2013 Cactus League: Five things I’m watching for in Peoria

Dust off those cleats

Pitchers and catchers will be reporting before you know it, in fact some players on this years Mariners squad have already shown up in the valley of the sun.

With a new look rotation, and a whole new outfield, this years Mariners have the look of a team ready to make some noise in the AL West.

And, with new comers the Houston Astros joining the rest of us out west, the M’s were in need of a retooling, because there’s only room for one team at the bottom. Let’s hope that will be the Astros, and not us once again.

So on that note, I will give you the top five things I’m looking at going into the 2013 MLB season.

New arms in the rotation

The M’s sure made some noise this past week in the starting pitching department.

The Felix Hernandez deal is one that has never been seen before, and something that should make all of us Mariners fans happy, because it seems that Jack Zduriencik finally plans on putting his plan in motion.

Besides the Felix deal, the Mariners also made some noise with the signings of Joe Saunders, and Jon Garland.

Felix Hernandez Mariners

The M’s rotation could be a good one this year (Photo: Sports Illustrated)

That means the M’s now have the opportunity to roll out a starting rotation of 5 pitchers who have had 200+ inning experience.

Not that this will take any of the pressure off of Felix, but, it will help save the arm’s of our bullpen a bit. Something that hasn’t happened in Seattle since the turn of the century.

Plus, it means that Eric Wedge will not have to have to rush the progress of Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen this season. Or rely on Hector Noesi and the 7 runs he seems to give up every game.

How will the outfield play out

The new outfield is kind of a sore spot for me, and one that I think will back fire badly for the M’s.

Raul Ibanez was brought back in for a third time, Mike Morse for a second time, and Jason Bay for his first time.

All three have had some pretty decent power numbers at one time or another, but only one could be lumped into the category of a “player in his prime.”

That would be Morse. He had some good years in Washington, but his numbers have declined a bit the past two seasons.

And we all know how numbers players come to Seattle to die. Well at least their numbers do.

Morse can play first, and be used at DH, as can Bay and Ibanez. But what does Wedge do now with Michael Saunders, Eric Thames, Franklin Gutierrez, Mike Carp, and Casper Wells.

At least two of those players will probably be dealt before the season even begins, or at least DFA’d. My hopes honestly are for Guti and Carp.

Speed has been traded in for bats this year.

The walls have been brought in, and instead of seeing how the power numbers of the guys we already had would improve, we went out and bought three slower, less athletic guys to replace them.

A bad move in my eyes.

Kendrys Morales Mariners

Kendrys Morales was brought in to add some pop to the lineup (Photo: Bleacher Report)

Speaking of power

Power could actually come into play for the Mariners this season.

Not since the days of the Kingdome have the Mariners had so many potential power hitters on one roster.

The addition of Kendrys Morales, Morse, and Bay, along with what should be an improved power season out of Jesus Montero, the M’s could have 5 or 6 guys with 20 plus home runs.

Dustin Ackley should be up there as well this year, if he progresses the way he should, and depending on what happens with Justin Smoak, and after the year that Kyle Seager had last year, that number could creep up to eight very easily.

The small ball days may be over, and the Mariners offense just may not be the laughing stock of professional baseball this year.

It’s kind of funny how the bane of most of our existence, Alex Rodriguez, pleaded for the walls to be moved in way back in the 90’s.

Well Alex, you have your wish finally, but are you actually going to be around to see it now? That is the ultimate question.

How will first base play out

Last year the Marines had a plethora of catchers, but they found the perfect way to carry all three of them for most of the year at the Major League level.

This year, that problem has moved 90 feet down the first base line.

With Justin Smoak on the fence for management, Kendrys Morales was brought in for a little insurance at first.

And then Mike Morse was brought in as well, though he may see more time in the OF and at DH than at first.

All of the sources that I have read are saying that Smoak is going to be given the chance to keep his job as the starting 1B, at least to start the season.

But if he doesn’t follow up his amazing September to start this year off, expect Morales to be starting.

I expect Morales to be the opening day starter at first to be honest. I just don’t think that Smoak has it in him to be the power number guy that the M’s want out of the first base position.

Morse will have more power than Smoak has had, but like I said above, I don’t expect to see him getting too many starts at first this year.

Mike Zunino Mariners

When will we see Mike Zunino in Seattle? (Photo: Seattle Times)

The handling of Zunino

This will by far be the most highly watched situation in Peoria this spring.

There is no way that Mike Zunino should be on the big league club come April, but, if he has a spring to remember, it may be too hard to send him to Tacoma to start the season.

I expect to see him up in Seattle at one point this year, most likely the end of May, or June, but depending on how the Montero PED situation plays out, and how well newly signed Kelly Shoppach plays, it could be earlier.

This is a delicate situation for sure.

I can see holding back on the likes of Hultzen, Nick Franklin, and Walker, but Zunino tore up the A and AA levels last year, and Jesus Montero isn’t quite a veteran catcher.

In fact, there are some questions on whether or not Montero will have it in him to be a every day catcher at this point in his career.

Remember, he was mainly our DH last year, hence the singing of Shoppach this offseason.

So, with all of those variables in play, we could see Zunino as early as April, or even as late as the September call ups at the end of the year.

I guess we will all have to wait and see how this one plays out.

All I can say is I’m ready for some baseball.

I’m excited about this team this year, more so than any in a very long time. I think a winner is brewing in town.


Follow our Editor "Q" on Twitter, and NWSB, 'Like' us on Facebook.
About Clinton Bell

NWSB Editor. Born and raised in Friday Harbor. Even though he makes his home in Mesa still bleeds Seattle Blue and Green. Mariners Seahawks Sounders till the day he dies! Bring back his Sonics! Connect with Clinton today!
Clinton On Twitter
NWSB Facebook FanPage
Clinton's NWSB Forum Profile
Subscribe To Clinton's Articles Via RSS On NWSB
Clinton's Sports Blog
Like Something I wrote? Hate it? Hit me back today I want to hear from you!

North West Sports Beat

Sponsored Links


10 Articles To Your Inbox Daily! NWSB Daily Brew! Get It Now! Newsletter
NorthWest Sports Beat