Time To Produce In Tacoma

For the first time in my Mariners fandom lifetime, I feel our farm system is filled with talent. Now as we know, talent doesn’t mean much unless it’s tapped into and utilized, but the new regime is gleaming with hope. Jack Zduriencik was known as a Milwaukee Brewers draft guru and one heck of a scout in his day, so I’ve never doubted his abilities in that area.

Unlike basketball and football, it can take a long time to figure out if your MLB draft picks are boom or bust. Jack Z. has only had two drafts as the Mariners general manager but many baseball-people are applauding many of his picks. For once, it’s nice to hear the farm has a great chance of producing talent from within!

I’m not exactly sure when my fascination with minor league baseball started, but if I had to guess, it would go back to 2003 when my brother interned with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. He would mention a player’s name over the phone, I’d have no idea who the player was and would hit Google to do some research. Being a foe of the Tacoma Rainiers, I became intrigued with both teams and the rest is history.

Unfortunately, I have waited many seasons for the Mariners to have an influx of minor league talent. The void has never been filled. Felix Hernandez emerged back in 2005 and many other players were to follow. It never happened. I waited and waited and waited. Some would get a “cup of coffee” in the bigs, stink it up and be right back down on the farm. The Seattle Mariners farm system historically has been labeled as disappointing.

Bill Bavasi was hired November 7, 2003, therefore the 2004 season would be his first season of structuring the Mariners and the minor league system to his liking. As I previously mentioned, it takes time to see if your draft was a success or not, so Bavasi’s first year or two were Pat Gillick’s regime picks (for the record, not a great level of talent produced). I won’t preach to the choir on how bad Bavasi and crew were.

Jack Zduriencik has begun to fill the void of “Mariner prospect emptiness” for the many minor league baseball fans like myself. With a draft pick like Dustin Ackley, you just simply have this vibe that he will pan out and be a staple in the organization. I believe from Tacoma to Everett there are players with lots of talent sprinkled throughout the organization. This is a great time to get to know some names, because I have the feeling some will be key contributors very very soon.

I wanted to further express my thought on how much Tacoma has been a barren wasteland in regards to producing players for the Mariners. I wanted to find the top 3 or 4 players for HR, RBI, wins and innings pitched over the last few seasons, and my research was pretty surprising. They don’t tell the whole story, but you catch my drift. Here now is my research for the “best providers” the Rainiers have had 2004-2009. Enjoy!

————————–
2009 Tacoma Rainiers – 74-70 Record
Home Run Leaders:
Bryan LaHair (26), Prentice Redman (21), Chris Shelton (15), Mike Carp (15), Brad Nelson (15)

RBI Leaders:
Bryan LaHair (85), Chris Shelton (85), Jeff Clement (68 – in 98 games/traded)

Wins Leaders:
Gaby Hernandez (9), Chris Seddon (8), Eric Hull (7)

Innings Pitched Leaders:
Andrew Baldwin (151.2), Gaby Hernandez (146.1), Chris Seddon (131.2)

Bryan LaHair was all business in 2009!


————————–
2008 Tacoma Rainiers – 80-64 Record

Home Run Leaders:
Victor Diaz (24), Prentice Redman (19), Wladimir Balentien (18 in 62 games!)

RBI Leaders:
Victor Diaz (100), Matt Tuiasosopo (73), Shawn Garrett (62)

Wins Leaders:
Andrew Baldwin (10), Robert Rohrbaugh (7), Ryan Feierabend (7)

Innings Pitched Leaders:
Andrew Baldwin (147.2), Sean White (attempted starting – 125.0), Robert Rohrbaugh (96.0)

Umm, who the heck was Victor Diaz and how did he quietly hit 24 HR, 100 RBI???

————————–
2007 Tacoma Rainiers – 68-76 Record
Home Run Leaders:
Adam Jones (25), Wladimir Balentien (24), Jeff Clement (20)

RBI Leaders:
Wladimir Balentien (84), Adam Jones (84), Bryan LaHair (81), Jeff Clement (80)

Wins Leaders:
Jorge Campillo (9), Brad Thomas (8 – 34 games/15 starts), Justin Lehr (7)

Innings Pitched Leaders:
Jorge Campillo (149.1), Justin Lehr (119.2), Brad Thomas (116.1)

We'll never know if he was the next big thing in Seattle...

————————–
2006 Tacoma Rainiers – 74-70 Record
Home Run Leaders:
Adam Jones (16), Jon Nelson (14), Shin-Soo Choo (13)

RBI Leaders:
Adam Jones (62), Greg Dobbs (55), Hunter Brown (48), Shin-Soo Choo (48)

Wins Leaders:
Francisco Cruceta (13), Cha-Seung Baek (12), Bobby Livingston (8)

Innings Pitched Leaders:
Francisco Cruceta (160.1), Cha-Seung Baek (147.0), Bobby Livingston (135.1)

Has had some great success with Cleveland

————————–
2005 Tacoma Rainiers – 80-64 Record
Home Run Leaders:
Abraham Nunez (17), Aaron Rifkin (14), Shin-Soo Choo (11)

RBI Leaders:
Abraham Nunez (86), Aaron Rifkin (54), Shin-Soo Choo (54)

Wins Leaders:
Damian Moss (9), Andrew Lorraine (9), Felix Hernandez (9 – 19 games/14 starts), Cha-Seung Baek (8)

Innings Pitched Leaders:
Andrew Lorraine (141.0), Damian Moss (137.2), Cha-Seung Baek (113.2)

This is Abraham Nunez... no, I didn't have a clue either.

————————–
2004 Tacoma Rainiers – 79-63 Record
Home Run Leaders:
A.J. Zapp (29), Bucky Jacobsen (26 in 81 games), Justin Leone (21 in 68 games!)

RBI Leaders:
A.J. Zapp (101), Bucky Jacobsen (86), Justin Leone (51)

Wins Leaders:
Travis Blackley (8), Randy Williams (7 – in 50 games), Matt Thornton (7 – attempted starter)

Innings Pitched Leaders:
Travis Blackley (110.1), Gustavo Martinez (99.1), Craig Anderson (92.1)

Bucky Jacobsen was so awesome!

———————- Final Thoughts ———————-
Again, slim pickings when it comes to MLB impact. You really have to ask yourself how the Mariners have been so bad for so long with their drafts. A lot of free agent signings helped as stopgaps. Over the last ten years, when only “system players” like Jose Lopez and Willie Bloomquist have made impacts for the Mariners, it stings a little bit. Players like Adam Jones and Shin-Soo Choo have gone on to have impacts with their respected teams, but nowhere (other than King Felix) has there been a true “star player” to breakthrough the system.

Time will tell, but I have a great feeling Jack Zduriencik will have our system Top 5 in the next 2-3 years.

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