What to watch this yearJanuary 27th, 2013 by terrybenish
In World War II after D-Day in Europe, British Field Marshall Montgomery, in order to speed up the conclusion of the war, knew that he must get across the Rhine river and other tributaries into Germany. In short words Operation Market-Garden the operation to do that, which involved the largest airborne assault failed largely it was an over-reach. They tried too much, too far and too soon. If this intrigues you as a history reader, seek out Cornelius Ryan’s book,
The Mariners know where they want to get, know where they need to get and are faced with a similar risk of over-reaching. They believe in their efforts to rebuild their farm system. Baseball America touted them as having the second best farm system in baseball, which at the end of the day will prove out over the next few years. If the pitching is as good as it looks, it seems that the valuation may be understated. The question is when do they arrive?
When people talk about young pitching staffs what frequently comes to mind is the 1966 Baltimore Orioles with Dave McNally 23, Jim Palmer 20, Wally Bunker 21, Steve Barber 28, John Miller 25, Eddie Watt 25, and Frank Bertaina 22. Tom Phoebus 21 as well. Starters from that 1966 team, mostly young and some turned out to be very special. Some of those guys came up in 1964, some in 1965 and some in 1966. It was a process. Bunker won 19 games at the age of 19 in 1964. He was never the same after that and was a part time starter in 1966. Palmer came up in 1965. You can look for yourself here:
Unlike the Mariners, the 1965 Oriole’s team from the year before was very good, winning 93 games, but without the wild card etc. they did not participate in post season. The other un-noted thing about the 1966 team is that they were highly regarded defensively. Paul Blair in center field was a fly-hawk, Frank Robinson in right in every aspect was one of the greatest players ever top ten for sure, Hall of fame short stop Luis Aparicio, Davey Johnson at second base, Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson at third base. Although Andy Etchebarren was the lead catcher, four other guys played and collectively they threw out a little more that 40% of the base runners. Phenomenal team. They swept the Dodgers in the World Series. But the Orioles should not have been a surprise, they broke .500 in 1963 with 86 wins and kept getting better and better, 1964 97 wins, 1965 94 wins and 1966 with 96 wins.
The Mariners offensive production is nowhere near that team, but they are and have been sound defensively in the infield, except catcher and Saunders and Wells are very good in the outfield.
As I’ve chronicled previously, there are are very good position players to augment the current prospects on the scene now. Saunders and Seager have to be regarded as vanguards to that. Ackley and Smoak at this point despite their results at the major league level, the organization projects them as part of the future. Watching those two play, listening to scouts and looking at their numbers puts them into the category of hopeful. Jesus Montero dh-c needs to hit and defend both. If he hits he’ll stay, if Zunino shows early ability to be Buster Posey, Montero does not have much of anywhere to play.
New players to the team include Kendrys Morales dh-1b, Michael Morse lf-dh-1b, Raul Ibanez ph-lf, Jason Bay lf. Young players in camp include catchers Mike Zunino and John Hicks, short stops Brad Miller and Nick Franklin 2b-3b-rf Stefen Romero. New starting pitchers include Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer. If the team is to make a jump into positive territory from a win loss perspective, these pitchers need to supplant the guys after Felix’s name in the starting rotation. If the Orioles past is any prologue, it will happen over several seasons. But when they get an opportunity this spring in mlb games and they do well, they will keep running them out there until they fail.
None of the off season guys brought in so far figures to be on the team next year. Morales and Morse will be free agents and if they put up large numbers it as not been the Mariner’s MO to resign free agents at their peak. For the younger position players to stick will require a real opportunity on the part of the Mariners. Ackley and Smoak have been allowed to fail time after time in the hopes that they will adjust because so much is invested in them. Other players that is not so. Some of the young players in camp have shown so far to be terrific. The jump to success in major league baseball is full of valleys and difficulty, examine how long it took Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse in the Mariner system to make it. Over four seasons with the Mariners Mike Morse played in 107 games with 337 plate appearances. The Ms then traded him for a bag of balls. Before that Raul Ibanez played five seasons in Seattle and got 508 plate appearances.
Since leaving the Mariners and in Ibanez’s case coming back and leaving again, they have become good major league hitters, with power. At some level at least the first time the Mariners let Ibanez go and Morse go it has to be regarded as an organizational failure. Most player development guys want young players to play and play until they turn into gold. Most managers hate young players, see Eric Wedge as a prime example of that.
The more that Bay, Ibanez etc. play now the less good that is for the team to get competitive. The more younger guys, that can play, that have less than a pedigree as Ackley or Smoak and are blocked by situations like that the longer. It is not rocket science, but if you can’t recognize talent at the major league level, you will continue to get filched in trades and stunt the development of good young players.
If none of the good young starters are not here by July, that would have to be seen as a lack of progress by the Mariners. On the other hand some of them might make it out of camp.
Makes for some compelling stuff to watch.