23 non-roster invitees received a minor league contract and invitation to spring training from the Seattle Mariners this year, bringing the total number of players in camp to 63. We know the current 40-man roster is pretty well set, so it won’t be easy for any of the non-roster invitees to earn a spot.
However, the injury bug is already announcing its presence in Peoria and some of these guys bring with them MLB experience, so it wouldn’t be too farfetched to think one or two of the non-roster invitees might shake things up and force Jerry Dipoto to make a change.
The group is made up of a solid mix of veterans and prospects. Some familiar names, but quite a few unfamiliar names as well. Nine pitchers, three catchers, five infielders, and six outfielders. Competition all over the field.
Today we’ll look at the pitchers and catchers who received their invitation.
Christian Bergman, RHP
Ryan Cook, RHP
Matthew Festa, RHP
Ryan Garton, RHP
Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP
Johendi Jiminian, RHP
Casey Lawrence, RHP
Ljay Newsome, RHP
Art Warren, RHP
Bergman (201.2 IP, 5.58 ERA, 4.99 FIP, 1.502 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, -0.2 WAR), Cook (207.0 IP, 3.43 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 1.237 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 3.2 WAR) and Iwakuma (883.2 IP, 3.42 ERA, 6.42 FIP, 1.143 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 16.8 WAR) bring the most big league experience into the pitcher mix.
Newsome, Warren and Festa are youngsters coming off of seasons in single-A ball. Newsome (8-9 record, 129.2 IP, 4.10 ERA, 1.134 WHIP, 7.7 K/9) started 25 games for the Clinton LumberKings. Warren (3-1 record, 64.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.284 WHIP, 9.3 K/9) and Festa (4-2 record, 69.2 IP, 3.88 ERA, 1.148 WHIP, 12.8 K/9) were staples out of the bullpen for the California League Champion, Modesto Nuts.
Garton and Lawrence were both brought to Seattle via trade during the 2017 season and both saw innings with the big league club. Garton saw some success in a small sample out of the bullpen (11.2 IP, 1.54 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 0.514 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 0.4 WAR). While Lawrence struggled some in a much larger role (42.0 IP, 5.57 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 1.667 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, -0.2 WAR).
Jiminian, just signed by the Mariners last month, is a hard throwing righty who touches upper nineties with his fastball. He has spent his entire 8-year career in the Colorado Rockies farm system. Despite the tenure, Jiminian is still young (24) and brings an un-spectacular, yet Mariner-esque resume to the table (career: 4.28 ERA, 1.418 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9).
At first glance, one name stands out above the rest – Hisashi Iwakuma. He has won 14 or more games in three of his four healthy seasons with the Mariners. He was the M’s solidified #3 starter before injuring his shoulder. And he is just 2.5 years removed from an August 12, 2015 no-hitter vs the Baltimore Orioles.
There is one problem however. The shoulder injury will keep Kuma out of the Mariners plans until sometime around the All-Star break. He’s suffered a couple of setbacks during his recovery from shoulder surgery. Dipoto has stated he won’t be game ready until sometime in late May or June. And at that point he would only begin making rehab starts in the minor league system.
With Iwakuma out of the running for now, there isn’t a whole lot of confidence out there that any of these other arms are going to get the nod. However, recently signed guys like Chasen Bradford, Sam Moll, and Mike Morin are going to have to perform. Or they could very well find themselves on the waiver wire if one of these non-roster guys pitches lights out.
The young group of arms (Newsome, Garton, and Festa) are still developing and just aren’t ready. Bregman didn’t show enough last season and will need to perform at the triple-A level before the Mariners consider him an option. So if anyone has a chance at getting the promotion, it is going to have to be either Cook, Lawrence, or Jiminian.
For my money though, I don’t see any of those three getting a call to the show this year. I just don’t see them giving the Mariners any more value on the 40-man roster than they would playing on their current minor league deals.
Joe DeCarlo was drafted by the Mariners in 2012 as a third baseman. When the new regime took over prior to the 2016 season they thought he projected better as a catcher. So, the transition began.
Teammates with pitchers Warren and Festa last year, DeCarlo spent 2017 as the starting catcher for the Modesto Nuts slashing .240/.346/.415/.762 with 13 HR and 46 RBI in 325 at bats. It was his first season as a full-time catcher.
It’s not often a 2nd round draft choice is asked to switch positions heading into his 5th season. But DeCarlo seems to be adjusting just fine. At 23 years old, he has found a new home behind the dish.
Tuffy Gosewisch is the elder of the group. At 33 years old, Gosewisch has spent the majority of his career playing at the minor league level. While in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization he did spend parts of four seasons in the big leagues. However his .199/.228/.271/.499 slash line eventually found him on waivers.
Prior to last season the Mariners acquired Gosewisch and sent him to triple-A Tacoma. While with the Rainiers he slashed .229/.313/.351/.665 with 4 HR and 33 RBI. That was good enough for a September call-up, but the results in Seattle were disappointing.
After going 2-for28 on the year, his career major league numbers dropped to .190/.228/.271/.499 and a WAR of -1.3.
Joe Odom was claimed off of waivers in December of last year from the Braves. In the five years he spent in the Braves system, he’s climbed the ladder from rookie ball in 2013 up to triple-A Gwinnett last season.
Odom’s best season came in 2016 when he spent time at both the single-A and double-A levels. In 135 combined at bats that season, he slashed .278/.327/.431/.758 with 9 HR and 38 RBI.
With the catchers, the writing is pretty much on the wall. DeCarlo will be given more time to develop into a catcher. At 23 years old, learning a new position, the Mariners will find no upside in removing someone from the 40-man roster to make room for DeCarlo, who is far from major league ready.
Odom is new to the organization and has a wall of catchers ahead of him on the depth chart (Gosewisch, David Freitas, Mike Marjama, and Mike Zunino). Although he looks to be getting close to competing for a 40-man roster spot, a full season in the Mariners farm system will allow everyone to figure out just what this kid is made of.
Ironically enough, how Odom shows out this spring and into the season could have a major impact on Gosewisch’s status.
Tuffy has become the Crash Davis of the Mariners organization. The old-timer who’s had his cup of coffee, but could never quite get over the hump. This spring and ensuing season are likely going to combine to be the swan song for Gosewisch, and if Odom can play to his potential that song may end sooner rather than later.