Seattle Mariners: Predicting the Final 5 Players To Make Team and to Get Cut
It's getting to that point of spring when roster crunches are happening, and some guys have to go.
The rumors are starting to flow in as to which players the team favors to head north and which they don't.
Ken Rosenthal tweets and Dave Cameron writes on the subject. This topic was assigned to me, so credit needs to be given to those sources, as this is no longer a true prediction piece from just my own information.
Let's take a look at those last five guys who are likely to make the team to see what they have to offer. And let's take a look at the final five who are not likely make the team.
Makes the Cut: RHP Chris Ray
The Mariners bullpen is going to be in shambles to start the season.
It will strengthen as the season presses on, with the return of David Aardsma and Shawn Kelley, plus the eventual call-up of Dan Cortes and perhaps a couple other young arms.
Out of the gate, though, the team needs arms. Chris Ray is a guy with some closer experience and he's hoping to sneak into that role on an interim basis while Aardsma heals up. While it looks like Brandon League is going to win that race by default, Ray still will find a place in this bullpen.
In five innings of work this spring, Ray has given up six hits, three runs, struck out a trio and issued one free pass. Not stellar work by any means, but it is only five innings.
In my opinion, Ray probably doesn't make it past June or July on the squad. He'll work as a stopgap and sponge up some innings in the meantime, though.
Misses the Cut: RHP Jose Flores
Jose Flores was a Rule 5 pick for the Mariners this winter, and while they thought highly enough of him to do that, there just isn't room on the roster.
With the plan to add as many as five non-roster players, the Mariners need those slots.
Flores hasn't helped by pitching the way he has this spring.
It's possible the Mariners will pull some sort of deal with the Indians to keep him if they still feel they see something. Either way, he's not breaking camp with the big club.
Makes the Cut: LHP Royce Ring
Royce Ring forced himself onto the roster thus far, having not given up a single run this spring.
Let's keep in mind, though, that we're only talking about six innings of work. People often times get excited over small samples, and relievers offer some of the smallest samples during the preseason.
He has a 4.67 career ERA that stems from a couple good and a couple horrible showings in only 68 innings of big league work.
There are other players who could still beat out Ring, but as of right now, the team appears to be leaning his direction. It's his job to lose, so to speak.
Misses the Cut: LHP Cesar Jimenez
This is one of the few possible spots that could flip-flop, but for now, it appears the team is prepared to go with Royce Ring over Cesar Jimenez.
In 9.1 innings of work this spring, Jimenez hasn't made a lasting impression with his 7.71 ERA.
He's given up a couple long balls, too, which isn't something you want from your relievers—especially not the ones who may only be in for a batter or two.
He'll likely find his way to the club when someone gets hurt or plays poorly. Right now, though, it appears he's the odd man out of the bullpen picture.
Makes the Cut: RHP Jamey Wright
I don't think it's a huge secret that Jamey Wright isn't very good, but this is the state of the current Mariners bullpen.
The team needed arms, though, and there's no point to rush a guy like Dan Cortes who is currently struggling.
I'd expect Wright to be the first to go when David Aardsma comes back.
Misses the Cut: RHP Tom Wilhelmsen
Tom Wilhemsen, as you may recall, has an interesting story.
He was a highly-regarded prospect in the Brewers system who had some off-field issues, including failing a pair of drug tests that got him booted from action and ordered to get help.
He chose to give up baseball.
Fast forward seven years. After a stint as a bartender didn't yield the happiness Wilhelmsen may have sought, he's back playing baseball.
Of course, this also means he's seven years older and, at age 27, the Mariners would probably like to see him make it to the big leagues post-haste.
While that very well may happen sometime in 2011, it won't be to start the season. He's shown some good signs this spring, but the team figures to have him spend a little more time in the minors.
He spent 2010 in Class-A ball, so working his way up through the other stops is probably a wise path.
Makes the Cut: OF Ryan Langerhans
It makes more sense for Langerhans to fill the fourth outfield spot than Michael Saunders.
Langerhans can handle any of the outfield spots and he has even faked it at first base a few times. This isn't an ideal bench player by any means, as he doesn't provide the type of offense you want from a guy when you need a pinch hitter.
He could serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Milton Bradley, though, to keep Bradley a little fresh and to hold leads for the team. He could also be used as a pinch runner late in the game for Jack Cust.
Again, not the best option, but perhaps the best for the Mariners, which really need Michael Saunders to work on his swing in Tacoma.
Misses the Cut: LF Michael Saunders
This one has been speculated on and even assumed for about a week.
Jack Zduriencik made some public comments about the team leaning towards Milton Bradley starting the season as the team's left fielder. While some viewed that as a figurative spark under Saunders' behind, that either wasn't the case or Saunders doesn't respond to burning sensations.
Saunders was a legit prospect at one time and still has the tools to be a big-league player. The team hasn't been pleased with the progression at the plate, though, and they've been trying to alter his swing.
It makes more sense for Saunders to work on that swing in Tacoma and rejoin the big squad after showing some consistency. This is a problem a lot of people saw coming but had hoped could be fixed on the fly with a major league coaching staff.
The team really needs Saunders to get better. Milton Bradley's health can't be counted on and he would be well served by splitting time with "The Condor."
Makes the Cut: IF Adam Kennedy
Adam Kennedy will serve as the backup at second, third and first base, with the former two being the most frequent.
Because the team doesn't have a real first-base bench option, Kennedy will probably spell Justin Smoak over there from time to time. He'll also serve as the team's best pinch-hitting option, which tells you that a lot of last season's woes haven't quite been fixed yet.
Until Dustin Ackley is ready, the Mariners have decided to slide Jack Wilson over to second base so Brendan Ryan can play short.
Once Ackley comes up, if Wilson isn't traded or punted, Kennedy may be the odd man out. That will be interesting to see, though, as the team may want a veteran second baseman around to ease Ackley into the role.
Misses the Cut: 2B Dustin Ackley
Ackley had a nice spring, batting .269/.441/.423 with eight walks, a pair of doubles and a triple in 34 trips to the plate.
The sample size is too small to worry about averages, but the type of at-bats he's having are promising. He's continued to be patient and get on base.
Obviously, he figures into the long-term success of the team but he won't break camp with the club.
His defense is coming along and the bat is showing good signs as we noted—but we have to remember that he's only been in professional baseball for one year.
Scouts believe he'll make the transition well. His footwork and mechanics in the field are making great strides; he just needs more repetitions. It's too much to learn on the fly at the big league level and the team would obviously prefer to save some cash at the same time.
He's coming. He's just not here quite yet.