The first of the Mariners’ minor league organizations to announce their 2011 Opening Day roster this year was the Clinton LumberKings, who won the Midwest League Western Division Title in 2010 before falling to the Lake County Captains in the MWL Championship series.
Final 2010 Record: 82-56, lost in League Championship series
2010 Batting Leaders: Nick Franklin 23 HR
Vince Catricala .302 BA, 79 RBI
2010 Pitching Leaders: Taylor Stanton 12 W
Brian Moran 1.34 ERA | Erasmo Ramirez 117 K’s
Pitchers (13): Matt Bischoff, Tyler Blandford, Tyler Burgoon, Willy Kesler, Seon Gi Kim, Stephen Kohlscheen, Fray Martinez, Brandon Maurer, George Mieses, Forrest Snow, Anthony Fernandez, Jason Markovitz, Edlando Seco
Catchers (2):Steven Baron, Carlton Tanabe
Infielders (7):Marcus Littlewood, Ramon Morla, Tim Morris, Anthony Phillips, Carlos Ramirez, Stefen Romero, Mickey Wiswall
Outfielders (3):Matt Cerione, Julio Morban, Kevin Rivers
Disabled List: Jonathan Arias (RHP)
Notable Prospects: Marcus Littlewood (SS), Steven Baron (C), Ramon Morla (3B), Forrest Snow (RHP), George Mieses (RHP)
Players To Watch: Kevin Rivers (OF), Stefen Romero (3B), Mickey Wiswall (1B), Anthony Fernandez (LHP), Edlando Seco (LHP), Ty Burgoon (RHP), Julio Morban
Outlook: This is not a boring or unimpressive group for Clinton to start with. Snow is being converted back to a starting pitcher, and will be the LumberKings’ Opening Day starter. He certainly has the stuff to succeed in that role, and will be monitored closely to see how he progresses.
Blandford, Fernandez, Mieses, and Seco figure to round out the rotation, and all four are interesting prospects in their own right. This should be a very successful rotation in a league that’s already kind to pitchers. Don’t be surprised if Kim and Kesler wind up making starts here and there when needed as well. Burgoon and Martinez should figure in for the back end of the bullpen.
In the lineup, Baron and Littlewood are both recent high draft picks. Baron struggled in his first taste of the MWL last season, but should do better coming off an impressive spring. Littlewood is a big, athletic shortstop getting his first taste of pro ball, and will have numerous eyes watching him closely to see if the Mariners have struck gold again after the success that Nick Franklin saw last year.
Rivers, Cerione, and Morban give the ‘Kings a very good defensive outfield, and their infield shouldn’t be too shabby either. Rivers, Morla, Wiswall, and Littlewood should help give them a potent offense as well, and it wouldn’t shock me to see the team give a strong defense of their West Division title in 2011.
One notable absence is Taijuan Walker, a right-handed pitcher and the M’s top draft pick in 2010. A recent convert to playing baseball full-time, it was hoped that he might show enough progress during Spring Training to warrant a full-season assignment. However, as he has not made it to the Clinton roster it looks as though he will stay in Peoria for extended spring training and an eventual assignment to Everett or Pulaski. That is unless he winds up on the High Desert roster, but that seems very unlikely given the hostile environment there for pitchers.