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Spring 2011: Position Players

After taking a look at the catchers and pitchers vying for spots on the 2011 Mariners roster, it is time to take a look at the position players, given that they reported today. Once again, the handy-dandy Luis Ugueto intrigue scale will help us find players of interest. Here are the position players as I see them:

IN
Jack Cust - Signed in the offseason to be the DH. He could be amusing to watch though, as he rather literally either walks, strikes out, or hits a home run. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Chone Figgins - The move to second base didn't work out as well as hoped. Perhaps a return to the hot corner will help Chone rebound. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Franklin Gutierrez - His mohawk will be the most intriguing thing about him this spring. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Ichiro - Word is that he can put on shows at the plate and in the field as he prepares for the season. Intrigue: 51 Luis Uguetos

Brendan Ryan - The former Cardinal is known for his glovework up the middle, which may or may not prove to be enough to start opening day at second base (or maybe even shortstop). Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Justin Smoak - He is definitely the starting first baseman, and it would be really helpful if he develops into a middle-of-the-order bat right about now. Intrigue: 6 Luis Uguetos

Jack Wilson - Will he stay healthy enough to show why the M's traded for him a year and a half ago? Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

OUT
Mike Carp - With Cust and Smoak, I don't see a spot for him. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Johermyn Chavez - A pleasantly surprising 2010 season at Inland Empire has Chavez on the radar a little bit more. He won't make the M's, but it will be fun to get a glimpse of him in big league camp. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Greg Halman - Although Halman is likely the best athlete the Mariners have, he is still rough around the edges. More time in Tacoma would serve him well, and he will get that with the players the Mariners have in camp. Intrigue: 1.5 Luis Uguetos

Sean Kazmar - Sean will provide middle infield depth in Tacoma most likely. He has a little bit of pop, but not much, and can defend up the middle well enough. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Alex Liddi - One of the M's better prospects, Liddi followed up his breakout 2009 campaign with a pretty good one in AA last season. He is set to move up to Tacoma this year, but not to Seattle. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Carlos Peguero - Much like Liddi, Peguero followed up a good 2009 campaign with a solid one in AA this past year. He also will probably start off the season in Tacoma. He is an imposing physical figure with great power, so he might cause a scene in spring training if he really gets ahold of a pitch. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Mike Wilson - Mike has been a fringe prospect in the M's system for years, and now is a non-roster invitee. If he hits some long home runs, he may develop a dark horse following to make the opening day roster, but I don't think that is very likely. Intrigue: 1.5 Luis Uguetos

VETERANS BATTLING
Milton Bradley - Despite a big price tag, his spot isn't guaranteed. His money comes off the books next year anyway. A strong spring might make Milton an opening day starter (and perhaps even jump start a comeback year for him), but a weak spring may leave him out of baseball for good. Intrigue: 7 Luis Uguetos

Jody Gerut - Gerut has had his ups and downs, and if he has an "up" season, he may end up starting lots of games for the Mariners. He must produce in the spring to earn a spot though. Intrigue: 4 Luis Uguetos

Gabe Gross - Most see Gross in the competition to start in left field, but I think he is a backup at best. He was never that great of a player, and he is getting older. He has a legitimate chance to make the team, but I do not see him emerging in a prominent role. Intrigue: 2 Luis Uguetos

Adam Kennedy - Though Adam is a non-roster invitee, he appears to have a spot for the taking, either as the starting second baseman, or a backup infielder. How well he hits this spring will determine where Eric Wedge pencils him in. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Ryan Langerhans - Still an ideal reserve outfielder, but I still doubt he has a spot on the roster. I will set aside my man crush on him to properly evaluate his interest level this spring. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Luis Rodriguez - Although Luis is older now, he showed surprising power in AAA last year. If his pop looks like more than a fluke this spring, he will push himself into the opening day conversation, maybe even as the starting second baseman. A classic dark horse candidate. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

Michael Saunders - Since Saunders is no longer a rookie, I will call him a veteran. Really, he is somewhere between. He showed progress at the plate this past season, though he will have to show more to grab a starting spot. This is a make-or-break season for Michael, if not a make-or-break spring. Intrigue: 5 Luis Uguetos

Matt Tuiasosopo - Even with some big springs, Tui has yet to show that he can hit big league pitching. I almost put him in the "out" category, but he seems to have an infectious personality. That is worth something on the bench, especially with a new manager that needs to make players buy into his system of doing things. Still... Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

Josh Wilson - The Paper Boy has a vibe that screams "good veteran influence," and again, personality is worth mentioning for a bench player on a team trying to turn things around with new leadership. However, Josh will not start for this team, and without some hitting (not one of his stronger suits), he may not make the roster at all. Intrigue: 1 Luis Ugueto

PROSPECTS BATTLING
Dustin Ackley - It looks like the Mariners have every intention of starting Ackley out in Tacoma for further season. That will be hard to do with a strong spring from him though, and I would not put it past him to tear the cover off the ball. Rather intentionally, the Mariners have not blocked his path to the majors. Intrigue: 20 Luis Uguetos

Matt Mangini - After quietly progressing through the minors his whole pro career, Mangini seemed to blossom in AAA. It wasn't that long ago that the M's made him a supplementary first round pick (though it was Bill Bavasi that made that call, and he didn't exactly bat 1.000). While I doubt that Mangini makes the current roster, he is a Figgins injury/trade from being in the discussion to start at third base. Intrigue: 3 Luis Uguetos

As I wrote this post, it struck me how largely uninteresting the lineup is. There are position battles, but battles is a bit strong of a word. Maybe something more like position skirmishes would be appropriate. The odds are that the spring battles will be won by veterans, but many of them will only be playing until a younger guy is ready. It takes some of the sizzle out of spring training when any decisions already seem temporary.