SSG Seattle Mariners Spring Training Preview

The SSG Seattle Mariners made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001, and expectations are that the team should contend for the AL West pennant this season and possibly more.  They traded a few key players in the offseason – SP Danny Hultzen and RP Felipe Rivero – to free up space for some younger arms.  Rookie sensation RF Andres De Aza was also dealt for a prospect in order to help even out a righty-dominated lineup.  Seattle feels the team headed into spring training has the capability of improving on their 95-win season though, and look forward to getting 2020 started.  Here is how the team looks headed into camp. Starting Pitching Probable Starting Rotation: Felix Hernandez Joe Ross Taijuan Walker Adys Portillo Lewis Thorpe Competing for a Spot: Grayson Garvin Eddie Campbell Jose De Leon Long Shot: Rob Armstrong Williams Mendoza Summary  Felix Hernandez heads into camp preparing for his 16th season pitching for the Mariners.  He will once again top the rotation in 2020 and beyond after signing a 4-year extension this off season.  Hernandez not only anchors the rotation, but he serves as the staff leader.  Joe Ross was acquired at the trade deadline last season with hopes he could fill the #2 starter role and dominate as he did with San Francisco.  It took him some time to adjust to the new environment, but he then started to show more of his early season prowess as the season wound down.  Ross is easily capable of being the 1a in the rotation.  Taijuan Walker suffered through back and wrist injuries last season, and therefore only made 21 starts.  He looks to bounce back with a strong year and start to fill out the promise he had shown early in his major league career.  The Mariners are excited to see if Adys Portillo can take the next step towards being a dominant starter.  He has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but was very inconsistent in 2019.  Pitching coach Nelson Cruz feels this could be his breakout season.  There should be a battle for the #5 spot mainly between Lewis Thorpe and Grayson Garvin.  Thorpe made the rotation out of camp last season, but struggled mightily.  The injuries to Walker kept Thorpe in the rotation for a few months, but ultimately he was relegated to bullpen duty with the trade for Ross.  Thorpe has more potential than Garvin, but Garvin seems to be serviceable every time he is forced into the starting role.  Eddie Campbell and Jose De Leon will get extensive looks in camp, but they will need to take significant strides in development in order to win the #5 spot.  De Leon will most likely start the season in the bullpen, while Campbell will head back to AAA Tacoma. Relief Pitching Probable Bullpen for the 2020 Season: Jacob Lindgren – closer Dominic Leone – setup/possible closer Kevin Quackenbush – setup Danny Farquhar – setup/middle relief Juan Jaime – middle relief Grayson Garvin – middle/long relief Mike Montgomery – middle relief/lefty specialist Jose De Leon – middle/long relief Competing for a Spot: Shawn Armstrong Nate Jones Esmil Rodgers Summary Even though Jacob Lindgren led the league last season with 44 saves, the coaching staff is still considering using Dominic Leone in some of the save situations giving head coach Jeff Banister a lefty-righty option to close games out.  Leone is definitely capable, and has a four-pitch repertoire to Lindgren’s two.  It will be tough to tinker with something that has worked well the past two seasons though.  Kevin Quackenbush has been hot and cold as a setup reliever, but the good thing for Seattle is that he has been mostly hot.  When Quackenbush cracks though, he usually gets into a lot of trouble.  Seattle re-signed Danny Farquhar this offseason for 3-years, $12.4m.  He has been a solid contributor to the bullpen, and performed well as the closer before the Mariners acquired Lindgren.  Juan Jaime was claimed off waivers last season and given a shot to stick with the team, and he didn’t disappoint.  He will most likely still have to prove himself this spring training to keep his spot in the pen though.  Mike Montgomery and Grayson Garvin will be the lefty options in the bullpen with Montgomery not completely guaranteed a spot on the roster.  Jose De Leon will get a long look in camp to see if he can contribute as a relief pitcher.  If not, the Mariners may look to deal him because he is out of options.  Shawn Armstrong was exceptional pitching in relief last season after his emergency call up with a 2.08 ERA, 5-0 record and recorded one save.  If he continues to show this kind of ability in camp, it will be hard to send him back down to AAA.   Nate Jones and Esmil Rodgers are veterans capable of pitching in the majors, but will have a hard time cracking the current bullpen. Batters Probable Starting Lineup: C Tyronne Ibarra 1B Ryan Zimmerman/Joe Mauer 2B Chris Taylor 3B Ryan McMahon SS Brad Miller LF Terrell Joyce CF Christian Yelich RF Alex Jackson DH Johnny Mooore/Jorge Mateo Probable Bench: C Jose Colina 1B Joe Mauer 2B/SS Jorge Mateo CF Eric Caine Competing for a Spot: RF Clint Coulter 1B Dalton Hicks Long Shots: 3B Michael Chavis CF Travis Jankowski LF Josh Elander Summary Last season, the Mariners offense relied heavily on the long ball, but suffered with team batting average and stolen bases.  The front office worked on the latter this past offseason with the acquisition of Johnny Moore and claiming Eric Caine in the Rule 5 draft.  Jorge Mateo finally securing a spot on the MLB roster will help tremendously as well.  Seattle hopes head coach Jeff Banister (former hitting coach) in his second season with the team will help the team batting average improve mostly with the younger players like Terrell Joyce, Alex Jackson and Tyronne Ibarra.  Overall the team offense looks to have another promising year with power potential throughout the lineup (with exception of Chris Taylor).  Ryan McMahon and Alex Jackson were offensive powerhouses last season, and they both haven’t even reached their potential.  One key position will be 1B where veterans Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Mauer will platoon barring one or the other struggling.  The expansion of the MLB roster size to 26 will provide a spot for Caine who will serve mostly as a pinch runner and position substitution late in games.  RF Clint Coulter has struggled as a Mariner since being acquired from Atlanta in 2018, but he will get a shot in spring training to show his numbers in AAA last season were translatable to the majors.  Dalton Hicks is another who has had a rough transition, but he will also get a long look in camp after winning AAA PC League Most Valuable Player honors last season.