Thursday, September 02, 2004

A.J. Zaaaapp!

The Tacoma Rainiers are floundering to the finish of the PCL season, their roster decimated by the needs of the Big Club. They've 5 of their last 6, and 7 of their last ten, while the Portland Beavers have won 7 in a row to catch and pass the Rainiers for 1st place in the Northern Division of the Pacific Conference of the PCL. The Beavers have turned a 2-game deficit when they came to Tacoma last weekend into a 4-game lead, with 5 games remaining for both teams.

There has been a bright spot for the Rainiers of late, though. A. J. Zapp has been on an absolute tear. Since I last went to a Rainiers game on August 18 (when he was hitting .284), Zapp has gone 19-50 (.380) with 4 doubles, 5 HR (that's a .760 SLG, folks), 11 runs, and 16 RBI. He's now hitting .294/.367/.528 as a left-handed hitting first baseman. Baseball Prospectus projects his major league equivalent average at .239, which is a helluva lot better than Scott Spiezio.

In that time, Zapp has had a couple of really special games. On August 20, he went 5-5 with a double, two home runs (a Grand Slam and a 2-run bomb), and nine runs batted in against Fresno. Then, last night, Zapp became the first man to hit a home run over the 29-foot high center field wall in the 44-year history of Cheney Stadium. That wall is not only really high, it is really, really far away -- 425 feet from home plate. That is just a MONSTER shot -- I have my doubts about whether the estimated 505 feet the ball traveled is quite a bit too low.

Zapp still strikes out way too much (174 times this season), but he's had quite a season for Tacoma -- as he did for San Antonio the year before. He's quite a bit better than Bucky Jacobsen defensively, and might make a decent platoon with the right-handed hitting Jacobsen next year. He's not on the 40-man roster, but you've got to think he's earned a September call-up, not to mention a reasonable chance to compete for a spot on the 25-man next Spring, if the Mariners look to positions other than 1B to fill their offensive needs (as they should).


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