With Spring Training coming to an end in a little more than a week, the Mariners face some roster choices, especially when it comes to veteran minor league free agents and the 25 man roster. Of course, to add anyone to the 25 man roster from a minor league free agent, they have to be added to the 40 man roster. Since last time (December), the Mariners have removed or traded John Jaso (#5), Jason Vargas (#19), Mike Carp (#20), Shawn Kelley (#27) and D.J. Mitchell (#36). They have added Michael Morse, Kelly Shoppach, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, and Joe Saunders. So this is the latest ranking of the 40 man roster, which is my ranking of the value of the players on the 40 man based on my interpretation of their statistics and advanced data, the eye test in watching them (both last season and in spring training), and takes into account their contract, especially team control.
1. Felix Hernandez: The King finally got his extension, and remains in first as the ace of the staff and clearly the best player on the team.
2. Erasmo Ramirez: There have been some that have expressed thought that Erasmo may not make the rotation this year, which seems a little silly to me. A lot of team control, throws hard, and has solid control and a good changeup. A lot to like from Erasmo, and he is ranked higher than Hultzen and Maurer because he has shown he can pitch at the big league level, and considering the vast gulf between AAA and MLB, this accounts for something.
3. Kyle Seager: The club’s best hitter last year, he isn’t a free agent until 2018. The team’s starting 3rd baseman could use a more well rounded game as his speed and defense come up about average, and his OBP and patience isn’t great, but he is clearly the best young hitter on the 40 man, and I think the front office would be thrilled if Brad Miller and Nick Franklin were doing Kyle Seager things within the next couple of years.
4. Danny Hultzen; The reports from his latest minor league outing is very encouraging, as his velocity was fine (which hasn’t been bad, even last year) and he was commanding two pitches. With the back of the Mariners’ rotation having a lot of question marks, the Mariners would really like for him to not have the command issues he had in AAA Tacoma last year, and he should appear in the big leagues sometime in 2013.
5. Brandon Maurer: A guy that still has a shot of making the club as the 5th starter, Maurer’s velocity and Pitch F/X data shoots him up higher for me. You could argue that he should be above Hultzen, especially because of the velocity.
6. Dustin Ackley: Still the starting 2nd baseman, and still not a free agent until 2018, the Mariners would obviously like to see Ackley hit a little more than he did last year, but the speed and defense at least makes him a starter.
7. Michael Saunders: Even with his break out year last year, he will still probably have some playing time lost thanks to the Mariners’ additions to the outfield. If he hits like he did last year, he should play every day.
8. Charlie Furbush: Some very capable left-handed relievers are rated low on this 40 man ranking thanks to Charlie Furbush. While he certainly failed as a starter, he provides long term value as a left-handed reliever.
9. Tom Wilhelmsen: An interesting possible trade asset as the season wears on and competitors look for back of the bullpen pieces, Wilhelmsen brings a great looking curve along with a plus plus fastball and lots of team control
10. Jesus Montero: This is a big season for Montero, not because of the bat value, but because of the defensive value. This is probably his last stand to be a serious catcher, and the Mariners are going to give him every opportunity, pencilling him in as the starting catcher. If Smoak struggles and Mike Zunino comes up to the big leagues as expected in 2013, he could see a pretty permanent move to DH if he struggles early on behind the plate.
11. Carter Capps: You could argue that he should be higher than the 3rd best reliever thanks just to his fastball and hard curveball. The only reason he isn’t higher than Furbush and Wilhelmsen is because the two have had a longer track record of succeeding in the majors.
12. Kendrys Morales: The Mariners’ return for Jason Vargas is a one year player, but he is rather cheap offensive production. One wonders what his health will be like or how well he will move around (and whether he will be able to play defense, making my ranking a little aggressive), but he can hit, there isn’t much question about that. It will often look ugly, and he isn’t always patience, but he can hit for some real power.
