While offense has been the main focus of the Seattle Mariners offseason, the question of who will be the 4th and 5th starters for the pitching rotation remains to be determined. The job of making this decision may not be as hard as most managers would imagine.
New manager Lloyd McClendon has already penciled three of the five starters into their respected spots. The Mariners roster is not short on starting pitching, which leaves a lot of room for battling out the back end of the rotation.
As it stands now, Felix Hernandez will lock up the ace of the rotation as the proven leader and face of the franchise. The second rotation spot goes to Hisashi Iwakuma. Iwakuma looks to be out 4-6 weeks following his Spring Training injury, but Ms expect him back in the rotation after the first two weeks of the season.
The third spot in the rotation may be the most exciting. Fans get to see the No. 1 prospect in the organization, Taijuan Walker. The Mariners have done a great job not rushing their prized pitcher to the big leagues, and have shown faith in his abilities by even turning down ideas of trading him away for proven veterans.
Even though Walker faced the Houston Astros two out of the three starts in 2013, his 3.60 ERA combined with 12 strike outs in 15 innings shows he is ready to take on a starting role in the rotation.
The Mariners are still continuing to pursue starting pitching via free agency and possible trades. You never know what moves general manager Jack Zduriencik can pull off before the end of spring training.
James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and newly acquired veteran Scott Baker look to be the top three pitchers to duel it out for the final two spots in the rotation. Spring Training may be the best way to sort them out, but scouts would urge you to put their prospects to the test.
All three pitchers have plus and minuses attached to their skill set. Erasmo Ramirez was one of the organizations prized prospects going into 2013 season. He didn’t live up to the organizations expectations, as he struggled with a disappointing 4.98 ERA in only 13 starts.
Erasmo continues to show promise for our future even though his numbers last year were nothing to write home about. He only turns 24 years old this May. If he shines during spring training, he may be able to beat out the competition for a spot in the starting rotation.
Should Erasmo miss out on the rotation; he can definitely be a great benefit to the bullpen as a long reliever.
When the Mariners signed veteran Scott Baker to a minor league contract this offseason, they came out on top with a low risk high reward situation. Scott missed all of the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery.
He does bring veteran experience that can eat up 180-200 innings pitched if managed properly by the pitching staff. Baker holds a successful career record of 63-48 with a 4.14 ERA. The Mariners are hoping his arm is healthy from a season of healing.
Baker could possibly take the third spot in the rotation to help take pressure off rookie Taijuan Walker, moving him to the fourth spot.
The final possible candidate for the Mariners rotation is highly touted prospect James Paxton. Paxton brings former 1st round pick talent when the Blue Jays drafted him in 2009.
Luckily for the Mariners, Paxton and the Blue Jays never came to terms with a contract and Seattle drafted him in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Paxton was called up late last season, finishing with a 3-0 record and a very low 1.50 ERA.
Even Felix Hernandez backed Paxton and Walker’s chances of being in the rotation stating Wednesday that, “They’re in.” If Paxton can show the coaching staff he can maintain a low ERA and the durability for 25+ starts, he looks to be a solid addition to close out the rotation.
Unless the Mariners obtain free agent Ervin Santana or trade prospects for a starting pitcher, the decision will essentially be on the Mariners’ coaching staff to choose their final two spots in the rotation.
Baker brings veteran leadership, but does carry health questions. Erasmo and Paxton are young prospects with much promise, but also lack big league experience which could backfire on the Mariners late in the season. Any combo of these three pitchers would be a massive improvement from last year’s Aaron Harang and Joe Saunders combined 17 losses and horrid 5.51 ERA.
With this much talent to choose from, we should all expect more wins from the Mariners 2014 pitching rotation.