In less than a month, Matt Brash will flash his new cutter off to teammates in the backfields of Peoria. Tom Murphy will don the catching gear and take his rightful place as the second backstop on this team. Manager Scott Servais will get a first look at a slew of relievers the team picked up via waivers or trade. Arms like Justin Topa, Gabe Speier, and Easton McGee. These are just a few of the storylines that will circle a camp that should be brimming with optimism, considering the whole drought-busting that took place last Fall.
Mariners Storyline #1: Jarred Kelenic vs. Taylor Trammell
We’ve beaten Kelenic’s story into submission, but it is worth noting here. With Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez, and Eugenio Suarez headed to the World Baseball Classic this Spring, there will be plenty of at-bats for these two youngsters to show any adjustments they’ve made from last season.
President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, has gone on record stating the team will run a platoon in left field to give both players a smooth landing, where they can focus on building confidence by facing right-handed pitching. In Kelenic’s case, there are severe splits, but eliminating the shift might help mitigate those struggles. In addition, Trammell spent considerable time at Driveline Baseball this offseason, retooling his swing to close some holes, specifically high velocity in the upper zone.
Teamed with Dipoto’s comments about the positives in carrying three catchers, the current roster construction probably means only one breaks camp with a 26-man roster spot. It will be interesting to see who runs with the added playing time and locks up one-half of the platoon.
Mariners Storyline #2: Will Dipoto Make Another Spring Training Trade?
There’s been some chatter about Dipoto’s preference to add another bat to the roster this Spring. He’s taken fliers on the oft-injured Tommy La Stella and a league-average bat in Colin Moran, but is there more out there? Remember last year when the team swung the Suarez and Winker trade? No one saw it coming.
The Mariners have trade chips in Chris Flexen, Marco Gonzalez, and prospects like Taylor Dollard. They could use them to pry a player away from the Twins (Max Kepler), Rockies (C.J. Cron), or Cardinals (Tyler O’Neill). All three players would add depth and more upside to the lineup, which is imperative if the team wants to compete in an improving AL West.
Mariners Storyline #3: Who takes the Spring by storm?
Every year one prospect or down-and-out veteran checks all the boxes and ends up breaking camp with the big-league team. A couple of years ago, it was Taylor Trammell. This year’s surprise could be top pitching prospect Bryce Miller, outfielder Cade Marlowe or one of the relief arms brought in to fill an Erik Swanson-sized hole in the pen.
My guess is as good as yours. But if I were a betting man, I’d say it is probably someone not on the roster right now. There isn’t a spot in the rotation for Miller right now, and the team likely wants to manage his workload to bring him up for the stretch run. Marlowe has a tantalizing speed and power combination, but he has a lot of swing and miss in his bat.
Suppose Dipoto doesn’t add anyone else to the roster; look for Gabe Speier to make some noise in Peoria. The lefty reliever has a little Josh Hader in him with a funky delivery, rising fastball, and a solid slider that could make facing Alvarez, Ohtani, and Seager a little easier in 2023.