SeattleClubhouse: Minor League Mailbag

In this, our second edition of the SeattleClubhouse: Minor League Mailbag (Week of February 11th, 2013), we talk about where certain prospects will fit in the near future, welcome newly acquired Abraham Almonte, and address Vinnie Catricala's 2012 season.

Welcome to the second edition of the Seattle Mariners Minor League Mailbag at SeattleClubhouse.

As was mentioned last week in our inaugural edtion, this feature will be a weekly publication to the SeattleClubhouse schedule on Thursday once the 2013 season is underway. In addition to answering questions, SeattleClubhouse will include weekly and bi-weekly columns chronicling news from throughout the organization. It is our hope that providing such a format will allow you, our readers, to obtain thorough and attentive answers to your questions.

Carlos Triunfel has been a "prospect" forever, it seems. Now that Ackley and Seager seem to have 2B/3B locked up at the ML level, with Franklin waiting in the wings to take over SS, where does he fit into the Mariner plans, if at all?
Kris E. - Kirkland, WA.

Combing through Triunfel's minor league seasons, it doesn't take long to spot that something threw off his development – that something being a leg injury during the 2009 season. With a game built around speed and defensive value, the shortstop was faced with a tough task. Learning to become as much of that former player as he could post-rehabilitation, while moving forward with any restrictions from the injury.

Triunfel looked as healthy as ever in 2012 setting career highs for hits (129), doubles (31), home runs (10), and runs batted in (62) with Triple-A Tacoma and making his Major League debut with the Seattle Mariners.

Something that caught my eye is his proficiency for hitting the ball with runners on-base. Over the past two seasons Triunfel has hit the ball at a .287 clip with runners on-base. Timely hitting is an important factor for Major League clubs who play in pitcher's parks, just ask Kyle Seager.

His game translates well to the Major Leagues for his position, being named the ‘Best Infield Arm' in the Seattle Mariners organization seven concurrent seasons by Baseball America.

Tacoma skipper Daren Brown told the Tacoma News Tribune of seeing Triunfel at shortstop, "You watch him get to a ball in the hole and make a throw, that arm is special," Brown said.

While Robert Andino may be the ideal primary back-up infielder due to his Major League experience, Triunfel should get a fair shake to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training.

How does recently acquired Abraham Almonte fit into the Mariners plans for the near future? Could he see the Major Leagues in 2013?
Damon - Auburn, WA.

Almonte is a speedy switch hitting centerfielder; stop me if you have heard this one before. While he may lack the final make-up of Leon Landry, he "has a shot at being helpful" per John Sickels of Minor League Ball in reviewing prospects during the 2012 season.

Helpful does not win Most Valuable Player but it does help win games, an area that this Seattle Mariners front-office has dedicated itself to improving.

Nicknamed Abe, he was rated by Baseball America as the ‘Fastest Baserunner' in the Eastern League for the 2012 season, a league that was home to Eury Perez of the Nationals and Aaron Hicks of the Twins, among others. For his career, Almonte has a success rate of 75.5% (176/57) in stealing bases.

With Darren Ford and Trayvon Robinson now outside the organization, both whom combined to lead-off 577 at-bats at Triple-A Tacoma last season, expect the speedy centerfielder to receive a serious look for that vacant lead-off position in 2013.

The younger Almonte could be joined in that hunt by fellow Seattle Mariners prospect and name-holder, Denny Almonte. Both possess skill-sets that lose value if taken away from centerfield, due to lacking the title of 'sure thing' on offense -- both spending last season in Double-A.

He hit .310 against right-handers last season, but struggled versus left-handed pitchers. If his offensive holes do not begin to close, Seattle may try and further acclimate Almonte to a corner outfield position, forecasting him as a 4th outfielder at the Major League level.

While previously mentioned Leon Landry likely opens the season in Double-A Jackson, I'd bet that if you want to see either Almonte in 2013, you buy tickets to Tacoma now.

