Breaking Down the Roster Decisions

This week is the most stressful week for those of us in minor league baseball. You have to make sure you hit all your deadlines, and make sure everything works.

Compounding the stress is waiting on the roster. In the minor league side of the spring training complex, there is a meeting room where all roster discussions are made. They literally have a board with every players name on it. The board is kept under lock and key (I’m serious). I am sure the next few night’s they will be biting their nails trying to make some extremely tough decisions.

This has been a pretty eventful week though. Yesterday we learned that Brandon Maurer is the #4 starter in the Mariners rotation. The last time a Jackson pitcher jumped from Double-A to a major league rotation was Juan Cruz in 2001. That was when West Tenn was affiliated with the Chicago Cubs.

Taijuan Walker (AP Photo)

Taijuan Walker (AP Photo)

Rather than doing a roster prediction with about 60% guessing, here is what seems pretty clear to me.

The Jackson rotation more than likely feature five of the following:
RHP Taijuan Walker
RHP Chance Ruffin
LHP Anthony Fernandez
LHP James Gillheeney
LHP Roenis Elias
RHP Hector Noesi
RHP Taylor Stanton
RHP Trevor Miller

Obviously there could be a sleeper jumping into a spot. Maybe a RHP Jordan Shipers, but one would think it would come from that group. As Mike Curto pointed out in his blog, Tacoma is a mess right now. But, in a good way. You Tacoma fans have waited patiently and finally get to see the future.

But, could you wait a little longer? Maybe. Right now if RHP Jeremy Bonderman accepts a minor league assignment Tacoma’s rotation would have seven guys for five spots. (Jeremy Bonderman, Erasmo Ramirez, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, DJ Mitchell, Andrew Carraway and throw in Hector Noesi) Paxton has struggled some this spring, but I don’t seem him coming back to Jackson.

The back end of the games will be controlled by RHP Carson Smith. He has a great arm and could make a quick jump like Carter Capps did last year. Smith was in the 2011 draft class out of Texas State. RHP Jonathan Arias and RHP Stephen Kohlscheen should be top set-up guys. There is a chance you could see RHP Logan Bawcom back in Jackson as well. If he does, that would be an outstanding bullpen. It’s not Pryor and Capps, but that may never happen again. Also, expect to see Moises Hernandez (Felix’s older brother) in the pen.

Mike Zunino (Photo by Tim Evearitt)

Mike Zunino (Photo by Tim Evearitt)

Catching is interesting too. Eric Wedge confirmed yesterday that Mike Zunino would start in Tacoma. So, that leaves Brandon Bantz, Ronny Paulino and Jesus Sucre for one back-up spot. My bet is some trade partner out there is in need of a catcher. But, an excess of catching is a good problem to have.

That leaves John Hicks to open the season as Jackson’s catcher. Generals fans disappointment in not seeing Zunino should be short lived. John Hicks has hit .312 over his first two pro seasons and stole 22 bases last year for High Desert. He has great speed for a catcher. There are rumors that Hicks could be moved to a different position, but he may be one of the best defensive catchers in the system.

The outfield seems to be pretty clear. Some semblance of Francisco Martinez, Leon Landry, James Jones, Denny Almonte, Julio Morban and Abe Almonte will be in the outfield.

The Jackson infield looks to be a mix of old and new with Brad Miller more than likely coming back as the shortstop. If Rich Poythress opens in Triple-A (which he should) expect to see Steven Proscia at third and maybe Dennis Raben or Joe Dunigan at first base. Jack Marder would be a solid bet at second base with Gabe Noriega a solid backup. Nate Tenbrink is a possible candidate as well, but he’s had a great spring and deserves a shot in Tacoma.

So, that was basically me throwing paint at a wall. Hopefully it was as clear as mud.

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