I know I've promised to do this in the past, but since I've got a two-hour flight to Salt Lake City, I figured I could knock a few out of the park .... see what I did there.
I actually could call this ... "Answers to BBNate420's questions ..." He definitely comes close to blog commenter of the year award, but since "wabubba67" bought me a fantastic burger at Cheese Burgers and Cold Beers in Scottsdale yesterday, he's leading the race for blog commenter of the year award.
From BBNate420: Do you think Erasmo replaces Beavan once his arm issues are past him? Assuming Beavan pitches like he has the last few years and Maurer is able to be competent.
The Mariners certainly have options if Beavan or Maurer struggles. Wedge really likes Beavan. He likes the attitude, the work ethic and the willingness and desire to get better. He'd really love Beavan if his fastball moved a little more. Wedge trusts Beavan's durability and his ability to compete and work even when he's getting outs. Ramirez has a similar mindset, but he's now had arm issues - though minor ones - the last few years. A manager and organization need to know a pitcher can make his scheduled start every five days. Ramirez is going to have to prove it. That being said, if Beavan struggles and Ramirez is outstanding in Tacoma, it's an easy switch to make.
As for Maurer, I think he will be fine. He's probably got better stuff than Beavan or Ramirez.
It's nice for the Mariners that they actually have some options.
From BBNate420: Has Danny Hultzen been pitching in minor league camp? Will James Paxton go to AAA?
Hultzen has been pitching in minor league gamp and pitching very well. He seems to have his fastball command figured out and his second stuff is outstanding. There is a chance he could push his way into the rotation by June. I have some doubts about Joe Saunders' effectiveness.
Rainiers announcer and TNT contributor Mike Curto and I were discussing Paxton's future. I thought he would be in Double A Jackson with Taijuan Walker to start the season. But Curto seems to think that Paxton, now 24, is a little old for the Double A level and that he will be in the Rainiers rotation. A lot of this depends on Jeremy Bonderman. The Mariners have asked the veteran right-hander to go to Tacoma and start for a while to build his arm strength and show he can bounce back every five days. Bonderman has yet to decide whether he will do that or not.
If Bonderman goes to Tacoma, he'd join Ramirez, Hultzen, Hector Noesi (sorry Curto) and Andrew Carraway in the rotation. That would keep Paxton out. If Bonderman decides to go back to retirement, or if the Mariners drop Noesi to Double A (it's rumored as a possibility) then Paxton could be there. It also depends if the Mariners want to continue to use D.J. Mitchell as a starter as well.
From BBNate420: Ryan, any clue where Zunino starts? Is it AAA for sure? I’m assuming he has no chance of making the 25.
Eric Wedge said on a radio interview with Mitch Levy that Zunino is headed to Triple A Tacoma. So that's good for the Rainiers. Zunino looks like he's ready to go there. But don't be surprised if he doesn't dominate. Going to Triple A is a difficult adjustment for pitchers. Good hitters just aren't going to see fastballs in fastball counts. There's a lot of veteran guys, who have pitched in the big league and legitimate secondary stuff that they will throw in any count.
My guess is that Jesus Sucre will be his back-up in Tacoma. Meanwhile, John Hicks, who impressed during this spring, will be the starting catcher at Double A Jackson with Brandon Bantz as his back-up.
And Ronny Paulino, who was signed by the team as a minor league free agent, probably will be released.
Moo: Ryan, do you have a sense yet if how good the M’s are (or are not) likely going to be thus year?
Well, Moo, I have a sense they will be better. There are legitimate hitters at the 3-4 spots with Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse. Justin Smoak appears to have some things figured out with his swing (yes, that's been written prematurely before). Franklin Gutiererrez is healthier than in the past (not hard to do). The line-up will actually have legitimate feel to it, instead of a pieced together unit with guys batting out of position.
The pitching is a concern. After Felix Hernandez, there are a lot of unknowns. Iwakuma, Beavan and Maurer, don't even have 100 starts combined. Saunders is Saunders. There are times where he will be efficient and other times where he will get shelled. We still don't know how the new Safeco Field fences will play.
Right now, I'm thinking about 80-82 wins.