Looking At The Opening Day Roster

Dave · March 22, 2011 at 7:13 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

We’re a little over a week away from Opening Day, so the M’s are going to start having to make some decisions on who goes north with the club pretty soon. I’m guessing that most of the decisions have already been made, but there is probably still one or two openings. As of today, here’s my best guess as to what the Opening Day roster for the M’s will look like.

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Figgins, 3B
3. Bradley, LF
4. Cust, DH
5. Smoak, 1B
6. Olivo, C
7. Gutierrez, CF
8. Wilson, 2B
9. Ryan, SS

Bench: Moore (C), Kennedy (IF), Langerhans (OF), Josh Wilson (UT)

SP: Felix
SP: Vargas
SP: Fister
SP: Bedard
SP: Pineda

CL: League
RHP: Ray
RHP: Lueke
LHP: Laffey
RHP: Wright
LHP: Ring
RHP: Pauley

The spots that could still be up in the air are the utility spot (where it’s possible that they could go with Chris Gimenez instead of Josh Wilson if they wanted a third catcher with Olivo at less than 100%) and the second lefty, where Ring could be beaten out by Fabio Castro (if they want a guy who can go multiple innings) or Cesar Jimenez (if they don’t want to put Jimenez on waivers). My feeling is the other 23 spots are basically decided at this point.

Probably the main “story” that would come out of this roster would be Michael Saunders heading back for another round in Triple-A. The M’s are trying to rework his swing a bit after some pretty poor results during his stints in the big leagues, and having him serve as a part-time player is not in the best interests of his development. When they decided to keep Milton Bradley around as the regular left fielder, they essentially ticketed Saunders for the PCL and turned his roster spot into more of a fourth outfielder role, which Langerhans is better suited for.

We’ll do a post about Saunders shortly, but in reality, he needs more time in the minors. As we talked about last year, his swing essentially made it impossible for him to hit anything to left field, so he was highly susceptible to anything on the outer half of the plate. This meant that righties could just pitch him away and lefties could pound him with breaking balls, and he couldn’t really do anything about it. Unless he can correct that issue and come up with a swing that allows him to occasionally dump the ball into left field when he needs to, he’s not going to be a good big league hitter. It’s better for Saunders to work on that in Tacoma to be continually embarrassed in Seattle.

As it stands, the bench provides a decent amount of versatility in terms of pinch-running and moving guys around the field, but it leaves Wedge with some inferior pinch-hitting options for high leverage situations when he wants to swap out Wilson or Ryan to get a big hit. Langerhans and Kennedy offer LH bats but neither have the kind of offensive ability you really want in a pinch-hitter, and if you use Langerhans to pinch hit for one of the middle infielders, you probably burn two bench spots – either Wilson or Kennedy has to go in to play the infield position in the next inning, so in most cases, Wedge would probably just opt to use Kennedy as the pinch-hitter du jour. Not exactly the kind of guy who is going to strike fear into opposing pitchers when they see him come out in the on deck circle.

There’s also no real reserve corner infielder on the roster. This is a team that could really use a right-handed 3B/1B with some punch against left-handed hitters, as both Figgins and Smoak have had their problems with southpaws historically. Even if you don’t plan on platooning either of those guys, giving them a day off here and there when an LHP is on the mound isn’t the worst idea in the world. This bench doesn’t really give the M’s that option. If the team could find a corner infielder who could also fake it in left field occasionally (necessary because of Bradley’s health issues), they could punt Wilson and improve the team. Whether that’s something they actually try to do or not remains to be seen.

On the pitching side of things, the rotation is clearly the strength of the team, with three quality arms, a fly ball lefty who is perfect for the park, and a command righty who has shown some ability to be a decent innings sponge. Neither Pineda or Bedard are likely to soak up a lot of innings this year, however, so expect to see guys like Luke French and David Pauley make quite a few starts as well. Bedard is a pretty huge wild card – if he stays healthy, he represents a nice upgrade for the team that they couldn’t have counted on, but every time he takes the hill, there’s a chance that he could experience shoulder pain and have to shut it down.

