Analysis

Attempting to Nail Down the Mariners’ 30-Man Opening Day Roster

With 10 days to go until Opening Day and a few of the Mariners' key pieces just now returning from COVID-19 protocol, Seattle's initial 2020 roster is far from set in stone.

Let’s start this whole thing off by saying that Jarred Kelenic should not – and will not – make the Mariners’ Opening Day roster. No matter how “ready” he may have appeared in yesterday’s intrasquad game, Seattle is not going to burn a year of service time on perhaps the future face of their franchise just to get him on the field right away.

Blindly assuming the MLB season will be played to completion, Kelenic will likely be in uniform as a Mariner at some point in the next couple months, and I’ve even changed my stance on his debut coming as late as mid-September; I think it’ll be earlier now. But the reality of the situation is that Kelenic still has less than 100 plate appearances above High-A ball, and while he’s proven to be fairly comfortable hitting against Major League caliber pitchers in Summer Camp, the likeliest scenario is that he, like so many before him, will struggle to adjust to the highest level of the game. So why waste an entire year of service time just for that in this shortened season?

With that out of the way, let’s get into the rest of the roster. This morning, Scott Servais told members of the Seattle media that their initial roster plans have them carrying 17 pitchers and 13 positional players to Houston on July 24. This will include a starting rotation of six pitchers rather than the traditional five and a bullpen of 11 arms.

Starting Pitchers

Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Taijuan Walker, Justus Sheffield, Kendall Graveman, Justin Dunn

On Saturday, ESPN 710 Seattle’s Shannon Drayer confirmed the six names listed above will make up the Mariners’ initial starting rotation for the 2020 season. The one ‘surprise’ on the list, if you want to call it as such, is Justin Dunn’s inclusion over Nick Margevicius and Logan Gilbert, though it’s easy to see why the Mariners are going this route.

After that, not really much to see here.

Relief Pitchers

Art Warren, Yohan Ramirez, Nestor Cortes Jr., Erik Swanson, Taylor Williams, Brandon Brennan, Dan Altavilla, Taylor Guilbeau, Matt Magill, Carl Edwards Jr., Austin Adams

This is where things begin to get a little dicey. Gerson Bautista will likely miss the entire season with a flexor mass strain in his right elbow, Zac Grotz has just arrived at Summer Camp, and Yoshihisa Hirano – the Mariners’ projected closer – has yet to be seen in Seattle, leading to the unfortunate assumption that he’s in the recovery process from COVID-19.

It’s all but a certainty at this point that Hirano won’t be ready to go by July 24 and there’s no real need to rush Grotz, either, so the move here was to land on the 10 remaining relievers on Seattle’s 60-man roster with some form of MLB experience and their coveted Rule 5 selection in Yohan Ramirez. You could also throw Margevicius in that mix, though the plan may be to keep him on the taxi squad for now as an emergency starter.

There’s also the off chance that one of their more promising relief prospects, such as Sam Delaplane or Joey Gerber, could break camp with the team. But for now, the smartest decision from an organizational standpoint would be to take on the players that have already accrued MLB service time and wait a couple weeks to promote one of their young arms, unless their hand is forced.

Catchers

Tom Murphy, Austin Nola

Not really much to talk about here. If the Mariners carry three taxi squad players with them on the road, the new league rules mandate that one has to be a catcher, which will likely be one of Brian O’Keefe or Joe Hudson (sorry, Cal Raleigh fans). Neither player should ever see Seattle’s Major League roster in 2020, however, barring injury.

Infielders

Evan White, Daniel Vogelbach, Shed Long, Kyle Seager, J.P. Crawford, Dee Gordon, Tim Lopes

While there shouldn’t be a whole lot of debate about this group, there is the topic of Dee Gordon, who somehow still remains on the Mariners’ roster and appears all the more likely to break camp with the team as each day goes by. With Dylan Moore arriving in camp just yesterday and Tim Lopes likely to play a good deal of outfield this season, Gordon appears to be first in line to spell J.P. Crawford and Shed Long when needed.

Depending on what happens with the outfield situation, which I’ll get into in just a moment, Patrick Wisdom could sneak his way onto the roster as well. He’s gotten an extended look in Summer Camp thus far. Donovan Walton‘s also had an impressive camp.

Outfielders

Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith, Jake Fraley, Jose Marmolejos

Obviously Kyle Lewis is making this roster. So should Jake Fraley, even though he hasn’t seen much success in his live at-bats up to this point. The Mariners also seem to be high on Jose Marmolejos, with Jerry Dipoto saying on the intrasquad game broadcast Friday that he has a “great chance” to make the roster. Though Marmolejos is officially listed as an infielder by the Mariners, I don’t really see him playing much at first base, if at all, with White and Vogelbach there, so I’m putting him here as an outfielder.

The big question mark here is Mallex Smith, who just arrived in camp yesterday and won’t see any game action until Saturday. I feel really bad for Mallex. After missing the entirety of Spring Training in 2019, he went on to see a huge dip in production during the regular season. This year, he heads into Spring Training fully healthy and ready to go, then, of course, everything gets shut down. Now Summer Camp rolls along and he’s already missed half of it, forcing him to rush to get ready for July 24. He just can’t catch a break.

I’m not sure if he’ll be able to get ready in time, and even if so, what kind of effects could it have on his play?

Braden Bishop would seemingly be the benefactor of Smith’s potential exclusion from the initial roster, though the Mariners have given Lewis a lot of time in center field this past week and could roll with just two true outfielders to start things out and let Marmolejos, Austin Nola, Tim Lopes, and perhaps someone like Patrick Wisdom, Sam Haggerty, or Donovan Walton fill a corner outfield spot to start things out. At the very least, the Mariners have some flexibility to work with.

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