Cactus League Game 1, Rangers at Mariners

marc w · February 23, 2020 at 11:33 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Joe Palumbo, 12:10pm

After yesterday’s rain-out, the M’s will begin their spring training slate of games today in Peoria. They feature a line-up that figures to be pretty close to the one they’ll open the regular season with, and they’ll do it behind Yusei Kikuchi, the enigmatic pitcher whose development is critical to the M’s contention in a few years.

The Rangers head to Peoria in a battle of the cellar-dwellers of the AL West. The Rangers haven’t exactly done a full rebuild – the only real prize they traded away was Yu Darvish, and he only had a half-season of club control left. Instead, the Rangers are where they are because their once vaunted pipeline of talent – particularly international free agents – started to dry up, and thus they didn’t really have in-house replacements for the likes of Darvish or Adrian Beltre. They’d be challenging the M’s for worst record in the division if they hadn’t spent a bit of money on veteran starting pitching, a move that lifted their rotation last year, and kept them from the fate of the Orioles or Tigers. This year, they’ve doubled down on that approach, picking up Corey Kluber from Cleveland, Kyle Gibson from Minnesota, and the well-traveled Jordan Lyles. Their offense doesn’t project all that well, but on paper, they should have much better starting pitching than the M’s.

So can the M’s make up for that deficit by developing their young position player prospects? I mean, sure, anything’s possible. But before they bring up Julio and Jarred, they’re going to need to figure out what the likes of Braden Bishop, Kyle Lewis, and Jake Fraley have to offer. The former two start today’s game, but I imagine we’ll see Fraley push Bishop for a starting position in the regular season. Bishop and Fraley were utterly overmatched in their first taste of the big leagues, but that’s not a death sentence or anything. Lewis started extremely well, but may have to show that he can limit Ks…unless his power can rival that of the Rangers whiff-prone Dingerman, Joey Gallo.

At this point, the Rangers are projected to finish with about 12 more wins than Seattle, and for that to happen, they’ll probably need to tap some of their starting pitching depth, particularly with some older and injury-prone starters (like Kluber). That’s where today’s starter, Joe Palumbo, comes in. Palumbo, Kolby Allard, and Ariel Jurado figure to back up the starters, and of that depth group, Palumbo’s the guy with the best pure stuff or bat-missing ability. A lefty, his four-seam fastball comes in at around 94-95 from a low-ish arm angle. His primary breaking ball is a curve at around 79, and while he’s got a slider and change, he uses the fastball/curve combo most often. All in all, he reminds me a bit of Justus Sheffield; Sheffield’s release point is even lower (which may just be due to his height), so he’s got similar FB movement to Palumbo. Sheff’s low spin rate means the FB gets even less vertical movement than Palumbo’s, but neither are even average in terms of vertical rise. Their sliders are similar too, I suppose; Palumbo’s only thrown four of them, so it’s hard to tell. Palumbo showed more bat-missing in the minors than Sheffield, but he too walked too many. And despite the movement similarities, Palumbo’s a fly ball pitcher, a fact that got him into trouble in his brief MLB call-up. If I worked for Texas, I might encourage him to throw that slider a bit more, even just as a change of pace. Sheffield’s able to get grounders with that pitch, and Palumbo needs *something* given the fact he’s a fly baller in Texas.

1: Long, 2B
2: White, 1B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Lewis, RF
5: Vogelbach, DH
6: Murphy, C
7: Crawford, SS
8: Smith, CF
9: Bishop, LF
SP: Kikuchi

The M’s picked up one-time Padres OF prospect Rymer Liriano today. He had a great 2011 in low A, then missed a year due to injury in 2013. Back with a vengeance in 2014, he rose to get his first MLB call-up with San Diego that year. After a so-so 2015, he again missed a year due to injury in 2016. He got a few games for a go-nowhere White Sox team in 2017, and was last seen in the Mets org last year, where he struggled. Hey, depth!


One Response to “Cactus League Game 1, Rangers at Mariners”

  1. Lailoken on February 23rd, 2020 3:45 pm

    Hearing the broadcast team talking about Kikuchi’s velocity being up was encouraging.

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