Five surprises on the Mariners minor league opening day rosters

Minors hold key to success for Seattle

The minor league affiliates are fun to keep an eye on during the season, but this year’s Mariners will hopefully be creating enough product on their own.

Still, there are eyes always on the future, and here are five surprises in the organization.


1. Mike Zunino in Triple A

This is absurd. The young catcher was playing for the Florida Gators at this time a year ago, and is now all the way up to Tacoma.

He lasted a long time in the major league camp for Seattle during Spring Training, but few expected him to make the jump. In 44 professional games spent between A ball and Double A, Zunino hit .360 with 13 HR’s and 43 RBI.

Zunino will be worth keeping an eye on as the minor league season begins. If the trend continues, Seattle will be forced to find a place for him on the 25-man roster.

2. Taijuan Walker in Double A

The top-10 prospect in baseball will start the season in the same place as last year, in Jackson. Perhaps M’s fan are spoiled by how early Felix got started in his career, or from watching what Brandon Maurer did this March, but Walker still remains a project.

The 20-year-old has a lot to learn and experience to gain, but double A is certainly a surprise when the other two members of the “big 3” are in Tacoma (Danny Hultzen, James Paxton).

It'll be weird seeing the big 3 split up to start the season (Photo: AP).

It’ll be weird seeing the big 3 split up to start the season (Photo: AP).

3. Hector Noesi in Double A

Writing on the walls much? Noesi started the season last year in the Mariner’s starting rotation after coming to Seattle in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade.

The starting pitcher has steadily gone backwards since arriving to the show. If Double A doesn’t revive the young player, the bigger surprise will be seeing him on any roster.

4. Jeremy Bonderman accepting Triple A

Both Bonderman and Jon Garland were optioned to Triple A with the choice to escape their contracts and sign elsewhere. Garland left and will be in the Rockie’s rotation, but Bonderman stayed.

His willingness to get back to the big leagues by putting in the work in the minors is impressive. Hopefully he makes an impact early on and gets back into Major League form.

5. Brad Miller (INF) and Julio Morbon (OF) in Double A

Sometimes, baseball organizations will purposefully keep higher rated prospects in Double A instead of Triple A. These two made serious headway during their trial at Spring Training, and Double A may be the Mariners way of promoting success while still readying them for Major League products.

The difference between these two and Walker has to do with company. It is very possible that Miller and Morbon need full playing time to develop, and they would be blocked in Triple A by Nick Franklin and Carlos Peguero. There is usually room for a pitcher if worthy, and this is the first time in a while that the big 3 are not all working together.

Most expected/anticipated call up

Aside from Erasmo Ramirez, who is currently on the DL (and still my pick to take over for Joe Saunders when Eric Wedge gets his head on straight), it is likely OF Eric Thames will be the first Mariner call up this season.

I don’t wish injury on anyone, but there is some age in the OF and some injury history. Thames will be able to step in seamlessly and fill any holes.



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About Jeff Budke

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  • Ben

    6. The Mariners are .500

    • NWSportsBeat

      I don’t quite see your point, but yes…the M’s are .500 now.

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