Mariners Spring Training Report: As roster starts to shrink, here are 3 Up and 3 Down
Meaningful baseball is less than three weeks away, precisely 17 days. We are at the point in Spring Training where camp arms like Juan Then are shuttled to Arkansas instead of taking innings from guys like Penn Murfee. The second week is when we can start to read into lineups and roster moves. Speaking of moves, Jerry Dipoto had a busy week whittling the roster down from 75 to 60 players. Expect more this week, even with eight players representing their countries in the World Baseball Classic.
Mariners Spring Training Report: 3 Up
This was backstop week in Peoria. All three excelled this week, but I wanted to single out Tom Murphy, who's battled through injuries the past two seasons. Murphy came into camp in the "best shape of his life" crowd. Long-time Mariner play-by-play announcer Dave Simms mentions how 'yoked up' the 31-year-old catcher looks this spring. Murphy is hammering everything to the tune of a .318/.348/1.030 slash line. A healthy Tom Murphy will do wonders for the depth of this team.
I see a world where Scott Servais wants a left-hander in the pen. Alvarez, Ohtani, and Seager are three reasons why Taylor Saucedo, Brandon Bernadino, or Gabe Speier might break camp with the big-league team. Right now, the odds are on Speier, with Saucedo having an outside chance. But then, this week, Speier flashed, spotting his riding fastball at 96 mph. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the former Royal might end up being one of the team's best waiver claims.
I could take the easy way out and mention Jarred Kelenic’s nuclear spring or George Kirby’s bounce-back outing against the Dodgers. But, instead, we’ll shine the light on Cooper Hummel. When camp started, I thought Hummel was headed to Tacoma, but things have changed. The former Arizona Diamondback displays power from both sides of the plate while fulfilling catcher and designated hitter duties.
It is a massive week for Hummel's roster chances. According to Ryan Divish from the Seattle Times, Scott Servais will move the switch-hitting Hummel around the diamond this week.
Mariners Spring Training Report: 3 Down
Juan Then seems like he’s been pitching for the Mariners for 20 years. They inked the 23-year-old right-hander during the 2016 international signing period. He's always flashed a plus fastball with late life, but control and the secondary pitches escape him. This week was no different, as he had a blown save in his lone appearance. Then is in a make-or-break year because next offseason will be the tough decision to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft or possibly let him walk.
This is our first look at Spring Training Luis Castillo, and it isn't pretty. While he's been the victim of a few defensive lapses (Crawford, Rivas, Moran), the velocity is down. Maybe we were spoiled seeing Castillo dot the corners with 99 mph heaters in September. Either way, the team has publicly said that the 30-year-old ace ramps up slowly in the spring. He did have a solid outing on Sunday in his three innings of work (3 ER, 4 K), and the velocity was up to 95, though. It might be nothing, but until it's nothing, it's something.
Dipoto validated J.P. Crawford and his status on the team for the second offseason in a row. The team mentioned the work their shortstop did this offseason, including putting in significant swing changes with Driveline. The goal was to create more hard contact. Unfortunately, we have yet to see the results. I won't reference the numbers because I've never really subscribed to Peoria stats, but Scott Servais offered a great synopsis via Seattle Sports, Shannon Drayer’s latest article.
"His timing is off."- Scott Servais
Defensively Crawford also racked up two errors, which surely had Fielding Coach Perry Hill scheduling some early morning sessions at the famed Peoria wall. Luckily the starters should see more innings over the next two weeks, which means the team's emotional leader will have time to work out the kinks on both sides of the ball.
Matthew Festa, Matt Brash, Eugenio Suarez, Teoscar Hernandez, Julio Rodriguez, and Diego Castillo's teams still live in the WBC. Their success means more lineups, including Evan White and Collin Moran, and a cast of characters on tap. If you want to learn more about the improved depth headed to Tacoma and Arkansas, tune in to a few games this week.