Spring Training Update
Tim Chalberg • Monday, March 10, 2014
Plot thickening in the outfield
James Jones has emerged as the story of spring training thus far. He's hitting pretty well and Lloyd McClendon loves him. It shows up in his quotes and the amount of playing time he's giving Jones.
For the record, I don't think James Jones should make the Mariners. He's got holes in his swing and he's yet to really play in AAA. The junk-ball veterans that often litter AAA pitching staffs will find Jones's holes. I think he's got some thing to learn in Tacoma that would serve him well.
With that said, Jones can play center field, and the Mariners are quite thin at the position. Xavier Avery can probably play some center field. So can Abe Almonte. However, both of those players aren't hitting like Jones in spring training, and neither have the tools that Jones possesses either.
I would still go with Almonte as the fourth outfielder, but Jones has a case at this point. He's outperforming everyone who was thought to have a chance at the fourth outfielder spot, and McClendon has clearly taken note. The outfield depth chart is getting rewritten with each game, and it's clear that Jones will shoot up it when all is said and done. The only question is how far.
The rotation race
Only seven pitchers have started a game in spring training for the Mariners; five will crack the opening day rotation. So the real question is who are the two odd men out at the moment?
I say one is Brandon Maurer. He has been roughed up a bit, has a start and a relief appearance, and probably started the spring as an outsider looking in.
The second man out is tougher to figure out. The next worst performer (in very limited innings) is Randy Wolf, but he has a ton of experience and potentially won't take a minor league assignment if that means anything to the M's. He is likely battling with James Paxton and Blake Beavan. Paxton has the most upside of the three, and at this point he will likely break camp with the M's if they decide he doesn't have something major worth developing in the minors some more before he takes on a role in the majors.
So, the real question is if Lloyd McClendon would prefer Wolf or Beavan. Personally, I'd probably favor Wolf just a tad, mostly because he is a veteran and left-handed. But I wouldn't complain about Beavan cracking the opening day rotation. Beavan is organizational depth if you ask me, but the Mariners are going to open the season with two starting pitchers on the shelf. I'm totally fine with Blake Beavan as the sixth or seventh starter on the team depth chart.
Maybe the more interesting sub-story here is that I think Erasmo Ramirez and Scott Baker already have cinched up roster spots, given their early performances and the injuries in the rotation.
So, if you are looking for guys to watch for in the box scores, basically every starting pitcher is interesting, plus James Jones and his direct competition (likely Abe Almonte and Xavier Avery).