Hello Mariner fans! Anyone out there? Whether you’re ready or not, the season is only a few weeks away. The M’s started spring training on a tear, winning 10 straight at one point. They’ve cooled slightly, but they are still putting up a lot of runs. As every writer and fan anywhere has told us countless times, spring training doesn’t mean anything, but I’d certainly rather have them scoring bunches of runs than not.
Most of the roster is set at this point, barring injury. Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales are looking like great additions, and if both can stay healthy, the offense should be at least league-average, if not better. So far, everyone is hitting the ball, which is more people than the last few seasons by a difference of everyone. What’s most important this season is for some of the young bats to take a step forward, primarily Montero, Ackley and Smoak. A lot of the Mariners’ future is built on those three, and if none of them move toward being a difference-maker this year, that’s a blow that will necessitate a change in plans for building this team.
There’s only one roster spot in question on offense, and it appears to be a battle between outfielders Casper Wells and Jason Bay. Wells provides superior defense and the ability to play center, plus slightly better offense last season. Bay is coming off a couple of horrific seasons that led to the Mets dumping him before his mammoth contract ended. The hope is playing in his hometown and being past a few injuries will lead him close to the all star level he held a few seasons ago. He’s hit well thus far, but who knows if that will hold up. Some people think Wells has a lot of untapped potential and just needs playing time, but I have my doubts about that. Bay provides the best shot on the roster at major surprise production, but he could easily be off the roster by June, too. I won’t be upset by whichever they choose, but I’d probably lean to Wells right now.
On the pitching side, there’s a bit of a battle at the back of the bullpen, which might come down to veteran signee Kameron Loe or rookie Stephen Pryor. It won’t be a big deal either way, since the bullpen gets shuffled quickly due to injuries and ineffectiveness. The rotation is a little more crowded. Felix, Iwakuma and newcomer Joe Saunders are pretty much guarantees. The last two spots will likely come from Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan or Jon Garland. Ramirez showed a ton of promise last season and should take one of the spots. Beavan is still a mediocre guy who can pitch a decent number of innings, which is fine for a fifth starter. Garland used to be a fairly solid starter, but he’s been out for more than a season after surgery. He’s been decent but unspectacular this spring. I would bet that Garland will take the spot, but no guarantees. It’s possible Danny Hultzen or Brandon Maurer could go crazy in the next few weeks and steal a spot, but it looks more likely they will make an appearance in June or July at the soonest. Both are excellent prospects, as are Taijuan Walker and James Paxton right behind them.
So there’s a quick overview of the spring so far. They’ve mostly avoided injuries so far (knock on wood). Hultzen is nearly back from a minor hip flexor issue, and prospect Stefan Romero just pulled an oblique in the middle of a crazy hot streak. That’s all I have for now. We’ll be back with more as stuff actually happens. If you have to read more now, I’ll post some links after that jump.
The Mariners have a ton of good writers covering them. Most people are probably familiar with Larry Stone and Geoff Baker at the Seattle Times. Both are excellent, although Baker seems very good at making enemies of readers. The Times just started charging for their online content though, so if you want some free options, you’re in luck.
USS Mariner and main writer Dave Cameron have become very well known. They do good work, with a viewpoint heavily biased towards statistical analysis. Their tone can be a bit off-putting and narrow-minded to me, but to each his own.
Lookout Landing is the other big name among Mariners blogs. They’re also stats-oriented, but not quite so dogmatic as USS Mariner. They’re also hilarious. Jeff Sullivan is one of the better and more entertaining baseball writers anywhere. Their game threads are great, as long as you’re okay with bad puns and profanity.
Seattle Sports Insider is my personal favorite. They’re well-versed in sabermetrics, but incorporate plenty of other viewpoints, taking insight from everything from aikido to chess. I learn more at SSI than any other baseball site anywhere, thanks in part to a community of commenters that add just as much to the conversation as do the primary articles. One of them, Spectator, has started a sister site focused on the minor leagues, Mariners Talk. He’s currently in the process of running down his top 66 prospects in the Mariners’ system, which should cover everyone you could ever want to know. Once the season starts, he posts daily recaps of every Mariner minor league squad.
There are other good sites, including Prospect Insider, and others on a national level, but those are the four I read every day or two. Hope you enjoy. Go Mariners!