[Editor’s Note: With the minor league season winding down, we’ll be giving a rundown of how each affiliate’s season went. We’ll take a look at a different affiliate each day, starting with the rookie ball teams and eventually working our way up to Triple-A Tacoma. Ethan started us off with the AZL Mariners, followed by the DSL Mariners, followed by the Everett AquaSox and then the Clinton LumberKings. Ben kept the line moving with the Arkansas Travelers.]
We’re starting to wind down with our minor league season recaps. The plan was for the Tacoma Rainiers to be the very last team in the lineup, but the Modesto Nuts have selfishly decided to go on a deep playoff run, so some changes were necessary. So, today, I bring you the Tacoma Rainiers.
Overall Record: 66-76
Playoff Record: N/A
They entered the season with one of the more intriguing rosters in the system, possessing a plethora of talented position players and so much pitching depth that two of the Mariners’ top pitching prospects–Andrew Moore and Max Povse–had to journey back down to Double-A to start the year. It was hard to imagine it all going poorly for them, even if there were a few bumps in the road.
And then, just a short drive north of Tacoma, there lived a baseball team who proceeded to hit every. single. bump. in. the. whole. gosh. dang. road.
The Rainiers’ struggles weren’t a result of their own undoing–there weren’t any whispers of locker room fights or unhappy veterans or checked out coaches or anything of that nature. The Rainiers’ biggest problem was the Mariners’ biggest problem: health.
The moment injuries began to hit the Mariners–and boy, did they hit hard–the Rainiers’ roster came unglued. Ben Gamel immediately took over as the driving force in their lineup; he was promoted after 18 games due to Mitch Haniger’s injury. Mike Freeman was supposed to be a valuable utility piece; a Jean Segura injury had him start two months of ping-ponging between the two rosters before the Dodgers plucked him off waivers. Dillon Overton went from rotation piece to San Diego Padre almost overnight. Chase De Jong spent time in Seattle and came back looking nothing like the Chase De Jong we all anticipated. Sam Gaviglio went away for awhile. Christian Bergman went away for awhile. Casey Lawrence went away for awhile. Rob Whalen essentially fell off the face of the map.
In total, the team used 53 different pitchers and 37 different position players. Triple-A is typically the level where you’re going to see the most roster movement amongst the affiliates, but even considering these standards, it was an unusual year for Tacoma.
With this much roster movement and this much talent being consistently promoted or DFA’d to create space for another player (who will also be leaving Tacoma, in all likelihood), finding ways to maintain success can be puzzling. Unfortunately for the Rainiers, their squad full of waiver pickups, indy ball signees, and organization players were unable to piece together a successful season, finishing 66-76 and a full 14 games out of first place.
Top Position Player Performances
Boog Powell, OF
It was hard to imagine Powell putting himself back in a good light quickly, but that’s exactly what he did this past season. After finishing up the suspension carryover from last season, Powell took off, posting a line of .340/.416/.490 over 239 plate appearances with the Rainiers. There were 23 underwhelming games with the Mariners mixed in, but overall, it was a fantastic year for Powell. The only two players to finish with a higher wRC+ combined for just 162 plate appearances (Taylor Motter - 117, Mike Zunino - 45). Mix all of this up with his above-average defense in the outfield and you have yourself a damn fine player.
Powell’s time with the organization ended just as it was getting good, unfortunately–the outfielder was sent to Oakland for Yonder Alonso in August.
Through 25 games with the Athletics, he’s hit .338/.407/.521.
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B/DH
Vogelbach didn’t take the step forward most hoped he would in 2017, but if we hop on into this magical vacuum, it’s a perfectly fine year: .290/.388/.455 with a 122 wRC+, .374 wOBA, and 17 home runs. Our large adult son was also able to put on a show during the Triple-A Home Run Derby.
Danny Muno, 3B
Muno joined the Mariners organization out of the blue at the beginning of the season and what seemed like an insignificant move at first blossomed into one of the key moves for the Rainiers’ offense in 2017. The 28-year-old infielder turned in his best year at the plate since a stop in Double-A in 2013, posting a 117 wRC+ and .157 ISO over 349 plate appearances.
Leonys Martin, OF
Oh, like hell I was going to write a post involving a team that gave Leonys nearly 400 plate appearances this season without mentioning Leonys. After a couple weeks of struggles and changes in swing mechanics in Seattle, Martin ventured to Tacoma with the goal of getting himself back on track. He did just that, hitting .306/.346/.492 over 388 plate appearances and eventually earning himself a spot in Seattle.
He would later be traded to the Cubs. Whatever.
Top Pitching Performances
Okay, I’ll try.
Emilio Pagan, RHP
Pagan dropped off the map a bit in 2016 when he lost all ability to command his pitches in Tacoma. His second tour of duty with the Rainiers was much better, as he registered 36 strikeouts in 31.2 innings while walking just 8. His 2.39 FIP was only bettered by a couple pitchers with no more than a few innings under their belts at most. Pagan’s success in Tacoma earned him a spot in the Mariners’ bullpen, where he shined all season long (1.0 fWAR in 43.1 innings).
Sam Gaviglio, RHP
The biggest headline for the former Oregon State Beaver was him making his long-awaited MLB debut with the Mariners, but when he wasn’t being Seattle’s brave little toaster, he was holding up as Tacoma’s most reliable starting pitcher for most of the season. Over 72 innings, Gaviglio managed a 3.75 FIP and a 4.75 K/BB.
Ryan Weber, RHP
It’d be foolish of me to not mention the fact that Weber allowed just 3 runs in 31.2 innings with the Rainiers this season. His time with Tacoma was cut short by a promotion and then shorter by a near season-ending injury, but from a results-perspective, it’s difficult to find a more dominant stretch in the Rainiers’ season.
Dan Altavilla, RHP
It’s difficult to put up good results when you’re walking nearly six batters per nine innings, but that’s exactly what Dan Altavilla did. He was a strikeout machine for the Rainiers, sitting down 36 hitters in just 23.1 innings while allowing just 4 runs. Triple-A hitters looked completely overwhelmed whenever Altavilla’s hard fastball and sharp-biting slider managed to flutter across the strike zone. It was an odd season, but for a team so starved for pitching help, it’s hard to complain about a guy finishing with a 1.54 ERA and 3.25 FIP.