10 days ago, I ran my mouth off and said that Marco Gonzales, Andrew Moore, and Guillermo Heredia are the three up-and-comers in the Mariners organization to keep an eye on during Spring Training. Being that today is an off-day, I figure it’s as good a time as any to check in and investigate how they’re progressing so far.
However, before we check-in with them, there are some other young stand-outs worth the mention. For starters, Dan Vogelbach. He’s been electric at the plate, most notably on Friday when he went 2-3 with a three-run go-ahead bomb over the right-field wall. Danny’s Spring Training slash line of .417/.558/.750 is great to see from the young first baseman, as is the 4 walks and single strikeout he’s amassed in his first 16 plate appearances.
Braden Bishop has been another story, both on and off the field. Even more admirable than his 2017 award for the Minor League Player of the year, is Bishop’s #FORMOM campaign designed to heighten awareness for early-onset Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease that has gravely affected his family after his mother’s diagnosis last year.
Bishop arrived into this year’s Spring Training with poise and purpose, slashing .467/.471/.667 in 15 at-bats. Of those 15, he’s accrued 7 hits, including a double, triple and 2 RBIs. He’s not quite ready for the Big League but could receive a call-up by the end of the season depending on how things go.
On the pitching front, hats must go off for Rob Whalen. Since taking time off last season to recover from depression and anxiety issues Whalen has had two outstanding outings on the mound; accumulating only 4 hits and 1 walk in 5 innings pitched. He’s currently sitting on an ERA of 1.80 with 7 strikeouts. If you’ve witnessed the action on his delivery this Spring Training you know that this dude is back and hell-bent to make a statement. So far, it’s been loud and clear with both manager, Scott Servais and GM Jerry Dipoto taking notice.
Finally, Dan Altavilla is slaying. In 3 relief innings, the young slinger has allowed 1 hit, no runs, no home runs, no walks, and therefore has no ERA to record. Opposing teams have averaged .100 against him. If Altavilla keeps up this early trend of perfection he’ll add to an already promising bullpen and upgrade it into a slaughterhouse.
Marco Gonzales has arrived
It’s way too early to say this kind of thing, but I’m going to say it anyway, that Marco has arrived. In 2 starts, 5 innings pitched, Marco has accumulated only 3 hits and 1 walk. Friday, against the Brewers, was the real test, when a bloop and a bunt quickly saw two men on base with no outs. What happened next was a lot of eyebrow furrowing, perfect pitching, and composure personified by the young talent.
“I need that experience […] It’s not always going to be flowers and rainbows. So I value that, for sure, guys on base. We’ve been working a lot with a man on second, so it was good to be in that situation.”
Currently, with a 0.00 ERA and a tally of 8 strikeouts, it’s still early days, but the trend is definitely moving in the right direction. The addition of his cutter, his silly weird change-up, and his fastball are working for him right now. His next start is Wednesday and I’m eager to see Marco keep the right numbers low, and the other right numbers high. If this is his breakout year, the Mariners’ rotation just got a lot more dangerous.
Guillermo Heredia: No, no one is calling him El Conde yet, but they will.
The management obviously didn’t heed my advice and held El Conde out of the line-up for a week, but since his introduction into Spring Training play he’s impressed and in a very interesting way.
He looks so calm at the plate it’s borderline creepy.
On Friday, Heredia made two plate appearances for two walks—two well-read, masterfully restrained walks—two walks from a guy who in the past has shown a penchant for going out swinging. Again, on Sunday, he took a walk in his first at-bat before ripping a double to straight-away center field. Servais plans on introducing him to the outfield by the end of next week.
I know it’s not likely, I know what they all say, but I think that this guy is the real deal and will land a spot on the Mariners’ Opening Day roster before finding himself somewhere in the outfield as a starter. Sometimes, you just feel these things; I have no other proof. But, if he keeps hitting, watch out.
Andy “We’ll need to see” Moore is killing it, getting killed, then getting killed before killing it.
Where do I begin, but with a section of Kippling’s famous poem, IF—
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Moore’s first outing came in relief against the San Diego Padres where he went 2 hitless innings with 3 strikeouts. It was a thing of beauty. However, his first start was anything but.
Last Tuesday, Moore struggled to find his command giving up 6 runs of 7 hits in1 1/3 innings against the Royals. It was bad and there’s no other way to put it. But, this isn’tMoore’s first encounter with adversity. In 2017, when the club’s starting pitchers were dropping at an alarming rate the kid was called up and had a hell of a debut, but shortly after found himself in a skid. Despite a third call-up and redeeming September, he finished the season 1-5 with a 5.34 ERA.
“That was a tough stretch for me,” he said. “Going through that and seeing I could fight through it and having some success in September was nice. I’ll hopefully build on that. At the time, that was tough. It was good making some adjustments and seeing positive results from it, so hopefully, I keep that going.”
Yesterday, Moore took the mound in the bottom of the 4th and went 3 scoreless innings, with 3 strikeouts and left 3 men on base without allowing any of them into scoring position. It was a strong performance following a dismal outing.
Moore’s going through the process, learning from his mistakes, and making the most of his chances. He needs to register a couple quality starts and remain consistent when he’s called into relief if he wants a chance in the starting rotation. It’s more likely that he’ll begin the season with the Tacoma Rainiers and wait for the call-up when needed.
Moore’s next start will be crucial in determining his consistency and just how much he’s improved. He’ll have to keep his insides inside and his pitches outside, or inside, depending. Either way, not down the middle; he has to showcase his command and ability to place the ball.
Andrew’s a dark horse trotting on a road of gold. I can’t wait to see him when he makes his break out, and I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Happy Monday, and GOMS.