Tacoma Rainiers

Will Mariners promote a Double-A slugging star?

In the coming weeks — or perhaps days — we are going to learn when the Seattle Mariners’ new front office believes is the appropriate time to promote a minor league prospect.

There have been player promotions already, but most have been to fill a need at the next level, such as an injury in Triple-A causing a player from Double-A to move up, and on down the line.

But now there is a player unexpectedly forcing consideration about moving him up a level. What will the Mariners’ new Player Development Department, led by Andy McKay, do in this situation?

Twenty-year-old outfielder Tyler O’Neill wasn’t expected to be dominating the Double-A Southern League as the season’s halfway point approached, but that is exactly what he is doing.

O’Neill is hitting .326 with 12 home runs and 53 runs batted in through 59 games. In 230 at-bats, he has drawn 24 walks while striking out 60 times. His on-base percentage stands at .387, and he’s slugging .574 for an OPS of .961.

The knock on O’Neill, heading into 2016, was his plate discipline. Last year, he launched 32 home runs in the hitter-friendly California League, but he struck out 137 times with only 29 walks in 407 at-bats. His batting average was .260.

He’s improved his strikeout rate, his walk rate, his batting average and his on-base percentage while maintaining the power.

So is it time to move him up?

Philosophies are different throughout the game.

The Pat Gillick and Bill Bavasi-era Mariners used to promote a handful of successful players when the Double-A and two Class-A leagues reached their All-Star break, which is June 20-22 this year. The Jack Zduriencik-era Mariners occasionally would move up a player after three hot weeks. Some other franchises prefer to leave a prospect at one level for an entire season.

The Mariners’ handling of O’Neill — whatever it may be — will give us an idea of what to expect with future prospects in the organization.

Votes for Zunino

With the Triple-A All-Star Game coming to Tacoma in 2017, Rainiers fans might get on their computers and vote in as many hometown players as possible.

It’s not happening in 2016.

The most recent fan balloting results, released by the Pacific Coast League, show only one Tacoma player ranked in the top five vote getters at any position. Mike Zunino is second in voting among catchers, trailing Iowa’s Willson Contreras.

Fans can vote until June 24 at http://www.milb.com/milb/events/asg/y2016/ballot/ballot.jsp.

Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers

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