Grading Each Member of Seattle Mariners' 40-Man Roster as Summer Begins
As the 2014 season rolls on well into June, the Seattle Mariners find themselves in the surprising position of being four games over .500 and are currently in possession of the second American League Wild Card spot.
As expected, the Mariners have been led by their two superstars. Robinson Cano is among the league leaders in average, and Felix Hernandez is well on his way to challenging for the AL Cy Young Award.
But the Mariners are in a position to contend because of the success of some of their other players. Roenis Elias, Chris Young and Michael Saunders have all performed well above expectations to help mask some of the weaknesses on Seattle’s roster.
The Mariners have had to deal with almost no production from the shortstop and designated hitter positions, plus a black hole at the back of the rotation. Still, through 64 games, most of the Mariners’ 40-man roster grades out highly.
Dustin Ackley, LF
After ending 2013 on a high note, the Mariners were looking for Ackley to sustain success as the team’s everyday left fielder this season.
At his best, Ackley sprays line drives to all fields and utilizes his plus speed, such as in the bases-clearing double above from last Saturday. He was able to do that for the first month and a half of the season and had a .776 OPS on May 16, which the Mariners would gladly take from Ackley moving forward.
Since then, an extended slump has driven Ackley’s line down .238/.290/.370 line, good for a wRC+ of 83. Combined with slightly above average defense in left, Ackley hasn’t been a total disaster, but it’s beginning to look like he may never again reach the 2.9 WAR he put up three years ago in his rookie season.
Abraham Almonte, CF
Almonte debuted with the Mariners in September 2013 and was an interesting prospect heading into this season. With a good combination of speed, power and aggressiveness, Almonte was worth an experiment out of spring training as the club’s starting center fielder and leadoff man.
The experiment quickly failed and dragged on for over a month. In 27 games, Almonte posted a .543 OPS and an ugly strikeout rate of 35.4 percent.
Batting the struggling Almonte leadoff every day couldn’t have helped his confidence, and he hasn’t done much in Triple-A to turn it around since being demoted on May 4. The Mariners’ outfield situation has relatively stabilized since then, meaning Almonte has a lot of work to do to reach the majors again.
Logan Bawcom, RP
After a successful 2013 season at Triple-A, Bawcom was on the cusp of breaking into the Seattle bullpen, but has struggled mightily so far this year with Tacoma.
Bawcom ran a solid 2.92 ERA with a strikeout rate of 23.6 percent in 51 appearances and did an excellent job of preventing home runs. In 2014, Bawcom has more walks than strikeouts and his ERA is up over two points as a result.
With an upper-90s fastball and good slider, you would still expect Bawcom to crack the majors at some point if he can get his command back. But this season has been a major disappointment so far and Bawcom has likely fallen behind Carson Smith on the reliever prospect pecking order as a result.
Joe Beimel, RP
With the fewest appearances on the team among relievers, it’s easy to overlook Beimel, but he has been quite solid for the Mariners in a limited role.
The journeyman left-handed reliever has posted a 1.86 ERA (3.08 FIP) and has yet to allow a home run in 19.1 innings. Beimel’s strikeout and walk numbers aren’t great, but he’s done just fine in the role the Mariners have carved out for him.
Lefties have managed just a .226 OBP against Beimel this season, compared to a .413 mark for right-handers. With Charlie Furbush struggling, Beimel could be the team’s go-to lefty reliever for the rest of the season.
Willie Bloomquist, UTIL
The Mariners brought Bloomquist in over the offseason for his second stint in Seattle to be the club’s all-purpose utility man. At 36 years old, Bloomquist still has enough versatility to occasionally sub in all around the infield or in left.
In 83 plate appearances, Bloomquist has posted a .253/.277/.329 line and even came up with some big hits for the Mariners in a series against the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago. He’s been serviceable, but has had to play a bit more than expected due to minor injuries to Robinson Cano and Justin Smoak.
