A couple rounds of cuts this week leave the Mariners with 40 players left in camp. First, the cuts:
INEVITABLE: C Mike Dowd, C Jesus Sucre, 1B Ji-Man Choi, "1B" Jesus Montero, INF Carlos Triunfel, INF Ty Kelly, INF Chris Taylor, INF Nate Tenbrink, OF Xavier Avery, LHP Nick Hill, RHP Logan Bawcom, RHP Logan Kensing, RHP Matt Palmer
No offense to anyone in the "inevitables." Several of them have potential MLB careers. These were all players on the wrong side of the numbers game and more or less around for the experience of big league camp until it was time to get serious.
SOMEWHAT INTERESTING: LHP Bobby LaFramboise, OF James Jones
I though LaFramboise might have a chance to crack the opening day roster since Oliver Perez is now in Arizona. I thought that James Jones would eventually get cut but not for a while longer with all the playing time he got. I'm actually relieved Jones got cut at this point because I wondered if Lloyd McClendon was too in love with him. He has things to learn in the minors.
So who will make the team?
ON THE DL: Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, maybe Stephen Pryor (still recovering from last season). That brings us down to 37 players.
LOCKS (18): C John Buck, C Mike Zunino, 1B Justin Smoak, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Kyle Seager, INF Willie Bloomquist, OF Dustin Ackley, OF Corey Hart, OF Logan Morrison, OF Michael Saunders, LHP Charlie Furbush, RHP Scott Baker, RHP Danny Farquhar, RHP Felix Hernandez, RHP Yoervis Medina, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Tom Wilhelmsen
I know Scott Baker is a non-roster invitee, but he just got moved from a start against the Angels to play in a minor league game. The M's open up the season against the Angels, and Baker has already faced them twice. Doubtful these facts have nothing to do with the change.
The remaining battles:
Shortstop: Brad Miller vs. Nick Franklin - I guess this is a battle because the Mariners say it is. Brad Miller should have been the favorite coming into the spring, and even if he wasn't he's had a very good spring that should shore up his standing. I almost included Miller as a lock. Nick Franklin will go to AAA unless/until he is traded.
Capable centerfielder on the bench: Abe Almonte vs. Endy Chavez - The cuts have at least made this battle clear, unless you also believe Cole Gillespie could play center field regularly. Quite honestly, I almost made Almonte a lock for this spot because he's already on the roster and Chavez quietly slipped to below replacement level last season and he's not getting any younger.
Fourth and fifth starters in the rotation: LHP James Paxton, LHP Randy Wolf, RHP Blake Beavan - I think Paxton nearly has a rotation spot nailed down given the control he's shown this spring. Beavan and Wolf are in an interesting duel though...or sort of interesting, at least. The reality is that the whoever wins this spring training battle will get booted from the rotation once Taijuan Walker or Hisashi Iwakuma is healthy, and neither project to sit out a ton of starts to begin the season. Still, Wolf vs. Beavan is at least too close to call. Beavan has outperformed Wolf, for what it's worth, but Wolf is more experienced and left-handed.
Bullpen lefty: Lucas Luetge vs. Joe Beimel - Again, younger guy verses veteran, though in a more limited role on the team. No idea how McClendon will choose with this one, though I'd simply stick with Luetge since he's already on the 40-man roster and Beimel isn't.
The last bullpen slot: This position could go to the odd man out in the rotation race or one of the remaining righties I am about to talk about. Both Zach Miner and Dominic Leone have appeared five times, which is tied for the most appearances by any M's pitcher this spring. It's a seven-way tie, so I don't want to make that too big of a deal, but playing time suggests that McClendon wants to see these guys for some reason. They have both done well for themselves, though I still like Carson Smith even more and he has performed very well in his 3.2 innings.
If you count up all the players you'll realized I totally ignored some that are still in camp. Those are folks I expect to go sooner rather than later.
There simply aren't interesting battles in camp this spring, unless you count the faux battle between Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. The other reality is that the winners of these battles simply get the first crack at the job and there will be movement during the season. We already know Iwakuma and Walker will be coming back, likely before April is over.
Still, there is something special about an opening day roster, and most positions have gone from an unruly glut to a few extra names after this week's cuts. The 2014 Mariners are taking shape.