The bullpen… well, it just isn’t good. Aardsma and Kelly’s injuries took away good arms, and Dan Cortes failed to throw enough strikes in spring training to crack the roster. That left the team with a few veteran stop-gaps who will try to hold down the fort until the good arms return, and the late innings could be pretty scary in April and May. The M’s need to hope that guys like Cortes and Wilhelmsen develop quickly, Aardsma gets healthy in a hurry, and they can avoid total bullpen meltdown until that happens.

The team should also be actively looking to steal arms from other organizations who might be in a roster crunch and have a decent reliever to spare. There’s no reason they should settle for the status quo if an improvement hits the waiver wire or is dangled in trade, and the current bullpen is pretty easy to improve. With any luck, they’ll have found a better option than Jamey Wright before the end of camp.

Realistically, the M’s roster by mid-summer probably won’t look too much like the one that takes the field in Oakland for Game 1. There are quite a few veteran placeholders who are just biding their time until a more talented prospect shows he’s ready to come up and take their job, and the M’s success this year will depend on how quickly and how ably those guys can transition to the big leagues. This obviously isn’t the roster of a contender, but that isn’t the goal this year – the goal is to play decent baseball, establish some young players as foundational pieces for the future, and win enough games that there isn’t a massive housecleaning at year’s end. This roster is probably good enough to do that, as long as guys like Smoak, Pineda, and Ackley are able to contribute some value. If they all prove that they’re not quite ready, this year could be another disaster.

Let’s hope the kids are ready.

Comments

42 Responses to “Looking At The Opening Day Roster”

  1. Westside guy on March 22nd, 2011 7:55 pm

    Moore (C), Kennedy (IF), Langerhans (OF), Josh Wilson (UT)

    I’m not crazy about Paperboy – but I’ll take this bench most any day of the week over what the M’s called a “bench” at the start of last year.

  2. Sam Donnelley on March 22nd, 2011 8:12 pm

    I’m not crazy about Paperboy – but I’ll take this bench most any day of the week over what the M’s called a “bench” at the start of last year.

    Agreed. There is a refreshing lack of Tui on this page.

  3. Leroy Stanton on March 22nd, 2011 8:43 pm

    There is a refreshing lack of Tui on this page.

    Oh, Tui’s definitely there. Dave just didn’t mention him by name.

  4. Nate on March 22nd, 2011 8:44 pm

    Bedard ain’t gonna last. Pineda’s gonna have some struggles and get sent down for a spell. We need to go get Slowey.

  5. Nicbp253 on March 22nd, 2011 8:50 pm

    Don’t understand why people hate on tui…. He can play corner infield and outfield spots. Has power, kennedy doesn’t.

  6. Dave on March 22nd, 2011 9:08 pm

    He can’t play any position besides DH (and maybe first base with practice), he doesn’t hit, he doesn’t really have power… in short, he’s pretty awful.

  7. Alec on March 22nd, 2011 9:11 pm

    Don’t understand why people hate on tui…. He can play corner infield and outfield spots. Has power, kennedy doesn’t.

    He has been listed as a corner OF and as a 3B. Much in the same way Jaime Burke has been listed as a pitcher. It’s not a position you want him in barring emergency. That said, I’m surprised Dave didn’t mention him as the potential corner IF/OF the Mariners might keep on the roster, because there are clearly at least a few people in the organization that see him as a viable candidate for the role. I hate seeing him in the field, but honestly, Josh Wilson’s only utility is to be able to play slightly below average defense, but he hits about as well as Tui fields. Given the pinch hitting, I’d probably take Tui. Hopefully we find someone else for the spot ASAP. Where’s Brad Nelson when you need him?

  8. Alec on March 22nd, 2011 9:11 pm

    Damn, Dave beat me to it.

  9. Nicbp253 on March 22nd, 2011 9:23 pm

    Well how did he make it this far? He’s been hitting the last three springs. Would like to see French get the five spot give Pineda a little more time.

  10. Alec on March 22nd, 2011 9:26 pm

    Spring training stats mean nothing. There are a ton of guys who can hit AAA pitching and have no position.

  11. Sports on a Schtick on March 22nd, 2011 9:42 pm

    Good gravy, hopefully that bullpen doesn’t blow too many Felix games.

  12. Westside guy on March 22nd, 2011 10:06 pm

    Well how did he make it this far? He’s been hitting the last three springs.

