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.
Manager: Mike Tosar
Hitting Coach: Henry Cotto
Pitching Coach: Gary Wheelock
Trainier: Spyder Webb
Manager: Jose Moreno
Hitting Coach: Andy Bottin
Pitching Coach: Chris Sinacori
Trainier: Randy Roetter
Manager: Raymond Mejia
Hitting Coach: Franklin Tavares Jr
Pitching Coach: Francisco Gerez
Trainier: Joel Guerrero
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