Seattle Mariners: Surprising Names Who'll Make a Big Impact in 2013
The Mariners have lost five in a row!
Don't panic, it's only spring training.
Even so, the M's' recent skid is disappointing considering the blazing hot start they got off to just a couple weeks ago. The bats have cooled off, yet their 119 runs are tied for the most in baseball.
Last year, Kyle Seager broke out and had a pleasantly surprising campaign, leading the club in four offensive categories. Along with other young Mariners, Seager brightened the horizon for the Mariners' future. With the offseason additions of veterans to complement the up and comers, a winning season is surely within the realm of possibility.
The spring has yielded surprises and disappointments as it does every year. With Opening Day just over two weeks away, it's clear that players on the fringe of making a roster spot will be heavily looked at for consideration.
With the aforementioned veteran signings, Seattle has a projected roster chock-full of returning players with little room for adjustments.
Based on spring training numbers thus far and projected roster availability, here are some surprise players who could make an impact this upcoming season.
All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.
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Okay, so it won't be surprising when Justin Smoak makes the Opening Day roster. But what will be surprising is his increased productivity at the plate.
This spring, Smoak is absolutely crushing the baseball.
In 29 at-bats, Smoak has collected 10 hits, four of which are doubles, and two home runs, giving him a snazzy slash line of .345/.387/.690.
Smoak's fire has apparently carried over from last September when he returned to the majors and revitalized his offensive prowess.
Spots at first base and designated hitter are limited, but with the way Smoak's been swinging the stick lately, Eric Wedge has to get him into the lineup.
If the end of last season and the start to this one are any indication, Smoak's .223 career average will quickly ascend.
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Another crowded position is the Mariners outfield.
Incumbents Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez all but have roster spots locked up, especially considering how they've played this spring.
Out of newcomers Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse and Jason Bay, two, if not all three, are likely to make the roster to platoon in left field and DH.
Casper Wells and Eric Thames also got considerable playing time last season, making the competition all the more intense.
But the player who's outslugging all these guys is an unlikely candidate: Carlos Peguero.
Through two short stints in the majors, Peguero has shown us two things: He strikes out a ton; when he doesn't, the ball takes flight in a big way.
His abysmal .191 career batting average and 9:1 K to walk ratio have exiled Peguero to the minors, but this spring has been an entirely different story.
Half of Peguero's team-leading 12 hits thus far have gone for extra bases, putting his spring average at .364. He also leads the club in runs scored with eight and has decreased his K to BB ratio down to 3.7:1. Playing in 14 of 18 games has to have raised his confidence, and it gives Wedge a chance to look at him closely as the season approaches.
If he doesn't make the cut, expect to see him among the first round of call-ups.
And he's only 24, so he's got a lot of opportunities ahead of him.
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Erasmo Ramirez made noise at the end of last season when he was called up in September and went 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA to go along with a 4.5:1 K to BB ratio.
The impressive run continues for the 22-year-old righty. Through six innings pitched this spring, Ramirez has allowed four hits and struck out five while batters have hit just .190 against him.
Without a rotation set in stone, Ramirez looks to be a front-runner for a spot at the end of the rotation, given the struggles of Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi and Jeremy Bonderman.
Confidence up, Ramirez should coast into the regular season.
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A 16-game winner a season ago, veteran starter Kyle Lohse remains unsigned, partly because his agent, Scott Boras, is still trying to get Lohse signed for three years with a high total dollar amount.
Lohse is 34 and posted career bests in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts last season. His career numbers aren't bad, but many are afraid last year was a one-time thing.
As I mentioned earlier, the Mariners don't have a rotation in place and have only seen consistent positive performances from Ramirez, Jon Garland, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Maybe prospect Danny Hultzen will work his way into the rotation, or maybe Wegde will play it safe and turn to veteran Joe Saunders.
I'd say it's unlikely for the M's to pick up Lohse at this point, but if they can get him at the right price, why not?
What do you think? Should the Mariners take a chance on Lohse or young, unproven Hultzen? Or stick with Saunders in the middle?
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