When it comes to the Seattle Mariners this season you can either see the glass half full or half empty.
Right now, though, I'm not entirely sure how the current rebuilding plans are working out as the Mariners are now 36-51. For several weeks now the M's have seemed to regress, with their pitchers trying to keep games close as their hitters struggle mightily at the plate.
Of particular concern is how the team's young nucleus of hitters is doing so poorly that rumors have some of them heading back to Triple-A Tacoma.
Yet, with the second half of the season for the Mariners set to start Friday night at Safeco Field against the Texas Rangers, it remains to be seen what the lineup will look like.
But who should stay and who should go?
In an attempt to offer my best guess, here are five Mariners youngsters who will get major playing time in the second half of this season.
While it's likely that a few prospects will get a cup of coffee before the end of the season, I'm not here to talk about recently promoted prospects like Danny Hultzen or Nick Franklin, who are now at Tacoma.
Today we're looking at young players who will get a serious chance to prove themselves in this make or break second half, as the M's have quite a few in the organization.
At the top of that list is one player who has surprised just about everyone, Kyle Seager.
In Spring Training, Seager looked like he would be one of those players trapped in limbo between Seattle and Tacoma, but he has made a case for himself with a solid first half.
Can he keep it up?
I have my doubts, especially given his recent dip in average, but also believe Seager has the mettle to prove me wrong.
If he can post solid numbers in the second half by boosting his total numbers to .260 / 20 / 85, Seager will not only earn his rightful spot in the M's future plans, but could also be seen as a legitimate star.
To think there was a time not too long ago that Ackley was considered far better than his former college teammate Kyle Seager.
Could he be one of the young players rumored to get shipped off to Triple-A?
Ackley, who was once the sure thing, has had a rough sophomore campaign, but I actually think he should stay with the Mariners and lead off as well.
Like Seager, I think Ackley is a gamer who can show us something when push comes to shove.
Given a clean slate while hitting at the top of the lineup for the second half, I'm oddly optimistic that Ackley will bounce back. His numbers might not be off the charts by season's end, yet I think the collective faith of Seattle fans will be restored with numbers along the lines of .250 / 10 / 55 with 100 runs scored and 20 steals.
Michael Saunders, much like Kyle Seager, wasn't on anyone's list to have a breakout season going into Spring Training.
At age 25, Saunders has finally shown the promise that many thought was lost long ago. With a mix of power and speed, Saunders has made a name for himself in a lineup with few signs of life in the first half.
Is he capable of keeping it up for a full season?
To me, he's still a fringe player who can fill a spot in the starting lineup, but not carry a team.
Nevertheless, now is his best chance to prove that he belongs in the majors. If he can finish hitting .260/20/60 with nearly 100 runs scored and 25-30 steals, I'd say he's a keeper.
Does Montero belong in the majors?
You get the feeling that he might be one of the young Mariners shipped to the minors given his performance of late.
It hurts to watch Montero struggle both at the plate and behind it right now.
The 22-year-old, whom many hoped would be the Mariners savior, has seen his numbers dip since the beginning of June, a month in which he only drove in one runner.
Is he tired? Is he hurt? Is he mentally spent?
Unlike Ackley, I'm not sure if Montero needs to stay, go, or simply rest.
The next few weeks will be telling as I'd imagine that Montero will be given a break of some kind, either sitting on the M's bench or spending a week or two at Tacoma to get his confidence back.
At some point though, Montero will be back and hopefully he'll be ready to go. The Mariners need to see if Montero, perhaps more than anybody, is capable, especially at the plate. My projections for the second half though are going to be somewhat modest, with a .250/15/55 stat line.
Just a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have included Casper Wells on this list.
However, since his return from the minors, Wells has produced.
Much like Michael Saunders I'm not sure whether Wells is a starter or a bench player long-term, but now is as good a time as any to find out, given he's already 27.
Personally I have my doubts, given the number of strikeouts, but the Mariners need to get answers on this right-handed hitter with some pop. Expect him to play, certainly more than recent call-up Carlos Peguero, whose plate discipline makes Wells look down-right patient.
Final projection is a serviceable .240/12/45 stat line. Hardly impressive, but not embarrassing.
Beyond those five players, it's hard to forecast who the Mariners will offer major playing time to in the second half.
In regards to the pitching staff, a lot will depend on whether general manager Jack Zduriencik will or even can move anyone at the trade deadline?
Either way, I'd like to see more of Erasmo Ramirez in a starting role and Stephen Pryor out of the pen, but right now both are injured and may require time in the minors before getting back to Seattle.
Meanwhile, I suppose it's only fair we discuss the most notable player missing from this list...Justin Smoak.
Smoak is without a doubt the pinkest of pink elephants at the moment in Seattle, as Seattle Times writer Jerry Brewer writes...
"We focus on Smoak because his situation is most dire. He has had 1,214 career plate appearances. And he has gotten progressively worse.
"The reasons are confounding. Is he a bad guy? No. Lazy? No. Immature? No. Insufficient talent? No. Still, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound potential slugger can't produce with his slow, long swing. And he's a rather lumbering dude to be only 25.
"Should the Mariners give up on him? Nah, they've traded or disregarded too many young stars who have gone on to figure it out for another team. But the pendulum is starting to swing from absolute faith to preemptive hedging.
"Smoak can't be an everyday starter right now. He either needs to be in a competition at first base with a healthy Mike Carp, or he needs to be in Tacoma trying to regain his confidence."
I advocated a trip to Tacoma two months ago and still think it's necessary, even though he ranks first in home runs and second in RBI for the M's.
It's not so much an endorsement to play Mike Carp, Alex Liddi, or whoever else at first instead, more the need for Smoak to refocus. While I believe he can be a solid player some day, I don't think Smoak will be the superstar we hoped for in Seattle.
Will he be sent down to Tacoma at some point soon?
I imagine he will go down, but the bigger question is whether he will come back soon. That, however, is a question for another day.