13. Hisashi Iwakuma: A lock for the rotation, it is interesting to note how little we have heard about Iwakuma. He isn’t a star, but he is definitely a starter, so he is sort of boring as far as spring training storylines go. Considering the questions in the rest of the Mariners rotation beyond the first 3 pitchers, this is a good thing.
14. Brendan Ryan: The defensive wizard’s future with the Mariners depends on Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, especially how the two perform in 2013. If they both look like big league players, especially if they look like they can start, and as long as Ackley doesn’t look hopelessly lost, there is no real room for Ryan. There is still a possibility, say if Miller or Franklin struggle, that Ryan could be the 2014 Mariners shortstop with a new deal, but he may be trade bait around the deadline
15. Stephen Pryor: This hard thrower needs to work on his command a little more, but he is going to get a lot of big league hitters out in the future and is a nice back of the bullpen piece (which is why it may make some sense to trade a guy like Wilhelmsen).
16. Joe Saunders: My favorite move of the offseason for the Mariners was probably the Jason Vargas/Kendrys Morales trade followed by the signing of Saunders. Much has been made of the similarities between Saunders and Vargas, but Saunders has had success in hitter parks, and throws a little harder. So for only a couple million more, the Mariners got a better pitcher and a slugging 1st base/DH.
17. Michael Morse: Unfortunately, it looks like the Mariners are going to be playing him in the outfield. This hurts his value because he just isn’t very good out there. However, the Mariners constructed their roster in a very weird way this off-season, and there isn’t another place for him to go. He is a one year rental, but if he can hit a little better than 2012, but not even necessarily as good as he did in 2011, he will provide some value.
18. Julio Morban: We saw with the Pitch F/X data in spring training that he still has a little way to go as far as being an advanced hitter, but he certainly held his own. Health is the big question for him and why he isn’t a better prospect.
19. Anthony Fernandez: A sort of interesting left-handed starting prospect, he is still at least a year away, and we didn’t see a plus pitch in the Pitch F/X data. There is still some back end of the rotation projection there, along with options and control, but he isn’t a huge prospect.
20. Carlos Triunfel: A possible utility, 25th man player, it doesn’t look the Mariners are interested in starting him in the big leagues. Doesn’t have the in game tools that originally was sold as the Triunfel package, but he has progressed defensively over the years, and if one is imaginative, you could project him to hit enough to be a reserve MLBer.
21. Franklin Gutierrez: Health, OBP, and team control all bring down Gutierrez’ rating, but he plays a really good centerfield, which the team really needs with the plethora of corner outfielders the team has currently.
22. Casper Wells: He can play a little center, but has been mostly a corner player. The Mariners don’t seem to be extremely thrilled with Wells, and he is out of options, and rumors that he may not make the team, and be placed on waivers, which I would find surprising. He can still be a really nice 4th outfielder and is more rounded player than guys like Morse or Ibanez.
23. Justin Smoak: It is hard to know what to make of Smoak. He definitely looks better, especially with the bat speed on the left side. However, we have a track record of big time failure at the big league level. They have insurance, with Morales being able to move to first if Smoak struggles, but the Mariners are still giving him chances.
24. Francisco Martinez: The move to centerfield is interesting (though he is still listed as an infielder on the official roster), but I don’t know how much it changes his value, especially because the eye test and the data seemed to show that he was at least a decent defender at 3rd. At the end of the day, he is either going to hit and make the Majors, or not hit and not make the Majors.
25. Kelly Shoppach: Shoppach plays an interesting role on this team, as he is the only real defensive catcher on the 40 man roster. The season could break several ways for Shoppach, such as Montero playing adequately at catcher and Zunino coming up, meaning the Mariners get rid of Shoppach, or Shoppach could eventually take over the starting catcher job with just an injury or Zunino and Montero struggling.
26. Blake Beavan: Still in the running for a rotation job, Beavan still has team control, but he isn’t a very good pitcher, really struggling to miss bats or get grounders.
