Editorials — April 5, 2015 10:57 — 0 Comments

Talking Mariners Baseball with Spike Friedman

Spike Friedman is that rare fellow invested personally and professionally in both art and sports, a quality we here at The Monarch find very endearing. Also MONDAY IS OPENING DAY FOR THE MARINERS! Given Spike’s background writing about sports for The Stranger and Grantland.com, we thought he would be the perfect person to talk with about the upcoming season. 

– Jake Uitti

 

I’m as excited as anyone about the Mariners lineup – well, except their first baseman… your thoughts?

Agreed, though we’ll see about that quartet of corner outfielders. My Zunino excitement is especially uncontrollable.

What is it about Zunino? The fact that he could hit 40 home runs and still bat .220??

30 home runs seems in play, and his discipline and eye this spring have been much improved. Catchers’ offense frequently develops late and he’s only 24… I could see him hitting 30 jacks while batting .250-.260 and, with his pitch framing, he’d be amongst our most valuable players.

What do you see as the biggest weakness for the team?

Aside from simply being snakebitten, depth is the biggest question for me. What happens when our carefully chosen platoon players are forced to become everyday players due to injuries? How are we going to really rest Austin Jackson and Mike Zunino as much as they’ll need? Tacoma is relatively barren, our best prospects are two years away. This is a great team if healthy, but that’s a big if.

There is the philosophy that a team doesn’t need to be complete when the season starts, that it should wait, see which teams are in the tank and what players they’re willing to give up cheap. I am hoping the Mariners have this in mind for first base, maybe a relief pitcher or sixth starter and a backup platoon player. Is this something you’ve given much thought to? 

I think first base is a real question; Logan Morrison isn’t a superstar when healthy and he’s rarely been able to make it through a full season. I think Rickie Weeks is an interesting addition, and could get a healthy amount of innings there. And there’s always Jesus Montero lurking in Tacoma.

I don’t like the idea of relying on trades to fill out a roster; the cost of getting a player for half a season’s worth of production is often too high. That said, getting a bullpen arm or a corner infielder if we’re in the hunt and have the need is definitely something I expect the team to be aggressive in pursuing.

Agreed, Weeks is someone I think a lot of fans will be paying attention to. CF James Jones caught my eye last year as someone who’s young, could help now and maybe is underrated – are there any sleepers you’re watching?

Aside from the obvious – Walker, oh my god, Walker! – Jones is a good one. His bat will need to develop more for him to be anything beyond a – knock on wood unnecessary – injury replacement for Jackson.

Mostly though the prospects I’m following are ones I don’t expect to make it to the bigs this year. Maybe Danny Hultzen will, depending on health. Alex Jackson is a monster prospect, but he’s also a baby, and even the most aggressive schedule for him is a mid-season call-up next year. Ketel Marte is also interesting, if only because he projects to be the next briefly great and then confusingly mediocre Mariners infielder. There’s been a long and infuriating line of those guys…

Alright… you have the floor… give me the breakdown on Taijuan Walker. What should my expectations be and what should I be looking for?

Taijuan Walker is the best pitching prospect the Mariners have had since Felix Hernandez, and oh my god does his repertoire look like that of Felix Hernandez. He hits 96 with his fastball, 90 with his change, and he has a great curve. He is great. But I, during the course of this Q&A, read an article from Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs (the best baseball writer on the goddamn planet) talking about Walker’s inconsistent release point. Which is to say, Walker’s repertoire and physical skillset is already elite, but he has a ton of room to develop this year. He’s fooling guys in spring training, but if his release point is consistently inconsistent in a way that tips his pitches, he’ll hit a rough patch when teams catch on.

Okay, let’s end this by talking about the M’s Manager, Lloyd McClendon. What is your level of confidence in him to lead this team to the playoffs, especially after such a promising season last year?

I think Lloyd is a great manager for this team. He understands platoons, his bullpen usage is excellent, he seems ready to give Austin Jackson the rest he’s going to need in order to have a rebound year. That’s pretty much all you can ask of a manager. He also has a gruff yet accessible style that most great managers have. That said, how many wins is McLendon worth? 1? Maybe 2-3? Not a lot. THAT said though, how close are the Mariners projected to be in the AL West dvision race? 1 game ahead of the Angels? Tied? And they have a pretty good manager of their own. So that 1-2 game swing might make all the difference.

Bio:

Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

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