Sorry for the lack of content here lately. I can’t speak for the other good guys, but it’s been a really busy time for me. Luckily, the best day of the year is just around the corner. Baseball opening day is April 1st, with the Mariners in Oakland to start the year. The home opener is a week later on the 8th against Cleveland.
The roster is almost set, so I thought I’d give my thoughts on a few things:
- The biggest surprise development of camp hasn’t been a good one. The news came early that Franklin Gutierrez has been dealing with stomach issues that likely contributed to his poor second half in 2010. Doctors thought they had a diagnosis and treatment plan, but three weeks or so later, Guti’s not feeling any better. It now seems likely that he’ll start the year on the disabled list. To be honest, I’m already writing him off for the season. He might play, but I’m not expecting a breakthrough or anything. I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem like a good situation at all. On the field, there are two ways to look at this. First, Franklin from 2009 is a huge loss. Getting him back to or past that level would have been a huge improvement to the team. That wasn’t a given no matter how healthy he is, though, so replacing 2010 Guti shouldn’t be that hard. He’s still excellent defensively, but I think Michael Saunders and Ryan Langerhans can provide a reasonable facsimile in that aspect. Looking at the other outfielders not named Ichiro…
- Going into spring, most thought that Milton Bradley would be off the team and Saunders would be starting in left most of the time, with a right handed bat platooning occasionally. Now, Saunders has a retooled swing, Bradley is not only on the team but slated to start in left, and the lefty Langerhans is the extra guy. Saunders is by far the most interesting player on the team right now, in my opinion. If he can hit and play center field, does he replace Guti instantly? He would in my mind. That said, there are no guarantees that he’ll hit. His new swing looks like it lets him better cover the outside corner, which has been his biggest problem. Consider me hopeful but skeptical on all three of the LF/CF guys.
- If Guti’s stomach is the biggest surprise, Michael Pineda is the biggest story of camp. The massive, flame-throwing righty was a contender for the rotation coming into camp, but most thought he would start the year in Tacoma to work on his breaking pitches and to preserve a year of club control (ie. keep him cheap for longer). Given his dominance and the lack thereof by the other contenders, Pineda is almost surely going to start the year as the fifth starter. This has raised an uproar from some parts of the blogosphere, due mainly to the aforementioned money issues. I understand the argument, but I’m a little tired of it, personally. It is possible that, come 2017, Pineda will be dominant and won’t sign a contact extension, and we’ll wish we had that extra year back. It’s also possible that he’s not ready yet, although I don’t think Tacoma will help him much. But ask yourself this: would you rather watch Luke French or David Pauley in the rotation to start the year, or the 6’7″ 260 lb. Michael Pineda? As fun as it is to pretend to be the general manager and think about all these roster construction issues, sometimes I’d rather just be a fan of the team on the field and watch the best, most interesting baseball possible.
- The only spot not really settled is the bullpen. With David Aardsma out, Brandon League looks like the closer. Josh Lueke seems to be a lock, which is a little surprising but fine by me. Then it gets confusing. Chris Ray seems fairly certain, Aaron Laffey and David Pauley seem to have a good shot since they’re on the roster, and then there’s some combination of Jamey Wright, Royce Ring, and Tom Wilhelmsen. I don’t really know how it’s going to play out, but we’ll see soon enough. The problem is that Ray, Wright and Ring all seem like they’re among the seven best options, but all three would have to be added to the 40 man roster, which means three players have to come off to make room. Combined with adding Langerhans and Adam Kennedy, that’s a lot of roster spots to clear for marginal players. That might lead to Wilhelmsen making the roster over Ring, who seems to be the odd man out as a side-arming lefty specialist who can’t pitch to righties. Too bad, because Royce Ring is definitely the best name of the group. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter a ton who starts the year there. The bullpen is one area where they can mix and match at random. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of good options at this point. The pen looks like a weak link, but relievers can surprise, so we’ll hope for the best. The M’s have some good relief arms in the minors, so don’t be surprised if someone bursts onto the scene in the second half.
All for now. We’ll try to have a few other posts this week to prepare you for the season. Love to see some comments. What are you looking forward to? Are you excited about this season? What are your concerns? (Can you tell I’ve been writing study questions for high schoolers for the past 3 months?) Have a good weekend!