Growing pains suck. They're most oftentimes.....well, painful. Hence the name. I have a buddy who lives in another state, the kind of best-friend-in-abstentia that you have to keep up with over the phone. We'll call him..... Erik. Because that his name, and he probably doesn't give a rip if I use his actual name. Besides, I've already typed it and it's early in the morning and I just don't feel like going back and changing it now.
Erik and I live busy lives, so the conversations happen less often than they used to, which lends itself to marathon sessions catching up and breaking down every sports team we love. Prior to opening day for the Mariners this year our basic assessment of the potential for the M's roster as currently constructed went something like this:
Me: "This year is going to suck."
Erik: "Yeah but it's going to suck less."
Me: "Right, because it's going to be YOUNG guys sucking this time instead of old guys."
The point is, for the first time in about 15 years the Mariners are being built the right way. Now, before you get your blood to a boil go back and read exactly what I wrote. I didn't say they are being built with the right PLAYERS, that remains to be seen. But they are finally being built the right WAY. With patience, shrewd trades, and a commitment to scouting and building a quality farm system through the draft and a significant commitment to the international market.
If you're one of those "Mariner fans" who has seen the team play this year and thinks to yourself "They suck, they have always sucked, they will always suck because Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong......" then go ahead and stop reading now. This post is for the passionate, loyal Mariner fan who sees the signs of progress, the flashes of our young bats knocking the ball around and playing with intensity and a fervor. This is for the Mariner fan with hope.
My contention is that this will be the last full rebuilding year. General Manager Jack Zduriencik and his staff have gotten a good, extended look at our key, core young players. This next offseason will be about identifying and acquiring a significant piece or two to try and catapult this roster into competitiveness. This is my attempt to project what the opening day roster could look like next year with a key move or two and the expected development of a few more of those young-guys-on-the-way.
Take it or leave it, but ideally you'll want to debate it. If you agree with how this looks let me know. If you disagree, let me know too, but have something to back it up with other than "Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong...." Besdies, if that's you... I told you to stop reading two paragraphs ago!
1. Dustin Ackley, 2B
2. Casper Wells, RF
3. Kyle Seager, 3B
4. BJ Upton, CF
5. Jesus Montero, DH
6. Justin Smoak, 1B
7. Michael Saunders, LF
8. Mike Zunino, C
9. Nick Franklin, SS
Wells hitting second? I'm not sure about that, but it's too high for Upton, and you need to break up the lefty's at the top of the order. Seager would be ideal......if he hit right handed. Ultimately Franklin could be a great fit in the 2-hole as a switch hitter with speed, but as a 20-year old rookie he needs the soft landing of hitting 9th until he's ready for a bigger role.
No Ichiro? Remember, this is my ideal lineup. I don't want Ichiro on this team at all, in any role. It's time to move on. Wells, Saunders and Upton in the outfield is outstanding defensively and has some pop. It probably too early for Zunino, but with the new signing rules he'll get nearly a full minor league season this year. He's an advanced college bat and one of those rare college catchers who called his own game. It's possible.
Starting Pitching Rotation:
LH: Charlie Furbush
LH: Lucas Luetge
RH: Tom Wilhelmsen
RH: Stephen Pryor
RH: Carter Capps
RH: Blake Beavan
So there you go. I won't project the bench, that's just.... boring.
Realistically, there would be another new name or two. I expect Jack Z. to acquire another hitter or arm through trades rather than just relying on free agency. But to me, the most exciting part of this snapshot is it's built mostly around players that are currently on our 40-man roster. It just goes to show you that the pieces are being put in place. I could do another post looking at 2014 or 2015 and it would have a whole new set of names that many of you haven't heard before.
The bottom line is that however you feel about Jack Z's efforts (or lack therof) to build the major league roster, he has acquired more young talent in the last 3 years than the Mariners as an organization acquired in the previous 10.
The growing pains....... should be worth it in the end.
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