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Spring 2011: Catchers and Pitchers

I haven't been able to write my usual YAY SPRING TRAINING IS HERE post, and since pitchers and catchers reported on Sunday, I think the time has passed for that. Instead, I offer this brief primer for all the players so far in camp, sorted into the different groups that I see.

Additionally, I offer an intrigue rating, using Luis Ugueto as the standard unit. Remember him? The Rule 5 guy on the 2002 M's that never did anything but pinch run here or there? The guy listed as a pinch runner on Baseball Reference? (not making that up)

CATCHERS

Out:
Steven Baron - You need people to catch all the pitchers early on in camp. Baron is young and very raw as a hitter (frankly, I don't think he will ever hit). He will be reassigned to minor league camp once it opens up, along with a handful of pitchers. Intrigue: 1/10 a Luis Ugueto

In:
Miguel Olivo - He will be the starting catcher, or at least split time. That is no mystery. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Battling:
Adam Moore - The two biggest strengths that Moore has are that he is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster already, and that he is the youngest of this trio by far. Most teams carry three backstops on the 40-man though, so maybe that isn't a big plus in his favor. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Josh Bard - The biggest plus that Bard has is his experience with the staff last year. Switch-hitting is also nice as well. He is what he is though, a veteran that won't help or hurt a team. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Chris Gimenez - The biggest plus for Gimenez might be his versatility, since he can play the outfield too. He has posted decent numbers in AAA, but it is yet to translate to big league success in his limited opportunities. Intrigue: 4 Luis Uguetos (gets bonus intrigue for being new this year)

It is hard to get too amped up over the battle for backup catcher, but I think this is one of the more open battles in camp. I expect the player that performs best in this trio to get the job, and the other two to open up the season in Tacoma. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

PITCHERS

Out:
Shawn Kelley - He is still recovering from surgery in the off-season. Intrigue: 0 Luis Uguetos

David Aardsma - He is also recovering from surgery, though there is still a very slim chance that he will be ready for opening day. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

In:
Felix Hernandez - Cy Young, 'nuff said. Intrigue: 5 Luis Uguetos (because he's still Felix)

Jason Vargas - One of the few pleasant surprises from 2010 will be in the rotation for sure. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Doug Fister - Another guy that emerged in 2010 who will certainly be in the rotation. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Erik Bedard - If he is healthy (and it looks like he will be), he is in the rotation. How good will he be though? Intrigue: 25 Luis Uguetos (this is in my view the biggest spring story)

Brandon League - He will be pitching in the late innings, potentially even the ninth until Aardsma is healthy. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

...and that's about it for guarantees. The pitching staff should be the dominant story all spring training, though it may give us all headaches trying to keep track of everyone. Intrigue: 7 Luis Uguetos

Long Shots:
Blake Beavan - Another one of the Cliff Lee prospects, his 70-something jersey number in spring training says it all. He is still too green for the majors, but gets to hang around the big league club for at least a few weeks. Beavan is ticketed for Tacoma, where he will hopefully blossom into a dependable starter. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos


Jose Flores - The Rule 5 draft selection is perhaps the biggest unknown in camp. He looked great last year, but at a really low level of the minors. I did not think he would stick when the M's drafted him, and I think that even less looking at the list of non-roster invitees. Intrigue: 1.01 Luis Uguetos

Charlie Haeger - For all we know, he could be the next R.A. Dickey. Nobody is talking about Haeger right now, but he does throw a knuckleball, so people will notice him at some point. He has struggled in the minors and majors the past few seasons. Granted, the knuckleball might be the ultimate "feel" pitch, and maybe Charlie finds that this year. Even if he does, I bet he starts the year in Tacoma. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Yoervis Medina - The surprise addition to the 40-man roster over the offseason will probably get some sort of look in the spring. I do not think he is close to the majors, but I am still curious to get some sort of look at him. Intrigue: 1.5 Luis Uguetos

Justin Miller - This aging non-roster invitee has a track record that screams replacement level reliever. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Edward Paredes - He struggled in AAA at the end of last year, and is not ready for the majors. He is still young and developing, and also is likely heading to minor league camp in a few weeks, barring a couple strong outings. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Yusmeiro Petit - Since he did not get a chance with the big league club last year, and is a non-roster invitee this year, his chances are slim. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Chaz Roe - The guy we traded Jose Lopez straight-up for has struggled in the minors. He has been a starter his whole minor league career, but perhaps a switch to the bullpen gives him a little extra zip on his pitches, and he looks like a different guy. That's his only hope to make the team. Intrigue: 1.25 Luis Uguetos

