JOE FANN

Fann: 6 Mariners who have improved odds of making opening day roster

Mar 3, 2023, 11:37 AM | Updated: 11:38 am

Mariners Prelander Berroa...

Mariners RHP Prelander Berroa pitches against the San Diego Padres on Feb. 24, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There have been a few interesting developments throughout the first few weeks of spring training that may have an impact on the Mariners opening day roster.

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For starters, I mistakenly assumed that Tommy La Stella’s roster spot was secure after he signed a big-league deal this offseason. However, Mike Salk reminded me on air Friday that the Mariners haven’t actually paid him anything yet and owe him just the big league minimum should he make the team.

Now that he’s been injured to start the spring with seemingly no expectation of a return in the near future, there are a handful of names who now have increased odds at making the team. That individual would assumingly join Tom Murphy, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty and AJ Pollock as the team’s position player reserves.

Additionally, a pair of pitching prospects have made early headlines and could force themselves onto the roster. Remember, this is what happened with Matt Brash a year ago when he won the No. 5 starting job coming out of spring training. That example is also relevant as a reminder that there’s no harm in sending guys back to the minors for more seasoning. Brash ended up returning to Seattle and serving as a key cog out of the bullpen and enjoyed immense postseason success.

1. C/OF Cooper Hummel

The Mariners are already thin in the infield as Moore and Haggerty are the current backups at second base, third base and shortstop. La Stella’s greatest attribute was as a depth piece at all four infield spots. But I’m more than OK with leaving La Stella off the roster even if he does get healthy. He’s posted back-to-back seasons with a sub-100 wRC+ and he just turned 34.

I’d prefer having someone with a bit more intrigue and upside. I think Hummel has some of that, and he’d also give Seattle a third catcher on the roster. Hummel hit his first homer of the spring and has two hits in seven at bats thus far.

It certainly would be nice to see him emerge as a quality return in the offseason trade with the Diamondbacks that sent Kyle Lewis to Arizona.

2. OF Cade Marlowe

Marlowe remains just 25 years old and has produced at every level of the minor leagues. He has two hits in 10 at bats this spring and both were for extra bases. One was a long ball and the other was a triple that illustrated his immense speed. That’s a trait Seattle’s roster is short on apart from Julio Rodríguez, Moore, and Haggerty. Marlowe is sure to see enough at-bats throughout March to make his case for a roster spot.

3. 3B/1B Colin Moran

Moran has had some success at the big league level, posting a pair of campaigns with a wRC+ of more than 100 (2018 and 2020 in Pittsburgh). He has four seasons with double digit home runs as well. He’d be the backup at both third base and first base if he were to make the roster.

So far this spring Moran has two hits in eight at-bats, including one double.

4. 1B/OF Evan White

I know a lot of Mariners fans would love to see White break camp with the Mariners, but I just don’t see it. In fact, I believe it would be irresponsible for Seattle to keep White on the Opening Day roster. White has just 104 at-bats over his last two seasons and missed all of 2022 with hip flexor and sports hernia injuries.

He needs everyday reps and to put his body through the wear and tear of a baseball season. Even making it through April in Triple-A Tacoma with a clean bill of health would be a confidence boost for White to feel like he’s made it through his injury woes.

White would be one Ty France injury away from becoming an everyday starter for the Mariners, and his expanded versatility to the outfield would put him in competition with Marlowe, Taylor Trammell and others as injury replacements in those spots.

If White is able to produce at the plate and remain healthy in the minors, then he’ll assuredly be given his shot in the bigs sometime in 2023.

5. RP Prelander Berroa

Nobody has received more acclaim this spring than Berroa. Seattle acquired the power-armed righty in a deal that sent infielder Donovan Walton to the Giants. He remains just 22 years old despite being in the minor league system since 2017.

Berroa has dazzled through four innings this spring with five strikeouts, one hit allowed, two walks and no earned runs. His powerful fastball is complemented by a devastating slider.

MLB.com lists Berroa as Seattle’s No. 15 prospect. I’m sure Jerry Dipoto would prefer to give Berroa more innings in the minors, but that can remain an option if he stumbles for the first month in Seattle.

6. RP Bryce Miller

The same logic goes for Miller. I know Dipoto envisions a mid-season callup for Miller, but the American League (and the AL West more specifically) is too deep and too talented to not keep your top 13 arms out of spring training.

Seattle’s sluggish start in 2022 cost them any shot of keeping up with the Astros. If guys like Miller and Berroa are going to show the team they’re worthy of roster spots with dominant springs, the Mariners will have no choice but to keep them.

So far Miller has made one appearance, throwing two scoreless innings with a pair of punchouts.

Not mentioned: Leonys Martín and Kole Calhoun

I could have listed these two, but the odds are so astronomical for them to make the roster (in my opinion) that it would have felt disingenuous.

Dipoto: 4 Mariners who can ‘change the way our team is perceived’

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