Spring Training is fast approaching, and the Seattle Mariners will expect the pitchers and catchers to report on Tuesday February 12.
Once that occurs, management will start working on the challenging task of setting a rotation and matching them with an appropriate starting catcher.
Seattle has some intriguing talent, particularly on the mound. However, it is unclear how soon some of the prospects will be ready to join the big club. In the meantime, the Mariners have a penciled-in rotation that could theoretically be subject to change by the end of March.
With that in mind, here is a scouting reporting on the possible starting rotation and the likely catchers for the Seattle Mariners in 2013.
It should be an interesting month in Arizona.
This one is easy. Felix Hernandez, barring an injury or an absolutely overwhelming performance by one of the youngsters, will again be the starter on opening day.
King Felix is coming off another great season where he went 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 223 strikeouts. Over the last four seasons Hernandez is 59-40, and fans hope that more run support may lead to Felix’s first 20-win season in 2013.
The only question for Hernandez may be whether contract extensions are discussed throughout Spring Training. Felix appears to love Seattle, and management would obviously love to have him stay beyond his contract, which expires in two years.
Hernandez will turn 27 in April, and he is arguably in his prime as the ace of this staff. Look for him to again lead this team and provide a special amount of confidence on the days that he takes the mound.
He has that special combination of pitches that make him a true ace, and Seattle hopes he will remain at the top of the rotation for quite some time.
Hisashi Iwakuma was a pleasant surprise for Seattle in 2012, as the import from Japan finished his first full season in the Major Leagues with a 9-5 record and a 3.16 ERA.
Now that Jason Vargas has gone to the Los Angeles Angels, Iwakuma has been elevated in the rotation and will have reasonably high expectations as he follows Felix Hernandez in the pitching order.
Management thought enough of Iwakuma that they gave him a two-year extension after the end of the 2012 season. Hisashi will be a Mariner through 2014, with an option for 2015.
Granted, Iwakuma is not a young pitcher as he will turn 32 in April. Seattle will hope that Iwakuma can remain a control pitcher that is able to get ground balls with the shorter fences at Safeco Field.
Given that he was not really a starter until July, it will be interesting to see how he performs over the course of an entire season.
This will be an interesting season for Blake Beavan. Over the last two seasons, the statistics can best be described as average.
2011: 5-6, 4.27 ERA
2012: 11-11, 4.43 ERA
These are numbers that suggest Beavan is either on the cusp of better things, or that he is destined to be a generally below-average pitcher. If you consider an article from the U.S.S. Mariner that was published last year, Beavan is not worthy of a spot in the rotation.
Beavan was a pitcher of contrasts in 2012. By the numbers, Beavan was generally solid in April, July and September/October. He struggled in May, June and August.
Inconsistency is not unusual in a young pitcher, but it may about time for Beavan to establish himself as a guy who belongs in the rotation.
In 2013, Beavan will need to keep the ball down and give up less home runs with the shorter fences of Safeco Field. In 2012 he gave up the second-most homers on the team (23). Now that Vargas is gone (35 surrendered home runs), Beavan is hoping that he won’t lead the team in this particular statistic.
It was not until September of 2012 that Erasmo Ramirez really found himself in the rotation of the Seattle Mariners.
He started a couple of games in June, but after injuries and time in the minors, he returned to the big club at the end of the season. Ramirez pitched fairly well during that month as he was 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA.
Ramirez is not exactly a fixture in the rotation for 2013, but the 22-year-old (23 in May) had 48 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 59 innings of work in 2012.
At 5’11”, Ramirez is not a dominating physical presence and he will have some competition for his spot on the roster. Still, Ramirez may be up to the challenge after having a taste of the rotation in 2012.
As noted by The News Tribune, Ramirez found his way to Seattle before other heralded prospects and he will doubtedly work hard to stay.
Truthfully, it is difficult to get excited about any pitcher that finished the season like Hector Noesi did in 2012.
Noesi arrived in Seattle as part of the Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda trade. He was not necessarily the key player in the trade, but the Mariners certainly hoped that he would do well in 2012.
In 2012, Noesi was 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA. He struck out 68, walked 39, gave up 107 hits and surrendered 21 home runs in 106.2 innings of work. Not exactly an All-Star performance.
Noesi is technically listed in the rotation due to the trade of Jason Vargas, but he really did not start for Seattle after July 4.
Hector will face competition from Jeremy Bonderman, one or more of the young prospects, or any veteran free agent that the Mariners pick up between now and spring training.
If Noesi wants to be part of this rotation, he will need to show that he has put his dreadful 2012 behind him.
Will Taijuan Walker be a part of this rotation by the time Seattle breaks camp?
According to MLB.com, Walker is currently the fifth-best prospect in the minor leagues. The highly touted youngster could be a member of the 2013 rotation if he has a strong spring.
Granted, Walker is only 20 years old so the Mariners may not want to rush him. Walker throws a great fastball that has movement, and he combines that with developing curve and breaking balls.
It should also be noted that other top prospects such as James Paxton and Danny Hultzen will be in camp this year. Hultzen is currently on the 40-man roster, and Paxton will be in Arizona as a non-roster invitee.
Both are seen as potential future starters for this club, but given the state of the rotation, the future could be now.
The top of the rotation is arguably set for the Mariners. The bottom of the rotation could be up for grabs.
When it comes to catchers, the Mariners seem to have picked their favorite.
John Jaso is gone as a result of the Michael Morse trade, which means that Jesus Montero is officially the man behind the plate. Is that good news?
Certainly the Mariners want Montero in the lineup, as they gave up a top pitching prospect in Michael Pineda to get a guy who was regarded as a top hitting prospect in Major League Baseball.
Montero showed progress in 2012, as he led the team in batting with a .260 average. He also hit 15 home runs and drove in 62 RBIs. Management hopes that more confidence and shorter fences could lead to even more productivity at the plate.
The challenge is that Montero is not exactly regarded as an elite defensive catcher. In addition, there is always the desire to get catchers out from behind the dish when they are good hitters.
Therefore, look for Montero to be the catcher on a regular basis, but he may also share DH duties with Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, Raul Ibanez or Morse depending on the lineup that day.
When John Jaso was traded, it wasn’t hard to figure out that the Mariners were going to need another catcher. The long-term plan may be to have top prospect Mike Zunino behind the plate. Zunino will be in Spring Training in 2013.
However, the team cannot plan on the soon-to-be 22-year-old Zunino being ready. He may need more seasoning in the minors.
Therefore, the Mariners have already made the prudent decision to bring in veteran backstop Ronny Paulino and invite him to spring training. More recently, Seattle also signed Kelly Shoppach (via ESPN) to a one-year deal.
Neither Paulino nor Shoppach will be expected to bring a great deal to the team offensively, but the Mariners needed a veteran catcher who has experience handling a staff so that Montero does not get overtaxed behind the plate.
It is reasonable to assume that Seattle will probably break camp with only two catchers, so there will be competition for the backup catcher position.
Shoppach seems more likely.