If the Mariners reach the point where Bloomquist becomes an everyday player, that’s a problem, but he works as a super utility man.
John Buck, C
With a young catcher in Mike Zunino, the Mariners looked to add a veteran backup and mentor. They went with Buck, who has been solid in the role with limited playing time.
Buck has appeared in just 16 games, including two at DH, posting a .241/.305/.333 line. His best moment came June 3 when he launched a game-winning home run in the seventh to beat the Atlanta Braves.
That is Buck’s only home run of the year, as he hasn’t quite found the power stroke he had last year to begin the season. But overall, Buck has provided about what you’d expect out of a backup catcher.
Robinson Cano, 2B
Everyone knew Cano would be running the show offensively as the Mariners’ first superstar hitter in a number of years. He has done little to disappoint so far.
Cano’s .333 average and .383 OBP both rank near the top of the AL. He also leads Seattle with 33 RBI, with his latest big hit coming last Monday in the form of a two-run double off of David Price to lead the Mariners to their eighth win in nine games.
The knock against Cano would be his lack of power, as he’s hit just two home runs. But power streaks and slumps are volatile, and Cano could easily turn that aspect around soon.
Even if he doesn’t, Cano has had a huge impact. Andrew Marchand of ESPN explains what signing a player like Cano can mean for a club.
“What Cano’s signing has likely brought to Seattle is a belief that the franchise wants to win. When a struggling organization makes such a bold move, it can change the expectations around the club.”
So far, that appears to be the case, as the Mariners reached the five games over .500 mark earlier this week for the first time since the end of the 2009 season.
Endy Chavez, Outfield
Why the Mariners decided to call up Chavez up two weeks ago after he posted a .636 OPS in Triple-A and why he has been played so much since is a bit of a mystery. That’s not Chavez’s fault though, and he has done his best to at least provide some production in nine games with Seattle this year.
In 35 plate appearances, Chavez has collected five singles, three doubles and two RBI. He had a big go-ahead RBI single last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays to help the Mariners avoid a loss in a game that Felix Hernandez absolutely dominated.
At 36 years old, Chavez isn’t going to be able to give much either offensively or defensively, and the Mariners have a number of better options to turn to for outfield depth.
Ji-Man Choi, 1B
Choi started the year off with great success in the first 10 games of the season at Triple-A before being suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. He was reinstated June 8 and is currently spending some time at Double-A Jackson to regain his timing.
Now that he’s back, Choi is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on for the rest of the season. Choi has posted great patience numbers with a ton of doubles throughout his minor league career and has plenty of upside moving forward.
If Choi hits at the same level he did prior to the suspension, he could be in Seattle soon to fill a hole at first base or DH.
Roenis Elias, SP
With injuries to three members of the expected starting rotation, the Mariners at least found a blessing in disguise with Elias. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year, Elias has had a brilliant rookie campaign with a .364 ERA (4.01 FIP) and 70 strikeouts in 81.2 innings.
Elias seemingly came out of nowhere, as he jumped straight from Double-A and wasn’t a highly touted prospect in the minors. He has an outstanding arsenal of plus off-speed pitches and should only improve moving forward.
When Elias has command of that off-speed stuff, he can dominate. Elias struck out 10 New York Yankees earlier in the year and threw an impressive three-hit shutout against the Detroit Tigers on June 1, highlighted above.
He had all his secondary stuff. I thought his changeup was exceptional. He kept the fastball down for the most part, pitched in, out, curveball was good as well, but I thought the changeup was the equalizer today… It really doesn't surprise me. I said this in Spring Training. I didn't think there was much there that would affect this guy as far as nerves were concerned, given his situation and where he came from. He didn't disappoint. He just went out and did his job.
Elias can sometimes be a little wild and can run a high pitch count, but he has established himself as part of the Mariners’ future with an excellent performance so far.
Danny Farquhar, RP
Farquhar hasn’t quite matched his wacky strikeout numbers from 2013 but has still been successful in a somewhat reduced role.
