The minor league season opened across the nation on Thursday night, including all four Seattle Mariners full-season affiliates.
The Triple-A club in Tacoma gets plenty of attention, so here’s a look at some of the interesting player assignments at the lower levels of the Mariners’ farm system:
Jackson Generals – The Mariners’ Double-A team changed its name from the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx but is still playing its home games at Pringles Park in Jackson, Tenn.
Returning prospects assigned to Jackson include 21-year-old shortstop Carlos Triunfel, who is repeating the level after missing nearly the entire 2009 season with a broken leg; and corner infielder Nate Tenbrink, who shows promise as a hitter.
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Two power hitters also were promoted to Double-A for 2011 – first baseman Rich Poythress (.315, 31 home runs and 130 RBI at Class-A High Desert last year) and right fielder Johermyn Chavez (.315-32-96 at High Desert).
Pitchers of note include starter Steven Hensley and relievers Josh Fields and Moises Hernandez (Felix’s older brother).
Keep an eye on second baseman Kyle Seager, who is trapped behind Dustin Ackley on the depth chart but hit .345 at High Desert last year.
High Desert Mavericks – the Mariners’ Advanced Single-A affiliate plays at high elevation in Adelanto, Calif. The wind often blows out to right field at the Mavericks’ home ballpark, causing many high scoring games.
Shortstop Nick Franklin could put up huge offensive numbers in the high-octane California League. As a 19-year-old in the Midwest League last year, Franklin broke the Clinton franchise record for home runs in a season with 23.
Baseball America magazine pegs Franklin as the Mariners’ No. 3 minor league prospect entering the 2011 season, trailing only Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley.
Clinton LumberKings – the Mariners’ Low-A affiliate in Iowa has several players who could take a big step forward in their development, like Franklin did last year.
Shortstop Marcus Littlewood was Seattle’s second-round draft pick last year, and he jumped out of the gate with five hits in Clinton’s first two games of the season.
Third baseman Ramon Morla hit 17 home runs in just 62 games to lead the short-season Appalachian League last year.
Catcher Steve Baron impressed in major league spring training this year, showing improvement at the plate. Now, he must try to carry it into the regular season.
University of Washington product Forrest Snow returns to Clinton as a starting pitcher after an impressive showing out of the bullpen in 2010.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.