and was moved to Wisconsin for one or two regular season starts and the postseason.

  35. Willmore said

    It seems almost inevitable now.

    So, Randy Johnson – 300 game winner. What are your thoughts on it?

  36. I’m glad he’s doing it, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t get the credit he deserves as being a great, great all-time pitcher.

    I’m happy it won’t happen in NY, too.

  37. tkballer said


    What can you tell me about Kevin Reynolds. I went to an Everett game this summer and was impressed by both his hitting and defense. Where does he place in the organization?

  38. Reynolds is just an organizational guy. Not a prospect.

  39. bill said

    first time writing in here. they released suriel as well yiu should check the transactions before you put these up. i was also wondering about Rollie Gibson he bounced around a bit last year ending with the 66ers i was wondering what you thought about him.

  40. Cody Mize said

    Wanted to know what you thought about Adam Moore? Guy showed a lot of pop with the bat in Wisconsin hitting 7 homers in 44 games. Also has a pop time at 1.8 behind the dish. Do you think he’s heading to Tennessee after spring training or start the season in High Desert and eventually head to Tennessee?

  41. Probably the latter, Cody, but nothing is set in stone. With potential catchers it’s a tough guess because their defensive development has to be taken into consideration.

    From what I have heard, Moore isn’t that likely to stick behind the plate, but is a better bet to do so than Jeff Clement.

    Moore needs a pretty big year to jump onto the M’s radar, though.

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