2005 Review: Arizona Summer League

Rookie level teams are frequently the first stop, the testing ground for all untested domestic and international players, but this year, the desert squad looked more like a UN summit than a baseball team.

In addition to the usual draft signings, over the course of the season the roster featured ten Dominicans (five of them pitchers), three Australians, two Venezuelans, a Dutch outfielder, a Nicaraguan infielder, and three pitchers representing Columbia, South Africa, and Taiwan.

Unsurprisingly, the team took a little while to gel. After going 9-18 in the first half, they caught fire towards the end, going 17-11 and coming up a win shy of capturing the second-half title. While the offense remained about the same (and near the top) for the majority of the season, the pitching staff was instrumental in their second half run, posting a 4.20 earned-run average as a team compared to 5.53 in the first half.

The clear standout of the staff was LHP Harold Williams, a junior college pick from the 38th round of the 2004 draft. The M's thought enough of Williams to pick him twice, having first selected him in the 43rd round of 2003, and he rewarded their perseverance by putting up a 2.30 ERA in 47.0 innings of work and holding batters to just 38 hits, absurd considering how well the ball travels down there.

Once Williams was promoted to Everett, RHP Juan Zapata took over as the staff ace, putting up a 3.86 ERA overall and winning four games. Tied with him for the team lead in wins was Columbian right-hander Marwin Vega, who spent some time in Everett earlier in the season. Vega struggled initially in the new league, but eventually got his command back and had a 4.76 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched. Another starter who made strides was LHP Steve Uhlmansiek.

Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Uhlmansiek never pitched enough innings to qualify for a win in any of his eight starts, but he never fell apart or got tagged with a loss either. He only averaged an inning or two per appearance, but he did have a 3.78 ERA after a lot of time off and should be ready for much longer outings next season.

The bullpen had some serious struggles over the course of the season, but there were a few constant contributors in there that deserve recognition. Jose Suriel was the team's best left-hander out of the bullpen, picking up two wins and holding opponents to a .250 average. After a demotion from Everett, Juan Colon took over as the team's closer and finished all twelve games he appeared in, recording three saves in the process and striking out 23 batters in 16.1 innings.

As a converted position player with college experience, John Sullivan seemed to flourish in his move to the mound, putting together a campaign where he had a 2.92 ERA, a 3-0 record, and walked just six in 24.1 innings. But one contributor whose efforts might be overlooked was South African right-hander Tyrone Lamont. Now in his second season of pro ball, the 20-year-old had a 4.65 earned-run average, but that doesn't tell the story of how many of his inherited runners had been scored by those who came in after him. In reality, Lamont held batters to a .231 average, the second-lowest on the team (behind Williams), and had nine walks against thirty strikeouts in 31.0 innings of work.

Offensively, the team was carried almost entirely by the outfield, where seven players combined to hit .312/.392/.458 in 626 at-bats, a respectable average for any full-season ballplayer. Of that group, the three biggest producers were all international signings, Tim Auty, from Australia, Oswaldo Graterol, who spent a few years in the Venezuelan Summer League, and Eddy Hernandez, a left-handed hitter from the Dominican.

Auty spent most of his time in center field, where he hit .352/.424/.519 and was tied for second in runs scored with 24, Hernandez acted as the team's primary right fielder, hitting .356/.423/.552 and leading the team in home runs with four, and Graterol played the corners, hitting .345/.446/.464, driving in a team-high 25, and putting his arm to good use whenever some careless runner made the mistake of thinking that he could take an extra base.

But the team was not without its contributors on the infield. Second baseman Juan Guzman, jumping directly from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. in his first year of pro ball, hit .320/.373/.399 as the team's leadoff man and scored thirty runs. Nicaraguan import Ronald Garth hit .357/.430/.616 in 112 at-bats and led the team in triples (5), hit by pitches (8), batting average, and slugging.

A trio of college vets, 1B Andy Hargrove (.314/.464/.482), C/DH Kevin Gergel (.316/.377/.526), and C/1B Curtis Ledbetter (.311/.364/.500), were all rewarded for their efforts with late season promotions to Inland Empire, which was caught short with four players heading off to participate in the baseball world cup in the Netherlands. With so many players on the roster hitting well, it should come as no surprise that the Mariners led the league in hitting with a .291/.370/.429 team batting average.
Additional Players to Watch Next Season:

RHP Miguel Marquez
DOB - 10/28/87, 6-3/180 lbs
An addition that literally came out of nowhere, the 17-year-old Marquez was signed from Venezuela and thrown directly into U.S. ball without any time in the Venezuelan Summer League. For a while his struggles seemed without end, and his ERA was always just a little bit below ten. An example of one of his worst appearances was a three-inning relief stint on July 29th when he gave up eight runs in three innings on seven hits, four wild pitches, and three walks. Then, sometime around mid-August, thing started clicking for him. In his last two starts of the season, he went ten innings, gave up three runs, and struck out sixteen. They wouldn't have had him up here at such a young age if he didn't have some potential, and he did lead the team in innings pitched (50) and strikeouts (49).

RHP Chia-an Huang
DOB - 11/11/85, 6-2/204 lbs
One of the recent products of the Mariners Taiwanese scouting, Huang has a fastball that can hit the mid-90s, a hard slider, and various other sinking pitches that are capable of inducing a spirit-crushing number of groundballs and strikeouts. Unfortunately, he couldn't seem to put those pitches to good use for much of the season, posting a 6.96 ERA in 32.1 innings and frequently giving up hits in the bunches. It could just be the struggle to adjust to life in the states, as the M's have dealt with before in a few of their distant imports, or it could be other factors magnified by the desert conditions, but there's always next year to see what he's really capable of.

OF/1B Greg Halman
DOB - 8/26/87, 6-4, 192 lbs
The youngest position player on the roster, Halman didn't even turn eighteen until the very end of the season, but he's already collected quite a few accolades. Playing in the Dutch professional league last season (against much older competition), Halman was among the leaders in most offensive categories and almost took home the league's triple crown as a sixteen-year-old. His first season in the States was marked with a bit more struggle than he's accustomed to, as he hit only .247 in 89 at-bats, but his on-base percentage was .340 and his slugging was .438, and both of those seem to be positive signs.

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