Tough calls for McClendon coming in just over a week.
I think it’s fair to say that there has been more intrigue in this year’s Seattle Mariner’s Spring Training Camp than any other for some time. With 2 starting positions up for grabs and a plethora of rotation spots to fill, some decisions will be easier than others for new M’s skipper, Lloyd McClendon.
As Spring camp winds down in Arizona, here is how I see things shaking out on the Mariner’s 25 man roster.
Note that I put the regular starters who are injured in parentheses next to the guys who will replace them.
Let’s talk a bit about the first 4 names before we get to the 5th. Hernandez is obvious and I think warrants little discussion. We all know what he can do and has done.
Erasmo Ramirez, to the surprise of many, has been the hottest starter in the Spring thus far. He’s given up just 2 earned runs in 12.2 innings. That gives him an ERA under 1.50 and with just 2 walks his WHIP is 1.02. Ramirez has clearly earned a chance to start.
James Paxton is the other youngster, although without nearly as much surprise, that has clearly earned a spot in the rotation. Paxton has given up just 3 earned runs in 13 innings. His ERA is just over 2.00 and he’s only issued one walk in all of Spring Training.
Come back kid, Scott Baker, has been serviceable. He has one less start than the other youngsters he’s competing with, just 8 innings in 3 starts. His ERA is 3.38 and he’s walked just 1. As long as Baker doesn’t throw clunkers in his last few starts I think he wins a job and it’s a nice comeback story to boot.
Now we come to the last spot in the rotation. In my estimation this is a contest between Blake Beavan, and Randy Wolf. I think you can eliminate Brandon Maurer at this point due to his back issues that continue to plague him.
Both Wolf and Beavan have ERAs approaching 5.00 so far in the Spring. Both have had issues with giving up gopher balls (both have given up 4 in 4 starts), which can be somewhat explained away by the Arizona weather. Both have also had issues with walking guys (4 for Beavan and 5 for Wolf) which really can’t be explained away.
Beavan had been pitching better than this. His last start resulted in 3 of his 4 homers. Maybe you chalk that one up to his clunker for the spring as long as the bad performance doesn’t repeat itself in his last 2 or so starts.
While that’s a sound argument for giving the nod to Beavan on the 5th spot, it makes for a very, VERY young rotation behind Felix. Wolf brings a veteran presence to the rotation and McClendon might just decide that if all things are equal he wants more experience on the hill. He’ll let Wolf have the spot if that is the case.
Of course all of this is a moot point in a couple of weeks since both of these guys will get bumped from the rotation once Walker and Iwakuma return in mid April. Personally, I like and go with Beavan in this spot.
McClendon has made it clear that his pitching staff will have 12 names. That means there are 7 jobs available in the bullpen. The decisions down here are fairly easy thanks to the injuries of Iwakuma and Walker.
Let’s get the first 4 names out of the way that are obvious to me. Fernando Rodney is the closer. Tom Wilhelmsen will set him up along with Yoervis Medina and Danny Farquhar. That leaves just 3 spots to be filled by the following 3 guys: Hector Noesi, Lucas Luetge, and Charlie Furbush.
The really tough choices will come when McClendon has to decide between Noesi, Luetge, and Furbush vs. Ramirez and Baker when they have to come out of the rotation to make room for Walker and Iwakuma.
For now, it is what it is.
These are the positions that appear to be obviously filled at this point. The two biggest questions lie at Shortstop and Centerfield so we’ll skip them for a moment.
- 1B Justin Smoak
- 2B Robinson Cano
- 3B Kyle Seager
- C Mike Zunino
- LF Dustin Ackley
- RF Corey Hart
- DH Logan Morrison
As far as I’m concerned, Michael Saunders has won the job statistically in Center. He’s batting .333 and he leads the club in RBIs with 12. Abraham Almonte has played brilliantly defensively but has struggled with the bat hitting just .152. Endy Chavez is also in the mix, has hit .296 so far, but is another lefty bat.
The only reason this one is not decided is because of the M’s left handed heavy lineup. Saunders would be yet another lefty in a nearly all lefty lineup. Almonte is a switch hitter and I think McClendon just might give him the nod if he shows the least bit of life at the plate in the closing 2 weeks of Spring.
Lefty heavy or not, I give the spot to Saunders.
Just before camp began Jack Zduriencik and Lloyd McClendon declared Shortstop to be a wide open competition between Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. The loser would be headed to AAA. As I write this Miller is batting close to .450 while Franklin has let his average dip to below .250.
Despite the 200 point batting average disparity, McClendon stated this week that he doesn’t think either candidate has separated himself from the other. Rumors also persist about Franklin being traded.
I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. McClendon, this week, has hinted at the loser being on the bench as opposed to going to AAA. Clearly he likes them both and wants to keep them around one way or another.
This starting spot goes to Miller. 200 points cannot be ignored come the regular season.
Okay, 12 pitchers, 9 starters, that leaves just 4 spots on the bench. Obviously you need a backup catcher and that’s John Buck so now you have just 3 spots.
The M’s signed utility man Willie Bloomquist to sizable money so I think he’s safely on the roster to do just what does best… super-sub on the infield.
Clearly the M’s will need at least 1 extra outfielder. Given the love affair McClendon has for Almonte, which I share I might add, I’d say Almonte makes the team as the 4th outfielder over Chavez who will have to be told by 3/25 that he has not made the team. That leaves just one last roster spot.
Now we come back to Nick Miller. Does he get this last spot? A switch-hitting guy who can run is certainly a good fit for the bench. Let’s not forget how left handed heavy this lineup is though and that’s why I think the M’s will also give serious consideration to outfielder Stefen Romero for this last roster spot.
Romero has received considerable playing time this spring. He has just 9 hits in 38 at bats giving him a .238 batting average but you have to dig a bit deeper than that. His 9 hits include 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 Homers. He’s slugging .553 and has an OPS over .800.
The best part of all that on Romero? He does all this hitting right handed! In the end, I think that will be the difference.
In fairness to Franklin, whom I really thought would win the SS job, I think going to AAA is preferable to riding the bench. He needs to continue to hit every day to improve and there isn’t much playing time available to a middle infielder behind Cano, Miller and Bloomquist.
There you have it. It’s your 2014 Seattle Mariners.