As Seattle’s part-time closer last year, Farquhar used his nasty cutter to strike out 34.7 percent of opposing batters, the eighth-highest rate among MLB relievers. That rate is down nearly 10 percent this year, but Farquhar owns a 2.48 ERA (2.70 FIP) and has only allowed one home run in 26 games.
Farquhar might just have the best stuff of any reliever on the team and will hopefully be used as the primary setup man for the rest of the season.
Anthony Fernandez, SP
Slowly but surely, Fernandez has risen through the minors and appeared poised to at least get a look in the majors this September. He then suffered an elbow injury early on in 2014 and underwent Tommy John surgery on May 23.
Fernandez was pitching well through five starts at Triple-A this year, including a strikeout rate up over 10 percent from Double-A in a small sample size. He will now begin the yearlong recovery period from the injury.
Nick Franklin, INF
Circumstances aligned perfectly for Franklin to get a shot in 2014 after he appeared to be the odd man out with Cano’s signing. With Brad Miller struggling and Corey Hart out with a hamstring injury, Franklin appeared poised to take over either starting role and was destroying Triple-A pitching in the early going.
Franklin couldn’t get it going in two separate call-ups as he hit .128 with 21 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances before being demoted again on June 3. McClendon and the Mariners are still searching for the reason why Franklin can’t translate his Triple-A success to the majors, via Bob Dutton of the The News Tribune (Tacoma).
“I don’t have the answer. I really don’t. He was striking out at an alarming rate. This is a game of adjustments, particularly at this level. You’ve got to be able to make adjustments.”
Franklin is still just 23 years old and 19 games is too small of a sample size to make any big conclusions. But he has nothing left to prove in Triple-A and is beginning more and more to resemble an AAAA-caliber player rather than a promising prospect.
Charlie Furbush, RP
It’s been a rough year for Furbush, who has been the team’s primary left-handed reliever for much of the early season. While Furbush has had some ups and downs in his career, he has never struggled to this degree while in Seattle and has been the weakest member of the bullpen in 2014.
Furbush owns a 4.26 ERA in 27 games this season, although his peripheral statistics indicate that should come down soon. His strikeout and walk numbers look fine, and he’s only given up two home runs on the year.
Interestingly enough, Furbush has reverse platoon splits in 2014 after struggling against righties for most of his career. Furbush had been improving over the past three weeks before allowing the winning run to score in last Tuesday’s contest against the New York Yankees, but his year as a whole has not been good.
Cole Gillespie, Outfielder
Gillespie hasn’t appeared much since being called up in late April but has earned more playing time in the past 10 days while swinging a hot bat.
The 30-year-old has played sparingly with four different major league teams, but he has impressed in a small sample size this year. In 54 plate appearances, Gillespie has posted a .327/.389/.429 line with good speed and plus defense on the corner outfield spots.
Gillespie also has some pop, crushing his first home run to dead center in the video above last Sunday against Tampa Bay. He will be interesting to watch moving forward with increased playing time, as the Mariners may have found a decent outfielder out of nowhere.
Corey Hart, DH
The question coming into the season was if Hart would be able to stay healthy after missing the entire 2013 season following multiple knee injuries. Hart strained his hamstring on May 1 and has been sidelined since.
That puts Hart right in the middle of an expected four-to-six week timetable with no indication that he will even start a rehab assignment soon. Hart told Lewis at MLB.com that he “can walk around without having to have a stiff leg all of the time. It's still nothing to be happy about yet,” back on May 22, not exactly encouraging words.
Hart wasn’t exactly effective when healthy, posting a .209/.295/.353 line. He was a legitimate power threat with five home runs, but expectations for Hart for the rest of the season aren’t too high.
Felix Hernandez, SP
There’s no other way of putting it: Hernandez has absolutely dominated in 2014. His 3.7 WAR is over a full win more than any other pitcher in the majors.
