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2021 Seattle Mariners MiLB affiliate preview: Tacoma Rainiers (Triple-A)

At last we have come to the end of our minor-league affiliate previews. In case you missed any of them, check out the Low-A Modesto Nuts here, the High-A Everett AquaSox here, and the Double-A Arkansas Travelers here. Today we cap things off with the affiliate that is in closest proximity both geographically and level-wise to the big show in Seattle, with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.

The Tacoma Rainiers and the Triple-A West: What’s changed

Outside of the name, not much. We’re still hoping for the reinstatement of the grand old historic Pacific Coast League as a name, because “Triple-A West West” sucks as a division name. Tacoma’s division-mates remain the same as the 2019 configuration: the Salt Lake Bees (Angels), Reno Aces (Diamondbacks), Sacramento River Cats (Giants), and Las Vegas Aviators (A’s). In the East division, the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres), Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies), Oklahoma City Dodgers (Dodgers), and Round Rock Express (Rangers) all return, but are joined by the Sugar Land Skeeters (Astros), formerly an Independent league club. The Fresno Grizzlies are no longer part of Triple-A, and instead have been reassigned to Low-A as the Rockies affiliate.

See the whole Tacoma Rainiers schedule here. Of note, remember that this year it’s six-game sets with an off-day on Monday in order to reduce travel. Every game is available to watch on MiLB TV, and the Rainiers broadcast is of especially high quality, and features our favorite minor-league impresario Casey Catherwood, Epic Sax Gorilla, Polar Boy, Disco Beaver, and a host of other fun activities.

You can also attend Rainiers games in person this year if you’re local. Single game tickets are now available, and the Rainiers are doing a special “vaccinated only” section that allows them to seat more fans without the need for social distancing or pod seating (fans are still required to wear a mask when in the park and not actively eating or drinking). Purchase tickets online here, or contact the Rainiers box office for more info.

Projected lineup:

View the current Tacoma Rainiers roster here.

Here’s how the Rainiers lined up on Opening Night last night:

(Sorry about that graphic, I couldn’t find a better one.) For Triple-A, this is…a pretty solid lineup. It’s a lineup that will win games at Triple-A, especially bolstered by the two big bats in Kelenic and Raleigh. That was on display on Opening Day as Kelenic and Raleigh each homered—Kelenic twice. Jarred is not going to be in Tacoma for long, so if you want to see him without paying Mariners prices, hurry on down to Tacoma. Raleigh, who was promoted to Tacoma despite spending very little time in Double-A last year, looks to be in for a longer haul, so if you dream of seeing the Beef Boy in-person, you have a little more time to get acquainted. There’s also a very likely possibility that when Kelenic comes up, Trammell will go to Triple-A in order to continue to get regular reps (Trammell being one of the players who had no Triple-A time), so the Rainiers could still get back a Top-100 prospect for the one they lose to the big leagues.

The rest of the team isn’t too terribly exciting from a prospect standpoint, but it’s a team that should get some hits, play some good defense, and win a fair amount of games, all making for a fun night at the ballpark.

Projected pitching staff:

Alas, Seattle’s beat-up pitching staff has taken a toll on Tacoma, and the limitations of the Rainiers’ bullpen was on display on Opening Night when the ‘pen couldn’t hold down El Paso despite offensive heroics from Kelenic and Raleigh. Logan Gilbert is the big draw here; he gets the premiere Friday-night start. Monitor his innings and you should have a good idea of how long he’ll be in Tacoma; when they start letting him go five or six innings, you can pretty reliably start GilbertWatch for the Mariners. There’s no denying it, this pitching staff is thin, thin, thin, and the bullpen will likely serve as a revolving door for the big league club as fresh arms get transferred in and out. (Already from this graphic, Swanson, Fletcher, and Mills have all been summoned/sent back from the big-league club, and reliever Reeves Martin has been pressed into service in Tacoma from Everett, which is probably less of a permanent move and more of a band-aid solution, and probably not the last we’ll see that impacts this pitching staff.) I would expect reliable RHP Darren McCaughan promoted back to Tacoma to give the team innings relatively soon, perhaps accompanied by LHP Ian McKinney, who struck out nine batters in five innings in his season debut the other night for Arkansas. The Mariners are probably already watching the waiver wire for pitchers who can be picked up on the cheap, so expect a lot of flux with this pitching staff over the coming months.

MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects at this level:

Jarred Kelenic (4), Logan Gilbert (28)

MLB Pipeline Mariners Top 30 Prospects at this level:

Jarred Kelenic (1), Logan Gilbert (4), Cal Raleigh (8)

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