Sunday, March 23, 2008

He got over Adam Jones real quick

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times is very excited about a 19-year-old shortstop:

Last week, I saw the Mariners' future, and its name is Carlos Triunfel.

OK, perhaps that intentional echo of Jon Landau's famous 1974 Springsteen rave is a little melodramatic.

Triunfel, after all, is just a babe in arms in baseball terms, less than a month removed from his 18th birthday. He has yet to hit his first professional home run, and innumerable potential pitfalls still await him on the road to stardom.

And yet, sometimes you just can tell when someone has "got it." After watching Triunfel for a few days on a distant minor-league practice field at the Mariners' spring complex here, I'm going to go out on a limb — just me and every scout who has ever seen him play — and say that Triunfel has the touch of greatness.

If you think this all sounds familiar, you're probably right. The Mariners post-Alex Rodriguez maneuverings at the shortstop position have been substantial. The role was immediately filled by Carlos Guillen, of course. But the Mariners have kept after that elusive shortstop star of tomorrow:

2001 first round pick Michael Garciaparra
2003 first round pick Adam Jones
2003 second round pick Jeffrey Flaig
2004 first round pick Matthew Tuiasosopo
Acquired Michael Morse as part of the Freddy Garcia trade in 2004
Gave 17-year-old Carlos Triunfel a $1.3 million signing bonus in 2007

Looking at that list it's a wonder Seattle fought the urge to draft Joel Pryzbilla's younger brother, Samuel. But seriously, all of that and their starting shortstop is a fellow who came over on a raft from Cuba and was signed on relatively short money out of the Mexican League. Yuniesky Betancourt forced Jones to move to center and Morse to become a utility man. Graciappara is now in the Phillies organization, Flaig and Tuiasosopo are each manning third base in the Mariners' farm system.

Yuni plays the field superbly, but his career .307 OBP leaves a little something to be desired. Interesting how the young Betancourt-Lopez double play combo seemed like it was built to last and now Lopez finds himself fighting for the starting job. With Miguel Cairo, no less. Crimminy, Lopez's career OBP is .295!

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