Hernandez is currently on pace to post career bests in just about every statistical category. He saved his best for last Sunday against Tampa Bay, striking out a career-high 15 batters.
Perhaps the most important difference this year for Hernandez is the effectiveness of his changeup. Hernandez has thrown the pitch more this season than in any other of his career with an average velocity of 89.3 miles per hour.
Rays manager Joe Maddon discussed how difficult it is to hit that hard changeup with Greg Johns of MLB.com after the game.
"I think he was even better than the perfect-game stuff… His changeup, it was a fastball until the last second, and then it became a changeup. He was really good. His command was outstanding."
With an improved team around him, Hernandez will challenge for his second Cy Young Award.
Danny Hultzen, SP
While Hultzen remains on the 40-man roster instead of the disabled list, he will not pitch at all in 2014. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 draft is recovering from surgery last October to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff.
Hultzen was on a fast track to the majors, but that is a difficult injury to fully recover from. He should be able to start a throwing program at some point this year, but we won’t really see how he is progressing until spring training 2015.
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP
The biggest blow to the Mariners so far this year was losing Iwakuma for a month with a finger injury. Since returning in early May, Iwakuma has picked up right where he left off from his Cy Young-caliber 2013 season.
In eight starts, Iwakuma has pitched into the eighth inning in four of them with a 2.79 ERA (3.32 FIP) and just six walks. Those numbers include a two-game stint where Iwakuma was not quite himself before he bounced back to dominate the Atlanta Braves on June 4.
Iwakuma again appears to have pinpoint control of his splitter, which is going to give the Mariners a dangerous 1-2 combination in their rotation over the rest of the year. He should continue to get better as the year progresses.
James Jones, CF
Recall McClendon’s comments to Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com regarding Jones before the season. "He's a pretty interesting young man. He's very talented and I really like what I've seen. I don't think he's going to knock on the door, I think he's going to knock the door down when he's ready to get there.”
Jones has done exactly that, energizing the Mariners at the top of their lineup and earning playing time as the club’s regular center fielder and leadoff man. He is getting on base at a .320 clip and using his tremendous speed as a weapon, collecting seven stolen bases in eight attempts and three triples, including this impressive one earlier in the year against the Minnesota Twins.
He has been overaggressive in the field on a few plays and won’t provide much in the way of power. But it’s refreshing to see a prospect like Jones come up to the majors and succeed right away after the Mariners have had so many busts in the past decade.
Dominic Leone, RP
After cruising to the Double-A level in less than a calendar year, Leone made the jump directly to the majors in the first week of the 2014 season after Hector Noesi was sent away.
Leone has shown why he was such a fast riser, posting a 1.35 ERA (2.85 FIP) in 23 games, the fifth-best mark in the AL among relievers. He has a nice cutter-slider combo that opponents have yet to solve, as Leone has struck out 29 percent of batters to begin his rookie campaign.
The knock against Leone so far would be that his control isn’t great, with a walk rate of 9.4 percent and three wild pitches, but he’s just 22 years old and is still developing. Leone has been brilliant so far and could potentially be a dominant closer a little further down the line.
Lucas Luetge, RP
Luetge has bounced between Seattle and Tacoma for the past three seasons and has never really stuck in the majors as a left-handed specialist. He appeared briefly in three games for the Mariners in 2014 and gave up two runs in just 2.1 innings.
With the Seattle bullpen currently pitching well, Luetge is unlikely to reach the majors again this season with an 11.2 percent walk rate and 4.82 FIP in Triple-A so far. If the Mariners make a 40-man roster move to bring up Chris Taylor or Carson Smith at some point during the summer, Luetge would likely be the first candidate to be removed.
Brandon Maurer, SP
After an ugly start to his major league career in 2013, Maurer has continued to struggle this season. Injuries have forced the Mariners to run either Maurer or Erasmo Ramirez out every five days and both have struggled mightily, making the No. 5 rotation position one of the biggest weaknesses on the team so far.
