The end of Spring Training is nigh, and as such, the Mariners are whittling their roster down to what will become the Opening Day 25. In that hullabaloo, some interesting decisions have been made.
From the beginning, most of the beat writers and such have been predicting that Ariel Miranda would start the season in the Mariners’ bullpen, as a second – or even a third – lefty. This was before his last three starts, where he gave up a combined 10 runs (9 earned) in 8.2 innings, with 7 walks and 7 strikeouts. The spin is the organization wants to keep him starting, in case he needs to come up and replace someone in our rotation, but the fact of the matter is the Mariners were planning on taking the best pitchers regardless of whether they started or not. Ariel Miranda isn’t pitching like one of the top 12 or 13 pitchers on this roster, so he gets to go to Tacoma for a while to figure it out. A promising start early in Spring Training comes to a disappointing close. Hopefully he gets back on track pretty quickly, because I know we’re going to need him at some point.
The other surprise move is Dan Vogelbach being optioned to Triple-A. He had been pencilled in as the team’s starting first baseman; the only concern the team had was whether or not he could handle the defensive duties. From the sounds of things, he’s been okay, but could probably use a little work. The spin is the oranization is treating this like a James Paxton/Mike Zunino situation from last year: they want him to work on improving his game in the comfort and anonymity of Tacoma, until the time is right and he’s called back up. The fact of the matter is, his defense is probably good enough, but after the first week or so of Spring Training, his hitting has gone down the toilet. Which is kinda what I predicted all along: something always suffers when you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Dan Vogelbach isn’t a natural first baseman. He’s really just a DH that the team needs to shoehorn into a defensive spot to justify having him on the roster. So, he’s been scrambling to work on the ins and outs of the first base position, and as a result his hitting has taken a backseat.
Like I’ve always said, it’s so much easier to bring up a prospect if he’s got the defensive part down pat. Because, even if you’re a supposed natural at the plate in the minor leagues like Vogelbach is, there’s ALWAYS going to be a learning curve when you make the jump to the Majors. Guys who only have to worry about one part of their games always have an easier go of it than guys who have to worry about both.
It’s too early to pull out the Bust label, but this is definitely an opening salvo. Something tells me the first base position is going to be another need going into 2018.
With Shawn O’Malley having recently had an emergency appendectomy, it’s looking more and more like Taylor Motter will be the utility infielder (including backup first baseman). As Motter and starter Danny Valencia are both righties, we lose that first base platoon, so I hope Valencia gets good at hitting right-handed pitching in a hurry.
This feels like a setback, but a minor one that we should have no trouble overcoming. I always kind of expected Valencia to play closer to an everyday role anyway; I just thought he’d split more time between first base and right field. Our depth takes a bit of a hit, but that just means guys like Motter, Haniger, and maybe Heredia have to pick up the slack. I’m going to be REALLY interested to see how those guys perform if they make the Opening Day roster.
In other news, the Mariners say they’re going with an 8-man bullpen to start the regular season, and we’re all having a tough time predicting who those guys will be. Particularly with guys like Cishek and Zych coming back from injury, and with Miranda and a few others already getting demoted to Tacoma.
- Edwin Diaz
- Evan Scribner
- Nick Vincent
- Marc Rzepczynski
- Dan Altavilla?
- James Pazos?
- Casey Fien?
- Some guy on another team we acquire in trade?
Yeah, I dunno. I guess we’ll see.