Carlos Peguero had a pretty solid season in AAA last year. What strides does he have to make this season to be considered a contender for a corner OF spot on the ML club in 2014?
Kris E. - Kirkland, WA.

In the last edition of 'Minor League Mailbag', SeattleClubhouse touched on how the modifications to Safeco Field could aide Carlos Peguero in seeing time in the Major Leagues this season. However, there are things he must do to help himself reach that plateau as well.

The simple answer is that Peguero needs to see the ball better, allowing himself the opportunity to take more controlled swings at the ball. While he isn't your prototypical K/BB player, due to his power potential, there is work to be done on the part of his game that follows taking the bat off his shoulder. Let's take a look at his plate appearances against Pacific Coast League (PCL) average over the past two seasons.

P/PA K% BB% AB/K Swing% Contact%
PCL (2011) 3.76 17.6% 9.4% 4.99 44.4 79.7
Peguero (2011) 3.72 31.8% 5.8% 2.93 55.8 68.2
PCL (2012) 3.71 18.1% 8.6% 4.92 45.9 79.6
Peguero (2012) 3.68 32.0% 9.0% 2.73 53.5 65.9

While the above statistics indicate improved plate discipline over his last two seasons, appearing relevant to swinging less and walking at a higher rate, he needs to increase his contact made if he is going to be productive at the Major League level.

SeattleClubhouse has identified three key areas that Peguero needs to make progress in 2013 to be considered for significant time on the Major League roster in 2014:

1. Stay healthy – Peguero failed to play in 110+ games for the second straight season in 2012, playing in 93 total games between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle.

2. Hit behind in the count – Falling behind in the count is a sure-fire way to increase the difficulty of an at-bat and pitches seen, further skewing contact/swing ratios. Over the past two seasons the outfielder has a .194 batting average while behind in the count, striking out 146 times and walking 0 times.

3. Improve his defensive value – With holes in his offensive game, it's unlikely that a Major League club will make him a full-time designated hitter in the near future. He can however win a corner outfield position. Putting in extra footwork and fly-ball practice could go a long way towards improving his big league chances.

What is the status of last year's hot prospect, Vinnie Catricala? He had a 2011 season much like Stefen Romero's 2012 season but struggled in Triple-A Tacoma this past season. Is he still a top prospect?
Dave – Bellingham, WA.

While last season was a struggle throughout for the 2011 Seattle Mariners Minor League Most Valuable Player, his name is still included in the Top-15 within the organization at MLB.com, among others.

An interesting analysis that SeattleClubhouse shared with readers in December is that 2012 was his first full-season taste of ‘cold weather baseball'. Born in California and a product of the University of Hawaii, Catricala has consistently swung the bat in hot, humid climates since high school. Is this a direct cause for his struggles? Maybe not, while his defensive value has been questioned -- splitting time at first base, third base, and in left field -- he is regarded as having a solid approach at the plate.

In search of an inconsistency between his seasons, SeattleClubhouse came across a significant change in his treatment of pitches outside the zone. In 2011 Catricala swung at 7.7% of pitches outside the zone, making contact on 41.2% of those swings. He added an additional 2.6% in 2012 (10.3%) to the above number, making contact at a clip of just 31.3%.

While there are borderline strikes and off the plate offerings qualified in outside the zone statistics, the above numbers trend towards Catricala falling for the latter last season.

Following such a break-out, productive 2011 season it's a possibility that Catricala over-swung to begin the season -- failing to break out any impending slump that followed.

Catricala will almost certainly open in Tacoma – searching for a position and a return to his previous batting form.

Chris Gwynn told SeattleClubhouse this about working with Catricala for a rebound: "A lot of times you take a step back and take a look at what they did to get to where they were. So we go back and look at those films and try and see what they were doing right and then compare to what they're doing now."

If you would like to submit questions for the 'Minor League Mailbag', reach out to us on the forums or see below for our twitter information.

Looking for more Mariners player interviews, news and articles? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse Contributing Writer Josh Dobner on Twitter at @JPDobner and site Editor Rick Randall at @randallball.

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