The Tacoma Rainiers Opening Day roster for the 2011 season has been announced, and we finally know who we’ll see take the field against the River Cats on Thursday in Sacramento. Expectations are high after a Pacific Coast League championship in 2010, and there will be a number of talented prospects on the team to start things off in 2011. So what roster will be ushering in a new era of Rainiers baseball, with new owners and a newly rebuilt Cheney Stadium?
Final 2010 Record: 74-69, defeated Memphis Redbirds for PCL Championship
2010 Batting Leaders: Greg Halman 18 HR, 80 RBI | Matt Mangini .313 BA
2010 Pitching Leaders: Luke French 11 W, 2.94 ERA | Andy Baldwin 87 K’s
Pitchers (12): Blake Beavan, Denny Bautista, Dan Cortes, Manny Delcarmen, Luke French, Cesar Jimenez, Justin Miller, Edward Paredes, Chaz Roe, Royce Ring, Chris Seddon, Chris Smith
Catchers (2): Josh Bard, Chris Gimenez
Infielders (6): Dustin Ackley, Leury Bonilla, Jetsy Extrano, Sean Kazmar, Alex Liddi, Matt Tuisosopo
Outfielders (4): Mike Carp, Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero, Mike Wilson
Notable Prospects: Dustin Ackley (2B), Blake Beavan (RHP), Alex Liddi (3B), Dan Cortes (RHP), Greg Halman (OF)
Players To Watch: Chaz Roe (RHP), Edward Paredes (LHP), Mike Carp (1B/OF), Carlos Peguero (OF)
Outlook: This is an interesting roster, if only for the fact that nearly every player on it could figure in to the Mariners’ 2011 season if one thing or another goes horribly wrong. Now that I’ve painted that rosy little picture, let’s look at who’s who…
Ackley returns to Tacoma after finishing 2010 there, and headlines the prospect group this year. His bat will be as good as ever, and much of his effort will likely be going in to improving his defense at second base. However, he’s not long for the minors; once his glove is deemed ready or there’s an urgent need in the major league middle infield, he’s off for Seattle.
Alex Liddi and Matt Tuiasosopo will probably be manning third base and first base, respectively, but don’t be shocked if they flip from time to time. Also don’t be shocked if Tui swaps with probable left fielder Mike Carp at times, as first base is Carp’s natural position, and the organization seems to want to help build Tui’s defensive utility a little. It’s interesting that Carp is listed as an outfielder, but it also makes some sense given the M’s logjam in the corners of the infield in the upper minors (only made worse once 3B Matt Mangini is healthy) and his success in a trial out there last year.
In the “well that’s odd” category, there are only four starting pitchers currently listed: Beavan, French, Roe, and Seddon. Per the ever-stellar radio announcer Mike Curto, the fifth starter will be revealed on the fifth day of the season. I suppose Darren Brown felt like being cagey today.
Another oddity is the inclusion of Jetsy Extrano on the roster. Extrano only has six games of experience above rookie-level Pulaski, and has only played two seasons stateside so far. You have to think that this happened for two reasons: one, to reward him for a good spring (I don’t actually know that he did have a good spring, but why else would it happen?), and two: as a “paperwork” fill-in. Extrano is likely only on the roster until Mangini is healthy, the fifth starter is decided, or a pending free agent signing is completed. Still, good for him.
While the raw crop of prospects isn’t strictly as interesting in Tacoma as other levels will see this year, the team on a whole should be a good one to watch. Will they defend their PCL title? Who knows; it’s a long season, after all. It should be an entertaining team, especially with all the power that Liddi and the four listed outfielders should display in Cheney Stadium. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how things shake out.