Maurer has posted a 7.52 ERA (5.33 FIP) in seven starts this year and has only pitched more than five innings once, straining the Seattle bullpen. He has the stuff to be successful including a lively fastball that can touch the upper-90s, but Maurer has been home run prone in the majors and has struggled to strike out many batters.
There was a reason Maurer was a highly ranked prospect and he still could be successful down the line, but he has a long way to go before he’s ready to contribute at the major league level. The Mariners have to start wondering if they possibly rushed Maurer to the big leagues too quickly and hurt his confidence.
Yoervis Medina, RP
While Medina rarely escapes an inning unscathed, he has been able to avoid too many major meltdowns in 2014 while pitching in some high-leverage situations.
As yet another arm in the Mariners’ bullpen with a fastball in the mid-90s, Medina has struck out 23.9 percent of batters and posted a 3.00 ERA (4.03 FIP) in 26 appearances. Medina has a nasty slider that makes him just about unhittable when he’s on, but he has also walked far too many batters both this season and in 2013.
Medina has been good so far, but he seems likely to regress soon. The Mariners bullpen has some higher-upside candidates to work the seventh and eighth innings of close games.
Brad Miller, SS
It’s all gone wrong for Miller in 2014, as he is likely the biggest disappointment of the season so far. After a promising rookie campaign, Miller has posted a .172/.247/.278 line with numerous mental mistakes in the field and on the bases.
Miller’s problem has clearly been plate discipline, as he is running a strikeout rate of 26.4 percent and owns a 77 percent contact rate. McClendon stressed pitch recognition and laying off balls outside the zone to Miller in mid-May, via Christian Caple of The News Tribune (Tacoma).
“The real good hitters make outs seven of 10 times, so to try to get hits on balls outside of the strike zone is going to make it even more difficult. So we’re just trying to get a better recognition of the strike zone and where he ought to be looking.”
That has worked to some degree, as Miller’s numbers have improved in the last three weeks. His strikeout rate is down nearly 10 percent from the middle of April and he has been able to get on base more and spray line drives, such as in last Sunday’s game against the Rays.
There’s still reason to hope, and Miller is the best long-term shortstop option on the team, but his 2014 season as a whole has been a failure.
Jesus Montero, 1B/DH
Montero has had one of the hardest seasons to analyze for any member of the Mariners 40-man roster. After flaming out of the majors last year, Montero has done some interesting things in Triple-A in 2014 and may get another look in Seattle before the season’s over.
He’s had streaks where he would hit for tremendous power, streaks where he would walk a bunch and barely strike out at all and streaks where he would not do anything well and struggle. All of that has resulted in Montero posting a roughly league-average wRC+ of 103, which at least beats the minimal expectations the Mariners had for him this year.
With no real answer at first base or DH, Montero could get a look in Seattle over the summer, but the Mariners might try out Choi first.
Julio Morban, Outfield
The most interesting outfield prospect in the Mariners’ system, Morban had a great 2013 season with Double-A Jackson before suffering a broken leg last August. Morban got a brief look in six games at Triple-A to start the year before the team determined he wasn’t fully recovered, sending him back to extended spring training.
We’ll see Morban in Tacoma at some point this year if his rehab goes according to plan, but his major league aspirations may have to wait until 2015.
Logan Morrison, OF/DH
The Mariners brought in Morrison over the offseason, hoping he could finally stay healthy and sustain the flashes of potential he showed with the Miami Marlins over the past three seasons. Unfortunately, Morrison strained his hamstring in early April after eight games and missed over two months.
Morrison looked lost at the plate in the eight games he did play, but has acquitted himself well in 17 Triple-A games during his rehab assignment, posting a .311/.417/.443 line. Those numbers seem to indicate he’s ready and the team finally recalled Morrison earlier Wednesday to fill a need at first base and DH, via Dutton.
