The Seattle Mariners 2012 AFL Group

I have been in a few conversations since the Seattle Mariners announced their 2012 Arizona Fall League (AFL) rosters about who really ‘should be’ going and I just want to set the record straight about something:

There is a reason why these guys were picked

Let’s take a look at what those are.

Stefen Romero

I partially expect a player with Romero’s skill set (16 HRs in 2011) to hit some serious bombs in the California League (11 HRs in 276 ABs) but he kept the power and hit game going into the Southern League (10 HRs in 227 ABs) and that was a welcome surprise for me.

Cal League to Southern League is possibly the hardest adjustment of one singular level in all of MiLB baseball (just ask Rich Poythress) and yet Romero hit .333/.378/.588 with a 0.967 OPS with Jackson.

Here’s the reason he is AFL bound:

Romero finished 8th from the bottom in BB% at 4.7% (250+ ABs) in the Cal League and the Southern League at 5.7% (220+ ABs).

Romero will benefit from the AFL Instructional League in terms of his pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness because it won’t always be this easy to hit 21 HRs and knock in 95 RBIs.

Mike Zunino

We all know Zunino absolutely tore a hole through the pitching in the NWL (.373/.476/.736/1.210) before being successful in his jump to the Southern League. In 41 games Zunino has only grounded into 2 double plays and walked 22 times in 153 at-bats.

56 hits in 41 games with 14 doubles and 13 HRs tells me that not only is he hitting the ball squarely but he is seeing the ball well all the way to the plate.

Here’s the reason he is AFL bound:

Zunino is a first year guy and first year guys with HIGH ceilings go to the AFL. Hultzen did it in 2011 and Ackley did it in 2010. From what I have been told however Zunino will be reporting late as he is set to be married once the season concludes. Congratulations Mike!

James Paxton

James Paxton is neck and neck with Trevor Miller in my opinion for Mariners MiLB SP of the Year. Paxton has posted a 9.31 K/9 ratio going 9-4 in 21 starts with a 3.05 ERA making him by far the most successful of ‘The Big Three’ here in 2012.

Paxton stranded 75% of runners for 3rd in the Southern League (100+ IP)

Here’s the reason he is AFL bound:

Paxton will finish 3rd in the Southern League in K% which is a great sign but Paxton also will finish 3rd in BB% at 11.9%. His .322 BABIP against is 8th from the bottom in the league (100+ IP) and he allowed 4.57 BB/9 over the course of the season.

Carl Willis, Mariners Pitching Coach, has praised Paxton over his time in the system as having, “an uncanny ability”, to repeat his delivery to the plate.

If he can get his pitch location to mirror his ability to bring the ball to the plate he is as good as any prospect in baseball.

Nick Franklin

It’s easy to see why Franklin was once rated the 53rd overall prospect in baseball after being a 1st round pick in 2009 out of Lake Brantley HS; the alma-mater of Jason Varitek and Jemile Weeks.

Franklin is leading the Southern League in BABIP at.378, he is 5th in SLG, 4th in OPS, and 2nd in AVG at .322 (220+ at-bats).

I should point out that Franklin has a .978 fielding percentage at 2B over 96 games and a .942 fielding percentage at SS over 245 games; 2B is blocked with Ackley.

Here’s the reason he is AFL bound:

Franklin has batted .245 in 275 plate appearances for Tacoma placing him in the bottom 15 in the league over 250 appearances.

His BABIP dropped from .378 in Jackson to .299 at Tacoma and his K% increased 7.7% after the promotion to 23.6%.

I am still high on Franklin and he’s only 21 but he is at a point where he doesn’t need any more AA at-bats, he’s proven that, but he wasn’t ready to be the September call-up the Mariners were hoping.

Vinnie Catricala

I have heard a lot of Vinnie Catricala criticism since the AFL rosters were announced with much of it coming from Stefen Romero supporters. Which is funny once you take a look at their MiLB stats:

Stefen Romero: Between High Desert and Jackson in 2012 Romero has hit .346/.386/.584/0.970 with 21 HRs and 95 RBIs. He has 160 hits thus far and has 33 doubles.
Vinnie Catricala:  Between High Desert and Jackson in 2011 Catricala hit .349/.421/.601/1.021 with 25 HRs and 106 RBIs. He racked up 182 hits, 12th in all of the minor leagues, with 48 doubles.

Catricala is a ++ defender at 1B, I know he is supposed to be a 3B, but that isn’t going to happen. He is a career .992 fielder in the minor leagues at 1B with a range factor of 8.71.

Here’s the reason he is AFL bound:

Don’t really need to explain this one to you; .226/.292/.336 line in AAA this season with just 9 HRs and 55 RBIs in 443 at-bats.

Catricala remains in my mix for Mariners 1B in 2013 with a strong AFL and Spring Training. (Though I really hope this need is addressed via trade waivers before the end of the season or in free agency in the off-season).

Bobby LaFromboise, Logan Bawcom, and Carson Smith

All three of these guys were shut-down in 2012:

Bawcom: 74 Ks in 62 IP with a 2.03 ERA allowing just 2 HRs.
LaFromboise: 69 Ks in 65.2 IP with a 1.37 ERA allowing just 1 HR.
Smith: 74 Ks in 60.2 IP with a 2.97 ERA allowing just 1 HR.

Here’s the reason they are AFL bound:

Another common pigheaded argument I have heard against the Mariners AFL selections is why three relievers are going to an instructional league.

My answer: Because no one wants to open the newspaper, flip to the box-score from the previous night, and see 5.50 ERAs streaking down the pitching column.

The AFL is a great place for relievers to work on their velocity and pitches they otherwise might not have the ability to throw in a MiLB game situation due to late inning relief roles.

Forrest Snow

I am going to skip over the positive statistic sections for Snow and go right for the punchline.

Here’s the reason they are AFL bound:

MiLB career: 1.360 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, and a 4.96 ERA with a 10-22 record.

My guess is that Snow is the ‘Project Guy'; a guy that the Mariners development staff knows can deliver but he just isn’t quite getting whatever it is he needs in running through the MiLB motions season to season.

He is a University of Washington alum and Seattle native which makes him all the cooler.

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