Mariners Spring Training 1.0: Way Too Early Roster Predictions
Spring Training 2023 is in full swing. I know this because my Twitter timeline is full of hopeful clips of Evan White mashing home runs in batting practice, Jarred Kelenic channeling his 2018 Cody Bellinger, and Top 100 prospect Bryce Miller flashing his plus off-speed offerings. But, while we're at it and things are looking up let's throw a few more positive vibes into Twitterverse. It's time for an early look at who could break camp and head north with the big-league club.
Mariners Starting Five (5)
Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzalez, George Kirby
Barring any injuries in Peoria, the same five from last year's playoff team cut. This group was one of the most durable in the MLB, with each making all their projected starts in 2023. I slotted sophomore control artist Kirby in the five spot to break up the left-handers. Manager Scott Servais tends to follow that philosophy. Either way, stability is the name of the game with the starters, and having all of them back, as well as full seasons for Castillo and Kirby will provide a launching point for more success this year.
Mariners Bullpen (8)
Andres Munoz, Paul Sewald, Matt Brash, Diego Castillo, Matthew Festa, Penn Murfee, Trevor Gott, Bryce Miller
Deciding who makes the Los Bomberos is where things can get funky. The team needs a left-hander in the pen, but Servais always emphasizes handedness. The seven-year manager tends to look at pitch ability and reverse splits when constructing a bullpen. Trevor Gott makes the cut because of the major league deal and his closing experience. I'm going out on a limb and saying Chris Flexen is traded during spring training.
As we wrote about early this month, the last spot is the real battle in camp. There are plenty of exciting arms ranging from Flexen, Bryce Miller, Casey Sadler, Justin Topa, and more.
I'm going with Miller for one reason alone. President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, said the best 13 arms would break camp. Miller is far and away the most dominant pitcher in the bunch. Some might argue he needs to start the season in the minors. Still, his ability to throw multiple innings out of the pen will be invaluable, especially early in the season when the team is ramping up the starter.
Mariners Catchers (2)
Cal Raleigh, Tom Murphy
Reports say, Murphy, slotted as the backup catcher, came to camp jacked. That is good news for Mariner fans, as the seven-year veteran will provide opportunities to rest Raleigh instead of running him into the ground like last season. Murphy brings a lot to the table regarding intangibles but excels at in-game management and provides a solid bat power against left-handed pitching.
Mariners First base (2)
Ty France, Tommy La Stella
Ty France is the incumbent, but the team is looking for someone to spell the corner infielders. So they signed Tommy La Stella to a major league deal, ensuring he makes the roster. La Stella gives the team a contact bat from the left side who can spell France, Wong, and Suarez. They'll be a ton of DH at-bats for the former Angel if he proves the Achilles injuries are behind him.
Mariners Second Base (2)
Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore
The team brought veteran gold glover Kolten Wong over from Milwaukee to steady the second base position. Servais is said to prefer a platoon here, with Dylan Moore providing the other half. Wong is a contact bat with double-digit steal potential and above-average pop. There aren't many of these types of players on the roster, which means expect him to get the majority of the innings.
Moore, who is coming off core surgery, is slow-rolling spring training hoping to be ready for opening day. He is a critical chess piece for the team due to his ability to play both infield positions at elite levels. Bottom line is this platoon could be a top-five position group by WAR standards with both racking up steals and double digit homers.
Mariners Shortstop (1)
Mariner management bought into Crawford last year, handing him a five-year contract. They doubled down when they avoided the free agent spending spree that included Xander Bogearts, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Dansby Swanson. Dylan Moore will serve as the backup filling in for Crawford for a day or so a week. Last year, Crawford was hampered by injuries in the second half of the season; this approach should help keep the six-year veteran fresh.
Mariners Third base (1)
Mr. Good Vibes Only Suarez will again handle the hot corner. Suarez has never been a good contact hitter, but he does provide a gap-to-gap power in the middle of the lineup. La Stella will spell Suarez when tough right-handers are on the bump.
Mariners Outfield (5)
Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez, AJ Pollock, Sam Haggerty
This offseason, we've made a ton of noise about the importance of Kelenic clicking. Mainly, because the tools are still there.
He'll likely get most of the innings out in left field, with AJ Pollock filling in against left-handers. Servais should pen Rodriguez and newcomer Hernandez into the starting nine, but the latter will also get some time off his feet in the rotating DH role. Haggerty will make the roster for his late-inning speed and defensive ability.
As you can see, there are few roster battles in Peoria. We might have a surprise or two, such as Cade Marlowe beating out Sam Haggerty, keeping three catchers, or the team deciding to hang on to Chris Flexen, but for now, my magic eight-ball says these 26 players break camp in six weeks. However, ask me again on March 27th; the picture might be clearer.