    That’s more or less the definition of an AAAA hitter – like Bucky Jacobsen, but without the raw power. As to how he’s stayed around… he’s had options, so it hasn’t cost the Mariners much to see if he eventually developed (that changes after this year).

    Also, there’s a PR component to having local sports royalty somewhere in your system.

    But heck, if I had Tui’s talent I’d stick around as long as possible too. I’m not gonna blame the guy for wanting to be a major league baseball player – it’s just that I (and many others) don’t think he’s got quite enough talent.

  13. Westside guy on March 22nd, 2011 10:11 pm

    But then I’m still rooting for Saunders, and he still hasn’t shown anything offensively. So we’ve all got our biases.

    Saunders does have the advantage being a good defensive player – but we’ve seen a lot of those come and go that never really figure out how to hit.

  14. Adam B. on March 22nd, 2011 10:14 pm

    The problem is;

    The bench player Dave described fits exactly what some people in the M’s organization seem to think Matt Tuiasosopo is, or will soon become.
    We can all hope saner wits prevail, but it fits all too well into the Mariners’ modus operandi for them to promote the kid from Woodenville as multiple reports of him “learning” 3B, 1B and the outfield continue to surface.

    As for the swiss-cheese bullpen, it should hopefully be a short-lived phenomenon with youngsters like the aforementioned Wilhelmson and Cortes, as well as Stephen Pryor, Tyler Burgoon, Mauricio Robles and Josh Fields coming down the pike.

  15. Dave on March 22nd, 2011 10:28 pm

    Tui has been limited to LF/1B this spring. The M’s have told him to focus on those two positions. He’s not seen as a 3B or a utility type in the organization any more.

  16. gerrythek on March 22nd, 2011 10:37 pm

    With regard to a RH CI, I’ll bet Brandon Wood could be had pretty cheaply right about now.

  17. littlelinny6 on March 22nd, 2011 10:39 pm

    Any chance maybe Mike Wilson has a shot? Obviously he’s flawed but can play a passable LF and could get an occasional start against LHPs. He has some real power as well so maybe it is time to give him at least a few week shot to see how he does. Josh Wilson we know 100% sucks, whereas with Mike Wilson we think he would suck in the majors but that is speculation at this point.

  18. Dave on March 22nd, 2011 10:45 pm

    I literally cannot wait for Mike Wilson to retire so that we can stop having to tell everyone that he sucks every spring.

  19. eponymous coward on March 22nd, 2011 11:13 pm

    That’s more or less the definition of an AAAA hitter – like Bucky Jacobsen, but without the raw power.

    In other words, without the ability that made Bucky Jacobsen an OK player when he got major league time (as we saw when he got his gig), as well as Jack Cust. Both of them spent extended time in the minors as “AAAA hitters”. Earlier examples would be Ken Phelps and Mike Easler. Still earlier ones would be Steve Bilko and Buzz Arlett.

    Tui isn’t that kind of hitter, which really is shorthand for “minor league hitter who has some impressive high minors stats, that would project him to be OK in MLB, but can’t get the break to get on an MLB roster”. Tui’s minor league stats are nothing special- his stats are about where Jeremy Reed’s are, who’s gone on to do, well, nothing of note.

  20. SonOfZavaras on March 22nd, 2011 11:34 pm

    Dave,
    you mention the need for a 1B/3B guy, righthanded, and can fake a few innings in the outfield on occasion.

    Not that I think he’s a good player by major league standards, but does Garrett Atkins possibly fit that bill?

    It might be a huge indictment of the guy that Pittsburgh couldn’t find a place for him, but the situation there’s a little different in that they’ve got a couple young players at those 1B/3B positions that are now needing the ABs.

    But between having to send Tui for a clutch AB, and Atkins, I’d probably want to send Atkins.

  21. djw on March 23rd, 2011 3:27 am

    “That said, I’m surprised Dave didn’t mention him as the potential corner IF/OF the Mariners might keep on the roster, because there are clearly at least a few people in the organization that see him as a viable candidate for the role.”

