31 March 2014

Opening Day Baby!

Can you feel it? There's just something about spring that makes people happy. Winter is finally over, the sun is out an hour longer. People are starting to put away their sweatshirts and coats and take out their t-shirts and tank tops. (Unless you live in Seattle, then you just keep on carrying on.) Symbolism is important, as spring is a re-birth of plenty of things. Dead plants start to live again. Grey skies are being pushed aside by blue sky and sunshine. And here we are, baseball is finally back.

The optimism of yet another new season brings excitement to a fanbase used to disappointment and mediocraty. New faces brings new hope to a historically bad franchise. Heck, even the SEAHAWKS were able to win the Super Bowl, why can't the Mariners be successful? That optimism needs to be cherished. It needs to be pushed into excitement. Seattle hasn't seen a swing like Cano's since Griffey. We haven't seen pitcher like Felix since... well Felix. Embrace it the new season. Prepare for wins and losses, prepare for ups and downs. And, when all else fails, prepare for the fact that we aren't the Astros, and won't be last place.

With today being baseball's "first day of school," let's break down the Mariners' Opening Day roster from the shuffling of the rotation and some surprises that made the ballclub.

First off, the catchers. As everyone expected, Mike Zunino will be the everyday catcher. Zunino had a fair spring offensively, hitting.239 while batting in 5 runs. He also did a fairly decent job defensively, handling the pitching staff and the numerous new arms. John Buck, who signed a one-year, one-million dollar deal will back up Zunino. Buck is a nice addition with over a decade of experience behind the dish in the big leagues and should help Zunino mature this year. The big question looming: will Zunino hit? Let's all hope spring wasn't the answer.

As stated in our previous post, Justin Smoak was named the everyday day 1st baseman early in camp. Smoak displayed good power numbers (3 HR, 10 RBI) in spring camp and has embodied consistency at 1st base defensively. Seems like a theme with this team...will Smoak hit? We hope so. After giving up Cliff Lee for him, our patience is up.
Manager Lloyd McClendon has said Corey Hart (1B) isn't ready to be the everyday DH and will see most of his ABs vs lefties to start this season, but he could see some games at 1st or in RF. I'd pencil him in as a utility, replacing players on their days off. One thing Hart does offer is versatility and depth if he can hit and stay healthy. His spring was relatively weak, but he played in less than half of the games.
In arguably the most surprising move of all of Spring Training, Robinson Cano has been named the starting 2nd Baseman.

Moving to Shortstop, Brad Miller hit the ever-living daylights out of the ball this spring displaying some great power numbers by leading the Cactus league in homers (4) and hitting .439. McClendon said over the last two weeks of camp Miller really separated himself from Nick Franklin and it was clear to everyone. Franklin will begin the season at Triple-A Tacoma. Miller also will play a sound defensive SS, lets just hope he keeps up his hot-hitting when it counts.
Kyle Seager had a decent spring like most of the Mariners roster and will start at 3rd Base (surprise, surprise). As statedbefore, I expect good things from Seager at the plate this season and possibly a gold glove candidate at the three-bagger. Let's just hope he can pick up his average (only .191 this spring).
The Outfield is a little crowded and that's where the surprises come. Stefen Romero, who hit some balls in the spring that haven't landed yet, made the club after only one season at Triple-A. Romero is a big, athletic corner outfielder who could see a lot of playing time should one of the everyday guys struggle at the plate. Defensively, not a whole lot of speed but has shown he can adequately play OF at the major league level.
Much like I expected, Abraham Almonte also has made the ballclub out of Spring Camp. Almonte can hit from both sides of the plate with great speed and puts death to flying things on the outfield green. Just like Romero, I think he'll see limited time to start but will get lots of late game pinch-running and defensive replacement duties.
As far as the starters, Dustin Ackley, who had a very solid offensive spring, will be the everyday LFer. The skipper said Ackley has re-found his confidence at the plate and has really made some great strides in the OF. Hitting .382 and pushing in 13 RBIs will do that to you. It's nice to see Ackley confident again, as this is a hige year for him.
Michael Saunders will be the guy in CF. I think he could have a breakout year at the plate. If he can hit left-handed pitching, he's a valuable piece to the puzzle. He can bunt, has great speed, and has improved at the plate every year. Saunders is also a top 10 defensive outfielder in baseball when healthy.
In RF, it'll be a mix between Logan Morrison, Almonte, and Romero. I imagine whoever shows they can hit, will get most of the playing time there. This is a weak defensive unit, minus Almonte, so the bat will get the playing time. We might be stuck never having a true starting RFer this year. Who knows...maybe Jack Z is looking for a piece in a trade to patrol that spot, only one could speculate.
The pitching staff is a big ole' jumbled mess. Last week, Randy Wolf and Scott Baker were given their releases after being told they had made the club but would be asked to sign 45 day consent releases. Both declined and became free agents.
Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker will start the season on the DL with Walker hopefully coming back in mid-April and Iwakuma in late-April.
The starting rotation for now will be Felix Hernandez-Erasmo Ramirez-James Paxton-Roenis Elias-Chris Young.
Roenis Elias is a 25-year old Cuban native who was a Double-A all-star in Jackson last year. He had an impressive spring an showed the manager he's ready for the big leagues. I'm just hoping he doesn't end up like Brandon Maurer last year. He shows great upside, but don't expect to much from the rookie. While impressive, we will see growing pains. Unless he comes out like Pineda did, expect him to be relegated once Iwakuma and Walker come back.
Rounding out the rotation is newly acquired Chris Young who is a former all-star. He was released last week by the Nationals and signed by the M's after Baker and Wolf split. Young is a tall, lanky righty finesse pitcher who can hopefully eat innings until the cavalry comes.
In the bullpen will be lefties Joe Beimel (who's been a journeyman reliever), Charlie Furbush and it will round out with righties Todd Wilhelmsen, Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, Hector Noesi (long relief), and Fernando Rodney who will anchor the back end. Farquhar will most likely set up most of the time for Rodney, but Beimel has shown in the past he can get guys out in the later innings, so I wouldn't be surprised if he nailed down that role during the season.
All in all, Marihawks is pretty satisfied with the decisions the Mariners made on the roster. We will see how the fare early with a beat up, makeshift pitching. The key will be staying healthy when those guys get back if they want to have success as many of them will be relied on for significant production this season. April will be a make or break month for every AL West team. Whoever starts hot will have the upperhand. Seattle starts with 22 of their first 25 games against their AL West foes, meaning we will get a decent idea of what kind of club we will have.
Here's to optimism, Seattle's biggest baseball ally. Let's see if the M's can follow the Hawks lead, or if they want to keep getting high draft picks.
Like the blog? Like our facebook page for more updates/discussions about the Seahawks and Mariners. Interested in writing a guest piece, like Spencer Hansen? Give us a shout!

No comments:

Post a Comment