The Seattle Mariners started spring training camp with 61 players. They are now down to 47, and more cuts will be coming soon as opening day is not that far away.
Fourteen cuts down. Twenty-two to go. Can you feel the tension start to build?
Some of the cuts have been expected, while others are intriguing. As is usually the case, certain players have stepped up and surprised people enough to warrant additional consideration.
Battles are tightening up, and the remaining players hope that they still have a chair when the music stops.
On March 14, the Mariners made some decisions on the starting rotation, sending the “big three” to the minors. This includes top prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen. More cuts were made on March 15 as the team continues to trim players.
While fans may have hoped for a repeat of Michael Pineda in 2012, Seattle is not going to force these pitchers onto the Major League roster. As noted by The News Tribune, “With Jon Garland looking healthy, the Mariners had no need to rush them into the big leagues.”
What is intriguing is the fact that prospect Brandon Maurer is still in camp. Through March 15, Maurer has appeared in four games, compiled a record of 2-1 and kept his ERA at 0.90 for the spring. He has 11 strikeouts in 10 innings of work.
Maurer may still be battling long odds to make the rotation, but he is still in the mix with veterans Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman as well as Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan. This race is too close to tell at this point.
The outfield is still crowded. So far, it appears that Jason Bay is potentially going to make the roster. Bay has cooled down a bit, but he is still hitting .292 with two home runs and four RBI. Julio Morban was actually hitting better, but the 21-year-old prospect was sent to the minors after showing that he may have a future in the Seattle outfield.
In addition to Bay, there are seven other outfielders still in camp. One assumes that three of those may have to go. Michael Saunders is actually not hitting particularly well in Arizona, though he did play extremely well in the World Baseball Classic.
Eric Thames may not make the roster, and Casper Wells will need to hit a little more consistently if he is going to win a spot on this team. The wildcard may be Carlos Peguero, who has displayed some solid hitting in Peoria despite leading the team in strikeouts.
Which outfielder is most likely to make the team?
Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino are still in camp despite the fact that neither prospect is hitting particularly well. Still, Zunino is making a good impression (via ESPN) in terms of poise and leadership. It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to become the man behind the dish at Safeco Field.
Slowly but surely, the roster is starting to take shape. Stay tuned for more cuts.