    I actually wondered if Z wasn’t giving him extended major league roster time in 2010 to make sure those people would shut up and in 2011–beyond. I suppose I can see how a tiny bit of optimism that he might still figure out how to make himself useful this time a year ago wasn’t completely crazy, but after 2010? Between the continued butchery in the field, the 40% K rate hopelessness at the plate in the bigs, and the failure to demonstrate any meaningful progress at the plate in the portion of the season that was his 3rd tour of AAA, I’m honestly not sure what more he could have done to convince you people he’s got no place on a major league roster.

  22. rsrobinson on March 23rd, 2011 8:15 am

    My expectations for this season are so low that my best hope is that Figgins and Bedard do well enough to become trade bait at the deadline. Beyond that my main interest will be watching some of the young players develop. Can’t wait to see Ackley in Safeco.

  23. MrZDevotee on March 23rd, 2011 8:39 am

    I’m disappointed that the bullpen has come together so shaky this Spring, because (at the risk of sounding a little too Pollyanna), I don’t think we have an awful roster this year. Our starting pitching is much improved (meaning– at this time last year no one had ANY idea that Vargas and Fister could pitch– the idea was Felix and Cliff would win games and everyone else had to go .500… But with Bedard and Pineda we now have a #1, a #2, and three #3′s). So, with even an average offense, the starting pitching this year could make playing .500 ball a reasonable “high water mark”, IF we had ANYONE who could finish games for us on the mound. Unfortunately, it’s probably gonna be a really frustrating season, as we fight hard to stay in games only to hand the ball to the bullpen and watch things get out of hand quickly (sounds eerily reminiscent of early ’90s M’s pitching).

  24. Say Hey Willie on March 23rd, 2011 9:13 am

    I’d bet my right arm that Guti leapfrogs Olivo in the order withing a couple of months. He has had months-long stretches where he’s looked like a downright good hitter, if not a #3 hitter, and at least in theory it seems like the stomach issues could be a simple answer for why his effectiveness would sometimes drop quickly and drastically. On the other hand, I’m very pessimistic about what Olivo’s gonna give us. Seems like the only difference between him and the Cirillo/Aurillia club is that Olivo has already PROVEN that he can’t hit here. Maybe he’s become sifnificantly better, but I doubt it.

  25. diderot on March 23rd, 2011 9:28 am

    his swing essentially made it impossible for him to hit anything to left field, so he was highly susceptible to anything on the outer half of the plate.

    I agree with this assessment of Saunders, but it raises a question maybe someone can answer for me.
    There have been plenty of successful major leaguers who can’t hit the other way–think anyone facing the infield ‘shift’…or Bautista hitting all but one of his home runs last year to left.
    What do those guys do to defeat outside pitches? Foul them off? Pray they aren’t called strikes? Or are they quick/strong enough to pull even those?

  26. Say Hey Willie on March 23rd, 2011 9:39 am

    I would guess those guys compensate by punishing misplaced pitches at a very high rate.

  27. dchappelle on March 23rd, 2011 10:08 am

    Eh, I’m not nearly as down on Tui or Mike Wilson as Dave. Actually I would find it a little amusing to see either or both of them turn into average mlb players. Extremely unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility. Still Tui is probably a -5/-10 run fielder at third and might run a .320-340ish wOBA if used mostly against lefties. Seems a better fit for the team than Josh Wilson.

    As far as Mike Wilson… the number of players that survive on a 35% K rate is very small (Mark Reynolds, Jack Cust, and Adam Dunn). So yeah… he pretty much sucks at this point. Still his 2010 did show improvement in his K rate. He might be useful yet.

  28. CMC_Stags on March 23rd, 2011 10:14 am

    I’m disappointed that the bullpen has come together so shaky this Spring, because (at the risk of sounding a little too Pollyanna), I don’t think we have an awful roster this year.

    Agree. The M’s are looking at above average production from RF with with the potential for above average production from LF, CF, and 3B if Bradley, Gutierrez, and Figgins can return to form. Olivo/Moore will hopefully be around league average. Smoak, the 2B platoon (Wilson, Kennedy, Ackley), and SS will hopefully be close to league average.

    But with Bedard and Pineda we now have a #1, a #2, and three #3’s).

    Disagree. If you want to use rotation slots as an index, Felix is obviously a #1. Bedard when healthy is a #1, but that health concerns make that rating hard to believe. Fister and Vargas should both be considered 4′s until they can repeat their 2010 successes. Pineda is a #5 until he can prove he can get lefties out in the majors.