27. Oliver Perez: Reports are that scouts really liked what they saw from Perez in the WBC, and that is the Perez we saw last year, as he brought a big time fastball from the left side.
28. Raul Ibanez: The veteran doesn’t run well or play defense, but he is a platoon player that fit the Mariners need a little bit. My concern is that he will play in the field too much, which would wipe away the value his bat has. Obviously a fill in player, not part of the team’s future plans, and not really a “full time player” either, so that is why his ranking is so low.
29. Lucas Luetge: A reasonably successful LOOGY in 2012, Luetge may not make the team in 2013. He has minor league options, and with Furbush and Perez, he may not be needed to start the year, but he has showed that he can pitch in the Majors in a specialist role.
30. Robert Andino: He looks like the utility guy this year, and is certainly an upgrade from what they had last year. He has made some really nice defensive plays at a couple different positions just from what I have seen this spring training, and he will need to keep doing that to provide value this year.
31. Hector Noesi: Noesi has been an absolute tire fire as a Mariner, but the fastball is still there. Hopefully a bullpen piece in Tacoma, he can still be a guy that can help the Mariners in the future.
32. Vinnie Catricala: A corner player, Catricala really has to improve at Tacoma this year with the bat. The bat will determine whether or not he will be a big league player or not. That is always scary to me, especially for a guy who has mixed results.
33. Bobby Lafromboise: An older (for a prospect) left-handed specialist, he has a skill set that fits on a MLB roster, with some value (see the Randy Choate contract for a guy way past his prime), but not a lot of room on the Mariners roster with the above lefties. I can see why they added him to the 40 man roster, since he would make sense as a rule 5 draft pick for somebody (much like Luetge last year), but he doesn’t have a role on this team without a lot of injuries.
34. Eric Thames: He wasn’t given a real shot to make the team, which makes sense, since his skill set is very similar to Raul Ibanez’. Unless he really struggles or is really awesome in Tacoma this year, it is probably 2014 or bust for Thames with Morse and Ibanez likely gone in that time.
35. Josh Kinney: An injury definitely hurts his value and opens the door for another pitcher in the crowded Mariners’ bullpen. We will see how serious it is, but as an older pitcher that throws a lot sliders, it is concerning.
36. Chance Ruffin: As I wrote about recently, Ruffin has lost his velocity, and since his command isn’t sharp, really all value. After another disappointing spring, he will try to find his velocity in AAA again, but even with another option, he may not stay on the 40 man roster all year.
37. Yoervis Medina: A hard thrower without a ton of command, he is an interesting depth piece, but the bullpen is the Mariners strong point. Has more value elsewhere than he does in Seattle. I wonder if someone would be interested in a trade for Medina, and give the Mariners a couple low level high risk flyer players in return.
38. Alex Liddi: A corner player that hasn’t seen the bat develop the way he needed it to, Liddi doesn’t really have a spot on the team (especially with guys like Catricala ahead of him on the list), and probably isn’t much more than a replacement player, which is what he has been so far.
39. Jason Bay: I still don’t believe that he has fully turned the corner, and the Mariners have better outfielders than him, even if his bat has improved some.
40. Carlos Peguero: The king of spring training, Peguero received some early buzz in February, but has been optioned since.
Depending on how serious the team views the Kinney injury, the team could put him on the 60 day DL, which would open up one roster spot. They are going to lose either Casper Wells or Bay it seems, as that is just how the contacts and roster works. My guess would be that they let go of Bay (at least that is what I would do), but either way, that is another roster spot open. I have argued that Peguero should have been designated early in the off-season, so there is three. Also, since, as mentioned above, Liddi and Medina are sort of redundant, to younger pieces higher on the depth chart, the Mariners could let them go without losing any sleep. So I could 5 roster spots that could be open for guys like Garland, Loe, or others. They probably won’t need 5, but the room is there if needed. Next, I will look at my preferred 25 man roster, before looking at the ideal rotation and lineups for the 2013 Mariners.