Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MARINERS: Spring Training shiners

David Aardsma
By Matthew Carlson

Spring Training is a time to evaluate players for the coming year, give long shots a chance to break camp on the big league roster, and see how your team’s prospects match up against MLB competition. And while some aspects of Spring Training are resoundingly useless, such as Mike Sweeney’s .500 batting average last year, some results are hints of what is to come.

Last Spring, the Mariners failed to produce runs, but everyone said when the season started they would get it together. They never did, and you know the rest of the story; record low run production, another 101 loss season, etc…

It’s at this time that I would like to recognize the Mariners who shined this season, and those who tanked.

To Continue...


Chone Figgins-
Figgins endured monstrous amounts of ridicule after signing a 4 year 36 million dollar contract with the Mariners in the 2010 offseason. He hit a paltry .259 (for his standards), and was constantly dubbed as overrated. There were even murmurings that teams were calling to trade for him. But Figgins looks completely different this spring; he’s mashing the ball with a .396 average, 5 stolen bases, and a home run (gasp!). Hopefully this trend will continue, as an Ichiro/Figgins top of the order could be potent for scoring runs.

Erik Bedard- At long last, finally Erik Bedard is healthy. And now we can see what he is capable of when he’s on the mound instead of the DL. He’s been a pleasant surprise this spring, pitching to a 1.13 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 16 innings. Although he may not get deep into games, he could have a great bounce back year with 10+ wins and an ERA around 3.00. His is slated to start the year as the M’s 4th starter. After signing a non-guaranteed contract this year, Bedard could prove to be the steal of the offseason.

Michael Pineda- Speaking of starters, Pineda has won the 5th rotation spot, and based on his Spring Training stats, he was far and away earned the job. Already one of the most heralded pitching prospects in the country (and second in the Mariner’s system behind Dustin Ackley); Pineda pitched his way to a 2.12 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 17 innings this spring. Although I personally think that some fine tuning in the minors would be good for him, he blew away the competition and the M’s settled that he should start every 5th game. Luke French and David Pauley were also trying to earn the spot. Expect to see a decent season from Pineda, with flashes of brilliance.

Notables- Ryan Langerhans, Jack Wilson, Adam Moore, Milton Bradley.

Who Tanked

Doug Fister- After a decent season last year in which he had a 4.11 ERA and pitched 171 innings (110 innings more than 2010), Fister has struggled in Spring Training. Of late he has started to improve, but his 5.01 ERA is the highest of the pitchers slated to be in the rotation for 2011. He doesn’t strike many batters out, meaning to be effective he has to have precise control. Hopefully this is just a fluke like last year’s Spring Training (6.94 ERA), and Fister will have a successful season. But you have to remember that Luke French lurks in Tacoma, ready to snatch away a rotation spot if someone really struggles.

Franklin Gutierrez- Gutierrez has had an awful spring, and stats have nothing to do with it. He has had problems with stomach issues all through camp, and actually had them toward the latter end of last season. The Gold Glover fell off the bus significantly last year in terms of production, and the stomach issues probably had something to do with that. It is announced he is going to start the season on the DL, but hopefully he can get well and return to the Gutierrez of 2009 (.283, 18 homers).

Brendan Ryan- Ryan came over this offseason in a trade from the Cardinals, and is known for being one of the premier defensive shortstops in the game. He had wrist problems last year and hit a meager .223, but is healthy this year. However, Spring Training hasn’t been kind to Ryan this year. He’s hitting .185 in 54 at bats, with 6 RBI and 13 strikeouts. Maybe this is just a slow start for Ryan, and he can improve to play like his 2009 season in which he hit .292. One thing is for sure, he’ll be an important piece of an extremely defensively talented Mariners infield.

Notables- Miguel Olivo, Michael Saunders, Brandon League, and the rest of the Mariner’s bullpen.

Go M’s.

Matthew Carlson at MatthewatNSS@gmail.com