  29. CMC_Stags on March 23rd, 2011 10:27 am

    With Jack Wilson and Ryan on the team, it doesn’t seem like the M’s need the traditional Utility player that can cover SS. If Ryan were to get hurt or PH for, Wilson could slide over and Kennedy could cover 2B. In an emergancy, both Figgins and Kennedy have played SS in MLB and could cover it for a few innings until someone like Luis Rodriguez could be called up from AAA.

    In that situation, it seems like Chris Gimenez would be the better solution for the Utility role. He can catch, play the corner OF spots and 1B. Compared to Josh Wilson, he projects to be the better RH bat of the bench.

    While we’re on the subject, I’d still love to see the M’s trade for Ryan Doumit. He’s basically a better version of Gimenez, but is a year and a half older and more injury prone. The Pirates need pitching and we have to clear some pitchers off the 40 man roster for all the other NRIs to fit onto it. Maybe they’d be willing to make a deal.

  30. Elwood P. Dowd on March 23rd, 2011 10:42 am

    I literally cannot wait for Mike Wilson to retire so that we can stop having to tell everyone that he sucks every spring

    I don’t think guys like him “Retire”.

  31. shortbus on March 23rd, 2011 10:57 am

    Given the risk of some serious downside in the M’s performance this season I hope the ownership is giving Z a long leash. He’s still saddled with so much baggage from the Bavasi era that this season won’t be a good reflection of what he can do with a franchise over time.

  32. Say Hey Willie on March 23rd, 2011 11:00 am

    Totally agree, shortbus.

  33. Nicbp253 on March 23rd, 2011 11:54 am

    Its gonna be a good year. Can’t wait for Jack Z next move.

  34. Jay Yencich on March 23rd, 2011 12:12 pm

    I literally cannot wait for Mike Wilson to retire so that we can stop having to tell everyone that he sucks every spring.

    You don’t have to answer questions about him once a week during the season.

  35. cnote on March 23rd, 2011 12:36 pm

    I thought the plan was to load up on LHP in the pen? When Aardsma is back we could be even more RHP-heavy… (though not likely)

  36. Nicbp253 on March 23rd, 2011 12:48 pm

    When Aarasma comes back I can see Wright going. Castro, laffey and Royce Ring all LHP.

  37. B13a on March 23rd, 2011 12:56 pm

    I too can’t stand Tui anymore. I will always remember him for making Blowers look like a psychic in Toronto, but otherwise, please Jack Z end the Tui era soon. Only Josh Wilson surpasses him as my most annoying Mariner.

    My one worry is Pineda. I know the positives of sticking him as our #5, but I’m not one to call-up players who aren’t fully ready. Pineda has the fastball, but his command of his slider and the lack of consistency in his change scares me, in the bad way.

  38. jordan on March 23rd, 2011 1:42 pm

    You really think Chris Ray is a lock? He has been less than impressive “stuff” wise.

  39. Jordan on March 23rd, 2011 3:01 pm

    You really think Chris Ray is a lock?

    I think I should really ask myself why the pile is so bad that we now consider Ray a lock?

    less than impressive “stuff”

    That’s true he definitely doesn’t have the Wright stuff.

  40. MrZDevotee on March 23rd, 2011 4:57 pm

    I would not be surprised at all to see us pick up a couple of discarded bullpen guys from other organizations in the next week. Any veteran non-roster-invitees arent’ gonna take a minor league deal, so much like our own roster, there will be guys becoming available over the next week. That way we work young guys in slowly, in low pressure moments, and throw league average relievers with experience out there the rest of the time. Might be wishful thinking, but I think it would have more upside than what we’ve been seeing lately in the late innings. I suppose that’s what we already have with Laffey, Ring, Wright and Ray, but there might be some upgrades out there soon.

  41. jordan on March 23rd, 2011 7:03 pm

    Wilhelmsen looks like a better fit than does Ray.

  42. cnote on March 24th, 2011 12:35 pm

    When Aarasma comes back I can see Wright going. Castro, laffey and Royce Ring all LHP.

    Dave proposes Castro–if he makes it–would likely supplant Ring. So we’re still only at 2 LHP.

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