The 2015 season might be over for the Mariners, but there are a number of players from the organization that are continuing to play in various Winter Leagues all around the world.
Many baseball fans are curious about winter league baseball, what it is, and why players would leave the comforts of an off-season at home to go play. It is a chance for players to get more at-bats or inning and continue their development into Major League players. Teams usually send young players, someone who need more work because he didn’t get a full season in the minors, needs a little more experience, or a player coming off an injury and needs more playing time.
The Mariners will have prospects participating in the Arizona Fall League, playing on teams in Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico, while also playing in Australia in the Australia Baseball League.
The 24th Arizona Fall League season opened on Tuesday and runs through November 24. Regarded throughout professional baseball as the “finishing school” for top prospects since its inception in 1992, the 6-team league features top prospects from every organization in Major League Baseball. The league plays 3 games per day 6 days a week (Monday-Saturday) in 5 Cactus League stadiums. This year the sites include Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Cubs Park in Mesa, Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Scottsdale Stadium and Surprise Stadium.
Each AFL team is comprised of 5 major league organizations working cooperatively. The Major League affiliations for each AFL team are as follows: Peoria Javelinas-Peoria Sports Complex (Mariners, Braves, Orioles, Reds, Padres); Surprise Saguaros-Surprise Stadium (Royals, Brewers, Yankees, Cardinals, Rangers); Glendale Desert Dogs-Camelback Ranch (White Sox, Astos, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates); Mesa Solar Sox-Cubs Park (Cubs, Angels, Marlins, Athletics, Rays); Salt River Rafters-Salt River Fields (Diamondbacks, Rockies, Mets, Blue Jays, Natioals) and Scottsdale Scorpions-Scottsdale Stadium (Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, Twins, Giants).
The Peoria roster includes left-handed pitchers Paul Fry, Ryan Horstman, James Paxton, David Rollins, infielders D.J. Peterson and Tyler Smith and outfielder Tyler O’Neill. Peterson was on the also a member of the Surprise Saguaros in 2014. Horstman recently replaced LHP Tony Zych on the Peoria roster after Zych reached his innings limit in September with the Mariners. 2015 AZL Mariners Pitching Coach Rich Dorman will be the Javelina’s pitching coach and AA Jackson trainer B.J. Downie will serve as the team’s trainer.
Paxton, who was limited to only three starts in September after spending the majority of the season on the 15-day disabled list with the Mariners with a strained tendon in middle finger of his left hand (May 29-Sept. 12), will make his first start for Peoria today as the Javelinas take on the Surprise Saguaros.
Peterson, the No. 3 prospect in Seattle’s organization according to MLB Pipeline, played a starring role in a huge comeback on Opening Day of the Arizona Fall League season yesterday. Peterson (2×4, R, 2B, 2 RBI) drove in the tying run and scored the go-ahead run in a 6-5 win for the Peoria Javelinas over the Surprise Saguaros. Peoria trailed for most of the game but scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to come from behind to win.
Winter ball is also played in Venezuela (began Oct. 7), the Dominican Republic (begins Oct. 15), Puerto Rico (begins Oct. 30) and Mexico (began Oct. 9). At the end of the season, the champions of each league play each other in the Caribbean Series. The Mariners have a working agreement with teams in each league and send minor league players and coaches to help teams. It is also an opportunity for the Mariners organization scout talent from those countries as well as American players playing in Latin America.
OF/1B Jabari Blash (Aragua), OF James Jones (Aragua), OF Leon Landry (Lara), LHP Vidal Nuño (Aragua) and OF, Stefen Romero (Aragua) are expected to play in Venezuelan Winter League. SS Ketel Marte (Cibao), RHP Jose Ramirez (Cibao), LHP Tyler Olson (Cibao), RHP Sam Gaviglio (Cibao) and INF Ji-Man Choi (Estrellas Orientales), OF Patrick Kivlehan (Escogido) are expected to spend time in the Dominican Winter League. RHP J.C. Ramirez (Culiacan) will play in the Mexican Winter League, while OF Ian Miller (Santurce) is scheduled to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League.
If it is cold and drizzling in Seattle it is most likely hot and sunny in Australia. RHP Kody Kerski and infielders Jordan Cowan and Kyle Petty will represent the Mariners as members of the Adelaide Bite in the Australia Baseball League, which runs from Oct. 23-Jan. 24.
OF Tyler O’Neill and OF Gareth Morgan will play for Team Canada in Premier 12 Tournament in Taiwan, Nov. 8-21. INF/OF Gianfranco Wawoe (Netherlands), RHP Emilio Pagan (Puerto Rico), LHP Nick Valenza (Puerto Rico) and RHP Chien-Ming Wang (Taiwan) will also participate in the Premier 12 Tournament.
MLB.com has a comprehensive list of statistics from Winter Leagues participants.