Seattle Mariners: 8 Early Spring Training Standout Prospects

Davis ZhaoCorrespondent IIMarch 15, 2012

Seattle Mariners: 8 Early Spring Training Standout Prospects

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    The Seattle Mariners, if only for a few fleeting moments on a tiny stage, are basking in the glory of sweet success.

    Under the Arizona sun, they're enjoying a 10-3 record, good for first place in the Cactus League so far.

    Ultimately, these 'play-date' games don't matter one bit, but that depends on who you ask. Many of the players still hanging in the major league camp are veterans and prospects clawing for a roster spot with the Mariners this summer.

    After a couple weeks, several players have proven themselves in a big way, making the final roster cuts an excruciatingly difficult decision for Manager Eric Wedge.

Michael Saunders, CF

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    With Franklin Gutierrez shelved with a pectoral injury, the Mariners badly needed someone to step up in Spring Training and hold down center field.

    Could it really be Michael Saunders?

    We all thought the book was closed on Saunders as a career minor leaguer and a bust in the majors. At the age of 25, he's starting to show us that maybe, just maybe, we can start getting excited about "The Condor" again.

    So far in Spring Training, Saunders has been Mariners camp buzzing. In nine games, he's hitting at a .417 clip with four doubles and a home run. The offensive resurgence can be attributed to his offseason training program, which included working with an independent hitting coach.

    We're seeing the fruits of his labor with a more compact swing that has already translated to success early on.

Munenori Kawasaki, SS

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    Comparisons to Ichiro have people calling Kawasaki "Ichiro Lite" early on in camp.

    And for the most part it's been true. Kawasaki has enjoyed a .348 average with eight RBI so far in nine games, and all of his hits have been singles. He's even flashed some speed, stealing a pair of bases.

    Reports from camp over the last month have been that Kawasaki has been enthusiastically training with the team. We're seeing a player who likely will stick as a backup with the Mariners come Opening Day in Japan.

    Fellow shortstop Brendan Ryan, who appears to be hampered by a lingering neck injury, is sporting a modest .263 average in seven games.

Alex Liddi, 3B

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    With the third base competition wide open, Alex Liddi has been making his case for playing time this year.

    So far in Spring Training, he's hit for a .389 average. With concerns that he might strike out too much, Liddi has walked three times compared to three strikeouts in 19 at-bats.

    The main thing Liddi will need to work on is his defense, which is still a work in progress. But he's been hitting pretty well in Spring Training so far, and might be in line for a decent look in the Majors this summer.

Vinnie Catricala, 3B/LF

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    There's a decent chance that you've never heard of this kid, and it's for a reason. Catricala has never played above Double-A before, but here he is, still fighting after the first wave of 'cuts' has been made.

    So far in Spring Training, the 23 year-old is batting .364 with two home runs in eight games. As one of my sleeper breakout candidates, Catricala has been showing power at the plate.

    Catricala and Liddi have been splitting some time at third base, but they're also trying him in left field, where there are also a lot of prospects competing for a spot.

    Catricala will likely start the season in Triple-A Tacoma, but he's someone to keep in mind if Figgins continues to fail.

    By the way, Figgins is batting a paltry .222 so far, although he does lead the team in walks.  

Erasmo Ramirez, SP

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    Just like Catricala, here he is, a 21 year-old up-and-comer who has survived the first wave of demotions.

    Gone are hot prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Danny Hultzen. They need more time in the minor leagues before they'll make a dent on the major league ballclub.

    And yet, Ramirez is here, and it's for a reason. He has command of four impressive pitches, and he's pitched three scoreless innings. It's not a lot, but the Mariners are continuing to run Ramirez out there because they're intrigued.

    I'm intrigued too, and we might have a big-four in pitching prospects very soon— Walker, Paxton, Hultzen, and Ramirez.

Jesus Montero, C/DH

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    What else could we expect?

    The newly acquired Montero is proving GM Jack Zduriencik right for giving up an arm and a leg for him. Batting .333 so far, Montero has also hit three doubles, a home run, and 8 RBI in just 21 at-bats.

    Again, we'll have to see how he fares in the regular season, but this is very encouraging news. With a team that has been hammering the ball in general this Spring Training, you have to wonder if Montero is putting a charge in the M's offense.

Blake Beavan, SP

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    There's a big competition brewing between Beavan, Noesi, Millwood, and possibly Furbush and Ramirez.

    If I had to give the advantage to anyone right now, I wouldn't. This is too close of a battle to call. Beavan has worked the most innings of any M's pitcher right now with 11.1 innings pitched.

    In his three games started, he's allowed just three earned runs for a solid 2.38 ERA. Beavan is certainly making his case for the fifth spot in the M's rotation this season.

Trayvon Robinson, LF

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    Robinson is another player on the bubble who is making a hard run at earning one of the last few spots on the 25-man roster.

    He's been somewhat limited in his playing time, but all he's done in his seven games is go 7 for 13, good for a .538 average with a home run.

    Earlier this week, in a 7-5 loss to San Francisco, Robinson went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, and a bunt single.

    Robinson is flashing his tools early on in Spring Training, and with the Mariners playing musical chairs with the outfield roster spots, he just might find himself with the Mariners on Opening Day. And if he doesn't, it certainly won't be because of his hitting.