By Simon Teska
While doing my mundane, weekly perusing of minor league baseball player stats a few weeks ago, I discovered the Triple-A All-star game will be hosted by the Tacoma Rainiers on the weekend of July 12 this year. That’s kind of cool for Seattle Mariners and baseball fans alike! The Pacific Coast League and the Independent League on the east coast are always loaded with prospects and promising players, but this year might be one of the best from an overall talent perspective.
While many of the minor league’s best – including Chicago White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada (current leading vote-getter), Oakland shortstop Franklin Barreto and New York Mets shortstop Ahmed Rosario will likely be there, what about the host team? Who from Tacoma has a chance to represent the Mariners?
WHY THIS IS A ‘SPECIAL” YEAR FOR THE RAINIERS
For those of you who haven’t voted for the Triple-A All-stars yet (don’t everyone raise their hands at once), the ballot includes a fair share of players from Tacoma – including Christian Bergman, Sam Gaviglio, Boog Powell, Tyler Smith and Ben Gamel.
If that list of names looks suspicious, it’s because they are all currently on the Mariners team, and contributing on a regular basis (for now…hopefully). I have no idea what the rules are as far as MLB service time and eligibility for the all-star game, but if I had to make an educated guess, I would word it as follows:
Any player currently on a major-league roster at the time of the Triple-A All-Star break will not be eligible to participate in the all-star weekend festivities. If a player was briefly called up or has ‘x-amount’ of innings pitched or fewer at the major-league level or ‘x-amount’ of at bats or fewer at the major league level this season and are currently assigned to the organization’s Triple-A team, then they are eligible to participate in the all-star game.
That’s not even remotely direct from a rule book. I just made that up, but I needed to establish a baseline for the rest of this column.
THE VOTING CONUNDRUM
When I filled out my ballot a couple weeks ago, I was very conflicted with some of my PCL choices. I wanted to vote for Bergman and Caviglio, but I didn’t because they are up with the Mariners. Tuffy Gosewich, however, I didn’t feel compelled to vote for, nor did not voting for him make me upset. (Sorry Tuffers)
I was able to vote for Dan Vogelbach, who was with the Mariners briefly, but not enough to warrant not earning a vote. I also went with Tyler O’Neil – despite his .219 average. He does have 25 RBIs to go with six home runs and five steals.
Gamel, however, did not get my vote either. He might not see Triple-A again, but once the Mariners get healthy, who knows? It can make voting hard – especially if fans don’t know the guidelines.
For example, Cody Bellinger is on the ballot for first basemen. Last I knew he is the current favorite for National League rookie of the year and playing almost every day in L.A. Dodger fans would be pretentious enough to vote for him on the Triple-A ballot anyway. (Zing!)
OTHER PROSPECTS TO WATCH
There should be plenty of talent in Tacoma, even if some of the big-name guys get called up permanently within the next month. Aside from the three I already mentioned – Moncada, Barreto and Rosario – top prospect in Milwaukie’s system, outfielder Lewis Brinson, is putting together a strong season for the Colorado Sky Sox.
Derek Fisher in the Astros system seems to be leading the next wave of prospects to come out of the Houston pipeline. He is expected to make the trip to Tacoma along with Iowa’s catcher Victor Caratini to lead the PCL squad.
On the Independent League side, I don’t know if a lot of Canadians are voting or what’s going on, but barely behind the White Sox multi-million-dollar Cuban superstar investment Moncada in voting is the Buffalo Bisons’ (Blue Jays affiliate) Jake Elmore. Elmore, a second baseman, is hitting a mild .219, with zero home runs, 22 RBIs and eight steals. There are better second basemen to choose from – including Braves top prospect Ozzie Albies – hitting .262 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and 15 steals.
What are the Canadian voters doing to the Independent League voting? At least Rainiers fans have an excuse – all of their players are in the majors.
On a more serious note, if Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies doesn’t get called up soon, he will be a monster to watch in Tacoma in July as a first basemen representing the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (I just wanted to say Iron Pigs).
Good luck trying to vote for your all-stars, Tacoma and Seattle fans. Regardless of who gets in for the Rainiers (Gosewich will not), it will be a fun game to watch. Sometimes Triple-A games can be filled with aging players, trying to hang onto a career (Leonys Martin), or simply players who are better suited for the minor leagues than the big leagues (Gordon Beckham), but there is a good side to watching minor league baseball.
I drove to Buffalo back in the day to watch Stephen Strasburg’s Triple-A debut and it was arguably the best game I’ve ever been to. It had a World Series feel to it – seriously. I’ve been to both events, and seeing 99 on the ‘not-so-big screen’ to a packed house of maybe 20,000 cheering on the opponent’s pitcher was pretty awesome.
There will be plenty of star power on display in Tacoma. You might have to cheer for players from other teams this year, but think of it as you are simply enjoying the sport of baseball in an exhibition setting. It certainly doesn’t get much better than that.
The Mariners are winning again, so that’s good. The weather will get crappy-ish again, so that’s not as good, but enjoy your weekend anyway. If you get super bored, feel free to vote in the Triple-A All-Star game by visiting this link.