|Eric Wedge and Jack Zdurencik introduce Jesus Montero at Thursday's medi luncheon.|
Right now, based on comments by Wedge and Zdurencik, these are your Seattle Mariners and their length of service:
1B-Justin Smoak-2 yrs, 223 games, 886 PA .234/.323/.396
2B-Dustin Ackley-1 yr, 90 games, 376 PA .273/.348/.417
SS-Brendan Ryan-5 yrs, 538 games, 1826 PA .248/.313/.326
3B-Kyle Seager-1 yr, 56 games, 182 PA .258/.312/.359
LF-Mike Carp-3 yrs, 114 games, 419 PA .276/.326/.466
CF-Franklin Gutierrez-7 yrs, 681 games, 2486 PA .224/.261/.273
RF-Ichiro Suzuki-11 yrs, 1749 games, 8060 PA .272/.310/.375
Miguel Olivo-10 yrs, 996 games 3565 PA .224/.253/.388
John Jaso-3 yrs, 203 games 687 PA .224/.298/.354
Jesus Montero-1 yr, 18 games 69 PA .328/.406/.590
Likely role players
Chone Figgins-10 yrs,1178 games, 5090 PA .188/.241/.243
Casper Wells-2 yrs, 131 games.237/.317/.442
Stats from Baseball-Reference.com
Obviously there will be more players, but barring a significant trade or injury, these are likely the starters and significant bench players for 2012. Yes there will be more-some Luis Rodriguez, Chris Gimenez, Munenori Sasaki, and others could join this list, but this is likely the group of guys that will start.
If their incredible youth doesn't just jump out at you, put on your glasses. Five of the players on this list-Ackley, Seager, Carp, Wells and Montero have less than one full season's games. Because Carp and Wells will likely share LF, four positions are shared by very young players. Of the rest, Ichiro, Olivo, and Figgins are the only ones with 1,000 games played (actually Olivo is four games short, but I'll give it to him.) None of these three are coming off particularly memorable seasons. Add in Gutierrez, whose 2011 was a huge health disaster, and there's not a lot to cheer for.
But this is who we have. Zdurencik has stuck with his rebuilding plan, focusing on the farm, acquiring and developing minor league talent wherever possible. The M's have a long, slow climb to make to reach respectability, and this is just step two in what is likely to take a few more years. Wedge's job is to make this team more efficient at the plate and on the base paths, scoring more runs than the disastrous totals of 2010-11.
Whatever the accomplishments of kids on this roster, the Mariners farm system continues to get high marks from those publications that rate those systems and rising prospects. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked the Mariners prospects the highest in the major leagues with 329 points with his top 100 prospect lists. Jonathan Sickels at minorleagueball.com ranked the M's with the 4th best farm system in the game. Finally, Baseball America released their list of the top ten Mariners prospects. What does all this mean? Not a lot. It's still pitching heavy, but shortstop Nick Franklin remains in MLB.com's top 100 and Vinnie Catricala and Francisco Martinez, each potentially a third basemen, are ranked in the top ten by Baseball America. Zdurencik's goal to acquire young, team controlled talent through the draft, internationally and trades seems to be working. This year we get a glimpse to see whether it can produce on the field.
I think it's a tall order and will require patience on the part of fans ready to give up baseball for a monastery in Tibet. The M's will have to show some development from their youngsters, and improvement from their veterans. Wedge has already held a winter camp for nine of his players. Gutierrez looks healthier and Smoak looks leaner. He's already stated his preference to move Ichiro out of the leadoff spot in the order and to use Figgins as a supersub a la Mark McLemore in the M's glory years. It all sounds good, but we'll see. This is not a starting line up likely to drive M's fans back to Safeco in droves, but it certainly should be an interesting year.