The Mariners are expected to be conservative about calling up prospects when they expand the roster Sept. 1, and one reason is their roster...
The Mariners are expected to be conservative about calling up prospects when they expand the roster Sept. 1, and one reason is their roster is already packed with players called up this season. Jeff Clement, Jeremy Reed, Wladimir Balentien, Bryan LaHair and Cesar Jimenez have become Mariners regulars, each of whom spent considerable time with AAA Tacoma this season.
So for most of the team’s prospects, their seasons will end in the next two weeks, leaving the Mariners to evaluate who should move up next season. In the past few years, the team has aggressively promoted its young prospects, such as Rob Johnson and Matt Tuiasosopo, who each had career years in Tacoma this season.
This year’s movement from Tacoma to Seattle has trickled down to create the chance for prospects such as Michael Saunders and Greg Halman to show they belong at a higher level.
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“We haven’t been quite as aggressive as we have been in the past,” said Greg Hunter, the Mariners director of player development. “We try to place guys in a spot where they have a chance to succeed. When they outperform their league, we promote them.”
Hunter mentioned both Johnson and Tuiasosopo among the Mariners prospects having the best seasons. Johnson, a catcher, took off once Clement went up the Mariners, and he’s hitting .311 and impressing with his defense and how he has handled the Rainiers staff.
Tuiasosopo, still just 22, has improved his defense at third base, Hunter said, and Tuiasosopo did so while recovering from a slow start this year at the plate. He’s hitting .266 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI.
“Over the last couple months, he has really started swinging the bat with some authority,” Hunter said.
Saunders moved from Class AA West Tenn to Tacoma in late June, and he had 16 RBI in 23 games before joining the Canadian Olympic team. His promotion opened up a spot for Halman at West Tenn, and Halman is hitting .286 with 10 home runs in 55 games since the move from Class A High Desert.
Halman and Saunders join High Desert shortstop Carlos Triunfel as the team’s top hitting prospects. Triunfel, just 18, has shown good power to the gaps this season and hit his first eight professional home runs.
“He’s really come on with the bat like we know he’s capable of doing,” Hunter said.
As for the team’s top pitching prospects, most of them reside in Class A Wisconsin in the Midwest League. The Mariners resisted chances to move up a trio of prospects, led by Phillippe Aumont, the team’s 2007 first-round pick.
Aumont showed he had a major-league caliber off-speed pitch, but a sore elbow derailed his season, and the Mariners don’t expect him to pitch again this season. Michael Pineda, a 19-year-old right-hander, started the season in the bullpen but ended up a starter who has gone 7-5 with a 2.05 ERA. Right-hander Juan Carlos Ramirez is 6-9 with a 4.30 ERA, but that hasn’t changed the Mariners’ confidence in his potential.
“We get a lot of calls asking about him, because he’s a nice-looking prospect,” Hunter said of Ramirez. “He’s young, he has good size, and an ability to command the baseball and get it down in the zone.”
Tom Wyrwich: 206-515-5653 or firstname.lastname@example.org