The Seattle Mariners do not feature a star-studded roster. However, there are several Mariners with the potential to develop into elite players. The 2013 season will be a year that should start to show signs of what is to come.
All along, the plan has been to rebuild the team with younger talent and hope that they mature at roughly the same time. If that occurs, the Mariners could be a solid team that contends for a number of years in the American League West.
For the Mariners to be competitive, they need certain players to step up. It isn’t just about playing time. Rather, stepping up for Seattle would entail assuming a leadership role and ensure their impact is felt on the field throughout the season.
There are a number of players who will get an opportunity to prove their worth this year by making a splash. This is where fans will get to see which individuals are true stars and which will remain in the column of potential talent.
Here are six players on track for a bigger role in 2013.
Now that John Jaso has been traded, Jesus Montero will have the opportunity to show that he can be a regular at catcher. He may still be the DH in some situations, but he appears to be the guy that will handle most of the work behind the plate.
Being a catcher is about playing good defense and handling the various abilities on a pitching staff.
Montero appears to have the potential to immediately become an effective hitter, but he has yet to demonstrate defensive prowess. This will be an interesting year for Montero, as he is quickly moving into the phase of his career in which the club will demand consistency and respectable production.
Montero hit .260 last season with 15 home runs and 62 RBI in 135 games. Obviously, the team would love to have him add 20-30 points to his average, as well as 10-15 home runs.
The 2013 season will be an opportunity for Montero to play a larger role, both on offense and defense.
Will Justin Smoak finally become the slugging first baseman that Seattle envisioned when they received him in the Cliff Lee deal?
Smoak has certainly hit well in spring training over the last couple of years and seems primed to give Seattle some bang for their buck.
However, he hit only .217 for the Mariners during the regular season in 2012. Will this finally be the year where the hot spring turns into a productive summer?
Through March 6, Smoak was hitting .500 for the spring with eight hits, two home runs and five RBIs in 16 at-bats. Not a bad start, but the batting average of many players in spring training can be a bit deceiving, particularly early on, as 16 at-bats is hardly a representative sampling.
Smoak may play a bigger role in the Seattle offense if he can come out hot and prove that he is a consistent threat at the plate. The presence of Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse should certainly help, but Smoak still has to connect.
The role of Justin Smoak may well be determined by his batting average.
When Dustin Ackley arrived in Seattle in 2011, he certainly gave fans hope as to what they might see in the future at second base. Unfortunately, 2012 represented a step back for Ackley at the plate. Ackley did struggle with injuries, so there is optimism that he will rebound.
Ackley will not necessarily play a larger role in terms of playing time, but he should be key in shaping the offense. When the Mariners break camp, Ackley may be the leadoff man for Seattle. This is a focal point of any offense, particularly one that has struggled over the last couple of seasons.
Granted, it isn’t set in stone that Ackley will bat leadoff. Franklin Gutierrez has also been batting in the top slot and, given that the Mariners do not necessarily have the prototypical leadoff hitter on their roster, it might be by committee.
Still, the possibility remains that Ackley could play a significant role in setting the table for the Mariners.
It has been a tough couple of years for Franklin Gutierrez. After two solid seasons in 2009 and 2010, Gutierrez has struggled mightily to stay healthy and productive.
In 2011, Gutierrez only played 92 games and in 2012 that number dropped to 40. Is this the year that Franklin finally gets back on the field and actually stays there?
There are certainly a few guys on the potential roster with more experience than Gutierrez but, at 30, he is certainly older than many of the young hitters that have come up in the last couple of seasons. Therefore, Gutierrez may see an increased role of leadership for a Mariners team that could use some veteran confidence in the lineup.
Obviously, the first challenge will be for Franklin to stay healthy and productive. Otherwise, his role may again to be relegated a spot on the DL.
There is certainly a lot of excitement about some of the young Mariners pitchers. When lists of future stars are made, names like Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are quickly added.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle is Erasmo Ramirez, who quietly found his way into the rotation late in 2012, and will continue his quest to be a significant pitcher on this team. There is a lot of competition for pitching spots as the previously-mentioned prospects will compete with Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman.
Through March 6, Ramirez has pitched six innings of spring training ball. He has given up only four hits and struck out five while giving up one walk. Good numbers? Definitely.
Maybe Ramirez will make the rotation, but there is certainly a possibility he won't make the cut. If he does, he could play a significant role on this team in terms of solidifying a solid rotation.
At the moment, Tom Wilhelmsen is the listed as the closer for the Seattle Mariners. He may continue to serve in that capacity in 2013, as he converted 29 of 34 save chances in 2012 and maintained a solid 2.50 ERA.
In the wings is Carter Capps, who may be a future closer with a blazing fastball that is powered by his 6’5”, 200 pound frame. There is still the possibility that Capps could be a starter, but his “stuff” suggests that he may be the guy who eventually slams the door for Seattle.
The Mariners obviously need a number of roles to be filled for them to win games in 2012. If Capps is not the closer, he may at least fill the role of go-to setup man for a team that will still derive a lot of success from pitching and defense.
Keep an eye on the 22-year-old Capps in 2013.