Hey everyone, it’s been a couple weeks since our last post and we’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s dive in.
First a reminder, minor league baseball is playing this season regardless of the MLB lockout situation. Minor league spring training starts around March 1 and the Tacoma Rainiers opener is April 5th. These things are happening.
The Seattle Mariners announced the Triple-A coaching staff that will work with first-year Tacoma Rainiers manager Tim Federowicz. The staff has an international flavor.
Alon Leichman (pronounced “like-man”) is the new Tacoma Rainiers pitching coach. This will be his sixth season as a Mariners minor league pitching coach, and he has worked his way up the ladder to earn the Triple-A job. He spent the last two seasons with Double-A Arkansas.
Born and raised in Israel, Leichman came to the United State for college baseball around 2010. He has been a consistent member of Team Israel in international competition, which included the Beijing Olympics last year: he took a midseason break from his duties as Mariners Double-A pitching coach to pitch for Team Israel in the Olympics.
New Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach Brad Marcelino also has an extensive international baseball background. Born in Essex, England, Marcelino lived in Great Britain until he was 11, and he first appeared in international competition for the British National Team when he was 17 years old in 1999. He continued to play in international tournaments for many years – in fact, he is the all-time leader in games played for the British National Team.
Marcelino has been a private hitting instructor in the San Diego area for the last four years, and prior to that he has a seven-year stint as a member of the coaching staff at UC San Diego. This will be his first time coaching in affiliated baseball.
The Rainiers additional coach is a familiar name to fans: Zach Vincej has been hired for his first season as a coach. Vincej was Tacoma’s starting shortstop throughout the 2018 season, and his final year as a player was 2019.
Vincej (pronounced vince-ee) will likely focus on working with the infielders and baserunning, and probably coach first base – similar to what Eric Young Jr did last season.
We also have a new training staff. Michael Feliciano will be the head trainer, and Michael Sadler is the strength and conditioning coach. Both have been working at lower levels in the Mariners organization in recent years.
The Triple-A season has been extended to 150 games this year. The existing schedule remains the same, with a six-game extension at the end so that games are now played through September 28. The final home series against Round Rock has been extended to a six-gamer, and the Rainiers will add three more final away games in Reno.
Reasoning behind this was formulated last season: because major league rosters no longer expand to 40 during the month of September, the MLB teams want players to be ready and available in Triple-A throughout the duration of their regular season. Simply put, MLB wants all 30 Triple-A teams playing until the end of September
We are still waiting to hear about post-season plans. There have been some interesting ideas tossed around that could be a lot of fun. As a refresher, we did not have playoffs last year due to the vagaries of the Covid-impacted schedule, and then the ten-game “Triple-A Final Stretch” was thrown together and it did not go over well and is unlikely to be repeated.
More national publications have released their respective Top 100 Prospects lists, and the Seattle Mariners farm system continues to get very high marks.
Baseball Prospectus released its list – they do a Top 101, “it goes one louder” – and four Mariners prospects made the rankings:
Julio Rodriguez (#3), Noelvi Marte (15), George Kirby (21), Emerson Hancock (87).
The prospect guru for The Athletic is Keith Law, who has been ranking top talent for years and has his own methodology. His Top 100 came out a couple days ago (link for subscribers), along with ten more that “just missed.” He has Julio Rodriguez a little bit lower, but he has 2021 first round pick Harry Ford much higher than others. Here’s his Mariners ranking:
Julio Rodriguez (9), Noelvi Marte (11), George Kirby (45), Harry Ford (49), Matt Brash (“just missed”).
Looking at the big picture, Baseball America ranked the 30 major league organizations and determined that the Seattle Mariners presently have the top farm system in baseball.
What is most exciting about this for Rainiers fans is that many of the ranked prospects have already reached Double-A and can be expected in Tacoma soon.
- History says that the Mariners playoff drought will end within two years, according to Baseball America.
- The Seattle Times has a story on the Mariners farm system ranking, and another on the Tacoma Rainiers coaching staff.
- Division rival Reno has a new manager: former infielder Gil Velasquez. Reno also has a new pitching coach in former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, and their new hitting coach Mark Reed is the younger brother of former Rainiers outfielder Jeremy Reed.