5) The M’s have a plethora of back-of-the-rotation starters: Doug Fister, Lucas French, David Pauley, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Ian Snell, Nick Hill, etc. Which of these guys should start 2011 in the rotation, and why?
Griffin: After Felix, Pineda, and Vargas, it’s probably going to be Fister and whoever performs the best in Spring Training. I think the best place for Hyphen at this point is the pen – that’s the only place he’s had consistent success. As for Ian Snell, he no longer appears to have any redeeming qualities as a baseball player. Assuming the Mariners don’t bring in any outside arms, the smart money’s on one of French, Pauley, and Hill for the #5 spot in the rotation.
Taylor: I’m a Nick Hill fan. Let that be public knowledge. To the point where I would actually rather see him starting in Seattle over Doug Fister in 2011. It’s partially irrational, because Fister has shown an ability to be tall and have a degree of deception to his pitches, be somewhat efficient with his pitch count, and accrue flyballs that often don’t leave SafeCo. Of course, I’m also operating under the assumption that the M’s add another starter (Ricky Nolasco trade, anyone?). But either way, Nick Hill is awesome. When I met with Tony Blengino earlier this year, he spoke very highly of Hill. So, in conclusion, I’d rather see Hill in the 5th slot than any of the other candidates.
Brett: Back of the rotation doesn’t matter too much. But dear god no more Ian Snell please.
6) Russell Branyan and Milton Bradley are nifty players, but they essentially play the same position: DH. Should the M’s keep one of them (or neither) around in 2011?
Griffin: I wouldn’t be opposed to Russell Branyan’s option being exercised, as I think he could be a solid option for the DH spot in 2011, but Milton Bradley’s time here should probably be finished after this season. I really like him, but he just doesn’t appear to be the same hitter that he has been in the past, and I don’t see any reason to believe that he’s going to magnificently return to form in 2011. Acquiring him for Carlos Silva was an extremely savvy move when Jack Z made it, but like most of the other risks he took, it just didn’t really work out.
Taylor: Much as I love both Russell and Milton, they just aren’t right for the 2011 team. I would rather see Greg Halman or Matt Mangini, guys who might be get playing time at DH. Russell and Milton are known commodities that in all likelihood will not help the Mariners beyond 2011. If Jack Zduriencik decides to go out an acquire a bunch of 3-4 WAR players and aims to win in 2011, then keeping Russell could make sense. However, that probably won’t happen.
Brett: I’d exercise Branyan’s option and bid Milton adieu. Which is sad, I really like him, but he’s made of glass and while Branyan’s offensive upside is lower, I think he’s a better bet to reach his upside.
7) Which minor leaguers other than the obvious three (Pineda, Ackley, and Smoak) deserve a chance at playing time in Seattle next season? (Ex: Matt Mangini, Greg Halman, Rich Polythress)
Griffin: I’d have to go with Josh Lueke. This bullpen, which has been a huge disappointment in 2010, looks a bit iffy heading into next season. Mark Lowe is gone, David Aardsma is likely to be gone, and Shawn Kelley’s health is a concern. Lueke has excellent stuff, and he could probably make a big impact on that relief corps right out of the gate.
Taylor: Honestly, despite the volatile nature of relievers, the minor leaguer I most want to see in Seattle next year is Josh Lueke. His strikeout numbers are very, very good in both AA and AAA, and he appears to have an extreme groundball tendency (as exemplified by a 50% to 23% GB-FB percentages in 17 AA innings with the Rangers organization, as well as a 45% to 17% split in 13 AAA innings). His tRA has been miniscule at every level of the minors. The Mariners bullpen could use someone like Josh Lueke, even more than they could use someone like Greg Halman or Matt Mangini. And, as luck would have it, they do have someone like Josh Lueke. His name is Josh Lueke.
Brett: I’d like to see Poythress and Mangini get a shot to play. Kyle Seager is interesting as well, if only as a utility player. Also, if Franklin hits in AA, I’d give him a 2011 September extended tryout at SS.
8. Is it time to give up on Brandon League? Will the splitter ever return?
Griffin: Not at all. He may be too dumb to live up to his full potential, but he’s still decent even when he relies completely on his fastball. The Morrow trade looks even worse now than it did at the time, but League is still worth keeping around.
Taylor: Brandon League has posted a 4.41 tRA and 3.83 FIP over 65 innings this year in Seattle. Is this bad for a pitcher? No. Is it necessarily great for a reliever? No. I’d say keep League around, because his potential is through the roof. Although one thing is for sure – if the splitter doesn’t return, neither does Brandon League’s effectiveness as a ML pitcher.
Brett: League has a 3.94 FIP not at least that’s what it was last time I checked. Even when he’s throwing stupid, he’s still effective. Definitely not giving up on him. When we hire a new manager and staff, we just have to hope the coaches recognize the power of that splitter and tell him to throw it more often. I expect big things from League in 2011.