Eight games is too small of a sample size to judge anyone, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Morrison will ever be able to stay healthy for an extended period of time.
Stephen Pryor, RP
Pryor was one of the Mariners’ most exciting relief prospects with a lively high-90s fastball before suffering a major lat injury and undergoing surgery last season. The good news is that Pryor has been able to pitch again in Triple-A, but his 2014 season has offered little more in the way of positive news.
In 12 games at Tacoma, Pryor has walked more than he’s struck out and posted a 6.28 ERA. Pryor is currently shut down with a shoulder impingement, just one of several different injuries he has suffered since the original lat strain.
That’s a worrying sign for Pryor, and it’s particularly scary to think that James Paxton is currently trying to recover from the same injury that Pryor initially suffered.
Erasmo Ramirez, SP
Other than Miller, Ramirez is possibly the biggest disappointment of the year. While Ramirez never projected as a front-end starter, he has had some major leagues success over the past two seasons and looked to be a solid No. 4 or No. 5 option for the Mariners heading into the year.
Instead, the wheels have come off, as Ramirez has posted a 5.97 ERA with nine home runs allowed in eight starts. His fastball velocity is down 1.3 miles per hour and Ramirez has walked over double the amount of batters he did in his strong rookie campaign in 2012.
Ramirez could be hurt or he could need to work on the mental aspect of his game in Triple-A for a while. Either way, the Mariners desperately need someone to replace him at the back of the rotation as quickly as possible.
Fernando Rodney, RP
The Mariners quickly found out it’s never easy with Rodney. Despite a WHIP of 1.30, Rodney is tied for the AL lead in saves with 18 and has only blown two, one of which was the fault of his defense.
Rodney’s outing May 31 against the Tigers was a microcosm of his entire season. He walked the leadoff man and allowed a single before striking out the next two batters on some wicked pitches and retiring Ian Kinsler to end the game.
Having Rodney come in with a narrow lead in the ninth is never going to be comfortable, but it’s hard to fault him for much so far in 2014.
Stefen Romero, RF
There’s no doubt Romero has struggled in his rookie season, with a .210/.258/.355 line. However, Romero has also not been used in an ideal role by McClendon.
Despite having a major reverse platoon split in the high minors, Romero has been used much more against left-handed pitching and has not played well as a result. He was allowed to pinch-hit against Braves right-hander Gavin Floyd on June 3 and crushed his third home run of the year, two of which have come against righties despite having 42 more plate appearances against lefties.
We’ll have to see if Romero gets more chances against right-handed pitching and starts to hit more. Otherwise, he may not be long for the major league roster.
Michael Saunders, Outfield
After five years of waiting for Saunders to meet his potential, he finally appears poised to put it all together in 2014. Saunders had limited playing time in April before Almonte’s demotion, but an excellent May has boosted Saunders' line to .272/.319/.435 line with four home runs.
Saunders is critical to Seattle’s lineup, as he will need to get on base ahead of Cano in the No. 2 spot. So far, Saunders has done just that and ranks third on the team among regular position players in wRC+ and WAR.
Injuries have derailed Saunders’ hot streaks in the past, and he just missed a few games with a shoulder problem, which is cause for concern, but his season to date has been an excellent surprise.
Kyle Seager, 3B
After a horrid slump to start the year, Seager has turned it around to become one of the top third basemen in the AL behind Josh Donaldson.
The question for the Mariners entering the year was if they could find someone to consistently hit, other than Cano. Seager has done that apart from the first three weeks, leading the team with nine home runs and posting a 118 wRC+ to rank just behind Cano.
Seager’s season numbers are going to continue to climb as he gets further removed from that slump, and he should be able to post between 3.5 and four WAR for the third consecutive year.
Justin Smoak, 1B
In the past, Smoak has always done just enough to make the Mariners think he could still break out but hasn’t put it all together for an extended period of time, leading to some ugly end-of-season numbers. Smoak told Lewis at MLB.com in May he was trying to avoid worrying too much about the numbers, which in turn could help him avoid those up-and-down stretches.
