As the offseason winds down, the Seattle Mariners have a lot of questions moving forward with their pitching staff. Although the bullpen proved to be one of the strong points for the team in 2012, the starting rotation still offers it's fair share of questions after the trade that sent No. 2 starter Jason Vargas to the division rival Los Angeles Angels for Kendrys Morales.
Without a clear-cut No. 2 starter heading into the season, the Mariners will be looking through the organization for arms to fill out their pitching staff. With that said, here is a list of players Mariners fans should be keeping an eye on come spring training.
Furbush may not qualify as an under-the-radar player after his 2012 campaign, but he is a pitcher Mariners fans should be keeping an eye on this spring. Acquired through the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Detroit Tigers, the South Portland, Maine, native struggled to find his way as a starter for the Mariners in the 2011 season.
With a switch to the bullpen in 2012, Furbush flourished and became one of the Mariners most reliable options at the end of games. Furbush recorded a 0.95 WHIP and a 2.72 ERA, both of which were career bests, through 46.1 innings pitched last season.
However, as good as Furbush was as a reliever, he was a starter by trade in college. Before being drafted out of LSU in 2007, Furbush excelled as the ace for Saint Joseph's College from 2005 to 2006. During his sophomore season at Saint Joseph's, Furbush finished with a 10-1 record and a 2.89 ERA while striking out 115 batters over 74.2 innings pitched.
With the departure of Jason Vargas, Furbush very well could make a strong case for himself as the fifth starter in the Mariners rotation, especially if the Mariners fail to sign any of the free-agent pitchers remaining on the free-agent market.
Most likely the least known of the pitchers listed, Tyler Pike burst onto the scene for the Mariners with a strong showing in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. This fall, Pike posted a 2-1 record over 11 games started with 57 strikeouts, a .193 batting average against, 1.09 WHIP and a 1.78 ERA.
The left-hander out of Florida State was a third-round pick and the 16th ranked prospect according to MLB.com for the Mariners in 2012 and features a solid three-pitch arsenal. MLB.com reported that he repeats his delivery well and has solid control over an above-average curveball.
Pike may be a long shot coming out of camp to make the Mariners squad, but should be a name Mariners fans keep in the back of their minds for the near future. Expect Pike to start the season in either High-A High Desert or in Double-A Jackson with the potential to see some time come September with a solid 2013 campaign.
Touted as one of the best relief prospects in the Mariners system last season, Carter Capps had a rough start to his major league career last season. After being called up in the beginning of August, Capps struggled to find his way in the Mariner bullpen.
In his first month as a major leaguer, Capps had a 5.59 ERA over 9.2 innings pitched as he struggled to find ways to get hitters out without always relying on his fastball. However, when the calendar turned to September, Capps seemed to turn a corner with a 3.38 ERA in the month while only allowing five runs in 13.1 innings pitched.
In the minors last season, Capps was downright dominant, holding batters to a .207 batting average against and a 1.23 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 51.1 innings pitched. With a plus fastball that can reach the triple digits and a solid set of off-speed pitches, Capps has the potential to be an absolute steal as a third-round pick out of Mount Olive College in the 2011 draft.
If Capps can continue his progress like he did from August to September last season, he may see himself in the setup role for the Mariners going forward with the potential to become the closer at some point.
As pointed out in the potential breakout player article I wrote a few days ago, Brandon Maurer has the chance to be one of the biggest contributors for the Mariners in 2013. Maurer started the 2012 campaign as a member of the Double-A affiliate Jackson Generals rotation, but was overshadowed by the likes of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton.
In 2012, MLB.com ranked Maurer as the 11th-best prospect for the Mariners at the beginning of the season after having his 2011 riddled with elbow injuries. However, when the 2012 season came to an end, it was Maurer who posted the best numbers out of the four. In fact, it was Maurer who wound up taking home the Mariners minor league Pitcher of the Year award for 2012, not Walker, Hultzen or Paxton.
Maurer finished the season with a 9-2 record with a 3.20 ERA and 117 strikeouts over 137.2 innings pitched. Armed with a plus fastball and standing a 6'5", Maurer is an intimidating presence on the mound and a potential rotation candidate heading into spring training. With a solid showing in camp this spring, it would be no surprise to anyone to see Maurer in the Mariners rotation come April.