Chris Seddon - Despite a nice head of hair, and an extended cup of coffee in the majors last year, Seddon did not show that much out of the bullpen in live action, and he is an older non-roster invitee. Tacoma would welcome him back with open arms, because he was a solid starter in AAA. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Tom Wilhelmsen - If (or maybe when) Tom makes the majors, his story will be told. He walked away from baseball for several years, but is coming back strong. He is a dark horse to make the team, and I would say has the best chance of all the long shots I've listed. Intrigue: 4 Luis Uguetos

Veterans Battling:
Denny Bautista - He has always had a big arm, and last year harnessed it for a kinda solid year between AAA and the majors. Bautista is probably another Jesus Colome, but with a bit more command he might be a bit better. I could see Denny being one of those guys that doesn't get much publicity, but keeps surviving cut after cut. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Fabio Castro - A phenomenal winter league performance got him his non-roster invite to camp, and he should stick around through several rounds of cuts. I've always been intrigued by him, and I could see him becoming a nice lefty out of the bullpen. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Manny Delcarmen - My post right before this one was about this guy. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Luke French - We know what French is, which amounts to a left-handed guy good for organizational depth. He also is among the most likely guys to be the M's fifth starter. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Cesar Jimenez - It has been a long road back from injury for Jimenez, but he has a real chance to make the team as a lefty in the bullpen. He will be a nice story if he does. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Garrett Olson - I almost put Olson as an "in," but there are too many lefties in camp for me to give him a free pass. He is a heavy favorite to make it in the bullpen, where he might establish himself as a quirky personality. Intrigue: 1.5 Luis Uguetos

David Pauley - We saw the best that Pauley has to offer at the end of last season. On any good staff, he is depth and nothing more. He could be the last man standing for the fifth spot in the rotation though. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Chris Ray - I probably should spend a post on this guy at some point, because I am happy that the M's signed him. I like his chances to make the ballclub, and even pitch some significant innings. Intrigue: 5 Luis Uguetos

Royce Ring - I've always liked Ring, though there is probably a reason he hasn't ever found a home in the majors. Maybe this will be his place. Intrigue: 1.5 Luis Uguetos

Nate Robertson - If you've been looking for an older, mildly better version of Luke French, look no further. Intrigue: 4 Luis Uguetos

Chris Smith - His status as a replacement-level type of pitcher is buoyed by his unassuming name. His numbers are nice, and it is good to have him around, but he is not a difference-maker or a headline-grabber. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Jamey Wright - I almost put Wright in the long shot category, but he pitched with the team last year, which probably gives him a little better chance. Plus, he can pitch in long relief, and he seems to have that "good veteran presence" vibe, which becomes a little more valuable with a guy that likely fills a spot that isn't used that often in ballgames. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Prospects Battling:
Dan Cortes - I think Dan is still a little too wild for the majors, and that should show in spring training. However, if it does not, it will be hard to keep him off the ballclub. He should be one of the more interesting guys to watch in Tacoma this year. Intrigue: 4 Luis Uguetos

Josh Lueke - I will be surprised if Josh does not look like one of the better relievers in camp. The real question is if the Mariners will have the guts to put him on the opening day roster, and deal with the public relations fallout. Intrigue: 12 Luis Uguetos

Michael Pineda - The best M's pitching prospect since Felix will get tons of publicity this spring, but I wonder what his chances are of actually making the team. He only spent a few months in AAA, and the league seemed to figure him out near the end of the year. Some seasoning wouldn't hurt, and the M's want to limit his innings too. A strong spring could make him one of the most interesting spring stories in all of baseball though. Intrigue: 16 Luis Uguetos

Mauricio Robles - Unless the Mariners are willing to put Mauricio in the bullpen (where he might be fun to watch), he is going to Tacoma. I highly doubt the M's will move him out of the rotation, so perhaps I should have put him in the long shot category. However, there are enough guys in there already, and I think that talent-wise Robles is closer to the guys in this group than guys in other groups. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

For better or worse, these are the M's in camp right now the way that I see it. There is lots of mostly meaningless pitch and catch yet to happen that will sort out the pretenders from the contenders in the next month. Even with the delineations I made, the pitching staff is an enigma. It would be more exciting if the names were more compelling, but with any sort of unknown comes intrigue. I recommend enjoying it for what it is worth, which is at least a half dozen Luis Uguetos.