"For, me it's not worrying about the result. [It's] something I've got caught up in in the last couple years. I'd hit a ball hard right at somebody, and they would catch it, and my day was done."
So far, any changes to Smoak’s approach haven’t worked. After doing some exciting things in the first two weeks of the season, Smoak has slumped and is hitting .208/.282/.361 for the season, ranking near the bottom in most major statistical categories among regular first basemen. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with an injured quad.
Smoak keeps from failing due to his good defense, including this game-saving catch on April 25 against the Texas Rangers But having no offensive production from first base will catch up with you eventually, and you have to wonder how much patience the Mariners have left with Smoak.
Jesus Sucre, C
As the third catcher on the Seattle roster, Sucre would really have to do something special to reach the majors again. He hasn’t done much to distinguish himself as Tacoma’s starting catcher, posting a .256//273/.316 line.
No other catcher in the organization can really challenge Sucre for a 40-man spot at the current moment, but he’s not going to be reaching Seattle for the rest of the year barring injury.
Taijuan Walker, SP
Concern has been mounting about Walker for months, but he at least appears to finally be on the right track in his rehab stint.
The electric 21-year-old was expected to be a member of the starting rotation before being shut down early in spring training with shoulder inflammation. Walker was again sidelined in April after suffering a shoulder impingement before his first rehab outing.
Walker’s first two rehab starts did not go well, as he struggled with control and has decreased velocity on his fastball. Finally on Monday, he looked more like himself, tossing five innings for the first time since the injury.
The Mariners need Walker (or Paxton) in the rotation desperately, but he needs more time and it would be a surprise to see him before July.
Tom Wilhelmsen, RP
The mystery of Wilhelmsen continues. After being a dominant closer for the first two months of 2013, Wilhelmsen lost all command of the strike zone and melted down to the point where he had to be demoted to Triple-A.
Wilhelmsen has been up and down again to begin the year, struggling mightily in April before pitching a long scoreless streak for much of May and then giving up five runs over his last five outings. His ERA currently stands at 2.93, but a 4.05 FIP and a walk rate that’s higher than ever indicate that might balloon soon.
For about a month, it looked like the Mariners might have had something with a resurgent Wilhelmsen, but don’t expect to see him in many high-leverage situations moving forward.
Chris Young, SP
"I was trying to find the adjectives to describe this guy today. What a godsend for this rotation. He's just been tremendous. [He pitches] in and out, up and down. He never wavers. He knows what he wants to do and executes it pretty good.”
The Mariners are fortunate they signed Young over other possible veteran stopgaps like Randy Wolf or Scott Baker. After missing all of 2013, Young is a candidate for AL Comeback Player of the Year, with a 5-3 record and 3.42 ERA in 11 starts. Young has been unbeatable at Safeco Field and has stabilized the back of Seattle’s rotation.
Young’s fly ball tendencies and poor strikeout-to-walk numbers are going to catch up with him at some point, but all that matters now is that he’s been a solid No. 4 starter in a rotation that has been beat up and has been unable to get anything out of the No. 5 spot.
Mike Zunino, C
Some of Zunino’s numbers aren’t great, but it’s hard not to be excited about his development so far.
Zunino has posted a .220/.281/.401 line in 2014. A strikeout rate over 30 percent has knocked his OBP and average down, but Zunino has the most raw power on the team and has slugged seven home runs so far.
He also plays great defense behind the plate and is an excellent pitch framer, as FanGraphs has him fifth in defensive value among catchers. Hernandez and others have taken notice, via Johns at MLB.com
"He's pretty good. This was one of those days when I threw everything I could and knew he'd stop it. I have a lot of confidence in Mike.”
All of that has led Zunino to post 0.9 WAR so far, which is a fine feat for a catcher who was not even a professional player at this point two years ago.
All statistics are accurate entering play Wednesday and via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.