Cactus League Grinds On: M’s Host Giants
Given that a good chunk of their best players are currently in the WBC or flying back from it, it probably shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the M’s have frittered away some of their impressive strike zone stat advantage. They’re still pretty good, mind you, but they’re no longer among the top teams on either offense or defense. The pitching staff in particular has been unimpressive in recent days, thanks to some ugly lines put up by guys who are not realistically going to play for Seattle this year; the M’s now lead MLB in spring training HRs given up.
Hisashi Iwakuma will try to rebound from an ugly start in that 24-3 drubbing at the hands of the Brewers. I know it’s early, and that his game isn’t based on velocity, but Iwakuma’s averaged 86 MPH on his fastball in his first start of the spring, according to BrooksBaseball (so MLB would have it even slower). That was very early, and he got good outcomes, but after the Milwaukee unpleasantness, it might be worth watching. Iwakuma’s critical to this team, as one potential advantage people have ascribed to the M’s vis a vis the Astros is their rotation’s depth. If Iwakuma stumbles, or pitches more like a #4/5 starter, that advantage starts to look pretty shaky.
I’m not convinced that Collin McHugh is much more than a #3 or 4 at this point, and the Astros might need to ask a lot of their rookies Francis Martes/David Paulino, so I understand the point. But to me, the M’s rotation has as many question marks. A bounce-back season from Iwakuma would answer a big one, and a stretch of good health from James Paxton would answer another. The pieces are there for the M’s to have a better run prevention unit than the Astros, but a lot needs to go right. The M’s depth looks better today than it did a month ago thanks to strong springs from Andrew Moore and Max Povse, but the Astros still have secret weapon Chris Devenski, who had one of the best years for a swingman in recent memory, behind their starting 5.
Today against the Giants, the depleted M’s (day game after a day/night split squad day yesterday) have several back-ups starting and ready to come on later. Steve Baron starts at C, and ex-Indy Leaguer/ex-position-player-pitcher-hybrid Micah Owings’ may make an appearance out of the pen.
1: Martin, CF
2: Motter, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Valencia, DH
5: Vogelbach, 1B
6: Heredia, LF
7: Gamel, RF
8: Smith, SS
9: Baron, C