Predicting The 25-Man Roster For The 2014 Mariners

I guess there’s always room for a surprise or two, but this year feels more established than in recent past seasons.  Which is odd, because with a 40-man roster constructed as such, you’d expect there to be openings EVERYWHERE.

But, ownership seems to like where things are going, so let’s hash it out here.

Your two catchers are Mike Zunino and John Buck.  That’s the easiest position to lock down.  Maybe they split it up 2/3 Zunino and 1/3 Buck or maybe they flip it if Zunino comes out struggling.  Either way, it would take an absolutely abysmal Spring Training for Zunino to be sent directly to Tacoma.

Your starting infield looks like this:

  • Justin Smoak – 1B
  • Robinson Cano – 2B
  • Brad Miller – SS
  • Kyle Seager – 3B

That’s set.  If they don’t end up trading Nick Franklin, he’ll get a cursory shot at short stop, but he won’t win the job and he’ll likely be sent down to Tacoma to be insurance against infield injury.  I don’t know if Smoak has any more options, but again it would take a total cratering in Spring Training for him to not make the team.  He’s seemingly going to get every single opportunity to be this team’s first baseman.

Your reserve infielder is Willie Bloomquist.  Because they didn’t give the guy a 2-year deal only to be cut in Spring Training.  I know he can technically play outfield, but let’s face it:  Bloomquist is the only guy on the team who can play every spot on the infield in a pinch, if guys need a day off or get injured.  You’re not going to put Bloomquist in left field or something so he can throw out his shoulder.

Your best set of defensive outfielders are these three guys:

  • Dustin Ackley
  • Michael Saunders
  • Franklin Gutierrez

You’ll notice I didn’t say “Your Starting Outfield”, because in all likelihood, these three guys won’t be starting too many games together.

Because you’ve got these First Base/Designated Hitter Types Who Will Be Shoe-Horned Into The Outfield:

  • Corey Hart
  • Logan Morrison
  • Nelson Cruz (?)

At this point, I’m just going to write in Nelson Cruz as a Mariner until I see he’s signed with another team.  It’s so far beyond a foregone conclusion, I’m already counting down the days until this team finally cuts him.

To be fair, I don’t know a whole lot about Hart or Morrison defensively.  I only know what I’ve heard and what I’ve read, which doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.  It sounds like Corey Hart will be our DH at least half the time, and the team will throw him into the field and have a rotating DH the other half of the time.

And, that’s it.  Those are your 13 position players.  You’ve got your nine players who will likely get the most playing time (this is also my predicted everyday – or mostly everyday – batting lineup):

  1. Brad Miller – SS
  2. Michael Saunders – CF
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Kyle Seager – 3B
  5. Nelson Cruz – RF
  6. Corey Hart – DH
  7. Logan Morrison – LF
  8. Justin Smoak – 1B
  9. Mike Zunino – C

And your bench:

  • John Buck – C
  • Dustin Ackley – OF
  • Willie Bloomquist – INF
  • Franklin Gutierrez – OF

Obviously, if the team somehow passes on Nelson Cruz, that’s going to open up a lot more playing time for Guti.  And, a week later, when he gets injured, that’ll open up a lot more playing time for Ackley.

If I have to predict a Cruz replacement among those already on the 40-man roster, I’ll pick Abraham Almonte.  But, I have a feeling, in spite of what will be a raging Spring Training out of ol’ Abe, this team will do whatever it takes to make sure he starts the season in Tacoma.  Prove me wrong, Mariners!  Prove me wrong!

***

Things will be far more interesting on the pitching side of things (if you consider the pitching side of things on an 80-win baseball team even remotely interesting).  You’ve got your top two starters locked down in Felix & Iwakuma, and your next three spots being divided up among the following pitchers:

  • Taijuan Walker
  • James Paxton
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Scott Baker
  • Blake Beavan
  • Brandon Maurer
  • Hector Noesi

So, if you’re wondering how the 2014 Seattle Mariners are going to fare, look no further than the back 3/5 of the rotation.  Will Taijuan Walker make the leap from Triple-A Stud to Bona Fide Major Leaguer?  If so, that’s a good start, but not nearly enough to guarantee contention.  Really, this team needs both Walker AND Paxton to be everything they were in the final month of 2013, plus a little extra, if it expects to be in a race for the division or a Wild Card spot.  If you’re optimistic, then good for you.  I hope that optimism takes you far in life.

As for me?  I don’t even see it as a guarantee that those two crack the rotation out of Spring Training!

They SHOULD.  They’re clearly more talented than those listed below them.  But, that’s not a guarantee.  Not with this team.  Not with the way things have gone in recent years.

If you want my prediction, here’s the starting rotation I’ve got:

  1. Felix
  2. Iwakuma
  3. Walker
  4. Paxton
  5. Baker

I always defer to the veteran on the minor league deal, because it seems like teams always defer to the veteran on the minor league deal.  Something about how he has experience or something.  Plus, I’ve spent the better part of two years talking up Erasmo Ramirez as a future starter in this league, and every year he proves me wrong by being injured or just flat-out sucking.  For the record, I can theoretically see this team contending with either one of those guys as a 5th starter (assuming, of course, that we get huge bumps out of Walker & Paxton), but obviously all the upside resides with Ramirez.

This Mariners bullpen is the fucking Wild West, but I’m going to do my best to figure things out.

Fernando Rodney will kick off the year as the team’s closer.  Good luck with that.  Keep him away from anyone with a pacemaker.

Danny Farquhar will be your set-up man.  It’s almost more appropriate to have your better reliever as your 8th inning guy, since it seems like more high-leverage situations take place in the 8th inning.

Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina will fill in behind Farquhar, depending on whether we need a lefty or a righty.  So, that pushes us to four relievers who I’m pretty confident will make this team out of Spring Training.

Stephen Pryor is clearly the next-best reliever, but he’s recovering from injury and likely won’t be back in pitching shape until May or June.  As such, I’m writing him off completely and hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the All Star Break.

Unless the team makes some more reliever moves between now and April, I like Tom Wilhelmsen to be a long reliever/mop-up guy in blowouts.  And, again, unless the team picks up another situational lefty off of the scrap heap, I like Lucas Luetge in that role.

Which just leaves a spot-starter/long reliever, which I like going to Blake Beavan.  I think the team has sufficiently given up on Beavan ever being a starter for this team (which is nice).  I also think that if Erasmo Ramirez doesn’t crack the starting rotation, they look to keep him starting in Tacoma, to be ready in the instance that one of our Major League starters gets injured or turns ineffective.  I also think that Brandon Maurer gets another crack at being a starter for Tacoma before eventually giving up the ghost and being the reliever we all know him to be.

And that’s that.  To recap, here’s your Starting Nine:

  1. Brad Miller – SS
  2. Michael Saunders – CF
  3. Robinson Cano – 2B
  4. Kyle Seager – 3B
  5. Nelson Cruz – RF
  6. Corey Hart – DH
  7. Logan Morrison – LF
  8. Justin Smoak – 1B
  9. Mike Zunino – C

Your Bench:

  • John Buck – C
  • Dustin Ackley – OF
  • Willie Bloomquist – INF
  • Franklin Gutierrez – OF

Your Starting Rotation:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Taijuan Walker
  4. James Paxton
  5. Scott Baker

And your Bullpen:

  • Fernando Rodney
  • Danny Farquhar
  • Charlie Furbush
  • Yoervis Medina
  • Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Lucas Luetge
  • Blake Beavan

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