2012 has been quite an adventure for the Mariners so far, hasn't it?
Trips abroad, perfect games, game-winning homers and blown leads/saves have amounted to roughly a .500 record with the first month of the season almost in the books.
Right now it's hard to get a clear read on which direction the Mariners are heading. One minute they're on the wrong end of a perfect game at Safeco, the next they're sweeping the Tigers in Motown.
Making matters all the more complex is the mix of players, both young and old, in a lineup that changes on a near-daily basis. M's manager Eric Wedge is working like a mad scientist trying to get the right mix of players in the lineup in an attempt to achieve several goals.
In no particular order, Wedge seems to be trying to:
- Win ball games.
- Develop the Mariners' youngsters.
- Market the veterans the team can sell off before the trade deadline.
In all three of these endeavors, success has proven fleeting for any meaningful stretch of games. At some point, though, things should start to settle and in all likelihood the youngsters will win out.
What does that hold for the future?
Veterans—like Chone Figgins—will probably be gone, either by showing just enough to get a prospective buyer to bite or released if they fail to produce entirely. Ultimately, with spots vacated on the roster, youngsters like Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager will get more time on the field as a result. At the same time, other spots on the roster will need to be filled and this will mean call-ups from the M's farm system.
Before all is said and done this season, here are five players you should expect to see in Seattle with many getting their first taste of major league action, while others may be getting their last chance.
So far, so good for Hultzen down at AA Jackson.
Granted, he hasn't been invincible, but generally he's managed to pitch with command and has been striking out as many batters as innings pitched. At this rate, Hultzen should find his way to Tacoma, perhaps by early to mid-June?
If he holds his own there, he could be in Seattle not too long after that. Originally, I saw Hultzen coming up around the All-Star break, but now I imagine it might be better to give him a little more time down on the farm.
Either way, it's not like anyone beyond Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas are having much luck consistently within the starting rotation. Beyond them, only Blake Beavan seems capable of holding his spot.
Kevin Millwood and Hector Noesi will probably get some more time to work out the kinks, but could be on the outs by mid-season. Meanwhile, Hisashi Iwakuma has been missing in action from day one and doesn't look like he will get many chances to redeem himself.
While there may be other options to tinker with at Tacoma, if Hultzen holds true to form, the temptation to bring him up will be too tough to fight off.
Speaking of options the Mariners may tinker with from Tacoma...
Perez might be one of those pitchers.
The well-traveled lefty has worn out welcomes most recently in Washington and in New York with the Mets prior to signing a minor league deal with the Mariners this winter. This season he's off to a lackluster start at AAA, but he might just get the call at some point down the stretch if Charlie Furbush can't stick it with the big club.
It's not that Perez has shown much promise, but assuming that there will be injuries at some point, the team will need to fill out their rotation and eat up innings.
After Perez, the M's could be looking at the player to be named later in the Doug Fister trade, Chance Ruffin.
In short, the pitching talent the Mariners currently have at AA Jackson could probably give the pitchers on the Tacoma Rainiers a run for their money.
One only hopes in time that they will, but expect the M's to take their time if the team continues to trail in the standings. If so, expect to see the team shuttle one pitcher after another between Seattle and Tacoma before bringing up any big-name prospects.
Vinnie Catricala is also off to a slow start in Tacoma after just missing a chance to make the M's final roster coming out of spring training.
Last season, Catricala was the team's Minor League Player of the Year and this spring he captivated Mariner fans with his hitting—especially his power.
If Catricala gets in gear, he should make it to Seattle by late summer provided that Chone Figgins is gone or if either Kyle Seager or Alex Liddi fail to hit with any consistency.
Currently Liddi looks like he could be a keeper, and Seager looked great just a few weeks ago. With some more playing time during the first half of the season, manager Eric Wedge should get a clearer picture on whether either can become an everyday player.
If the M's luck out and both produce, Catricala still may get his shot at the majors this year. If his power numbers heat up during the summer, the Mariners might bring him up to serve as an extra outfielder.
Perhaps before the Mariners see if Vinnie Catricala can play outfield, they will give Trayvon Robinson one more shot.
Robinson is the type of player who some might label AAAA talent, but I oddly think his hitting style could work in the Mariners' lineup, especially at Safeco. When he's on point, he's capable of hitting to all fields and stealing a base or two.
While it's unlikely he will even hit for any meaningful power, having a doubles and singles outfielder who can provide a spark at the bottom of the order or at the end of the bench isn't the worst thing in the world.
However, at some point Robinson will need to stop striking out at least once a game, otherwise that AAAA tag is going to be tough to shed.
Last but not least, here's a name you may not have expected or perhaps forgotten about.
Triunfel was once upon a time the golden boy of the Mariners' farm system. Depending on how quickly and well he developed, he appeared destined to play on the left side of the M's infield as the "Next Big Thing."
Signed by the Mariners as a teenager as a five-tool wunderkind, Triunfel's future unfortunately wasn't quite as bright as everyone envisioned.
Today, Triunfel is an old 22 if you can believe that, while currently hitting .222 with two HRs and eight RBIs at Tacoma.
Why should the Mariners bring him up to the big club?
His current stats hardly scream for a promotion, yet at some point the M's need to see if he has what it takes to play as a pro. With Nick Franklin being prepped as the shortstop of the future and hitting .320 at AA Jackson, Triunfel is certainly running out of time.
Before the Mariners give up on someone they've invested a lot of time and effort in, wouldn't it make sense to give him a small shot in the second half of the season?
Triunfel may never reach or even approach the level of greatness Mariners fans had hoped for, yet oddly it wouldn't surprise me if he was a late bloomer and had success some place later on. Let's hope he doesn't come back to haunt the M's down the road, but instead lives up to his promise in Seattle.