Tick, tick, tick. It's down to three weeks (and yes, we're counting!) until pitchers and catchers report. In the meantime, here are more answers to your latest round of questions about the Mariners. Thanks for the continued great response!
Why is Jack Wilson considered to be the Mariners' starting shortstop when the numbers and performance show Josh Wilson has done better? Is this because of his salary, potential or what?
-- Garrett B., Juneau, Alaska
Garrett, I'm not sure what numbers you're looking at that show Josh being better than Jack Wilson. Jack has obviously had injury issues since coming to Seattle, but he's a career .267 hitter with a .309 on-base percentage and a .372 slugging percentage. Josh comes in at .227/.281/.315. Even last year when Jack struggled, he hit .249/.282/.316 compared to Josh's .227/.278/.294.
Additionally, Jack Wilson is regarded as one of the premier defensive shortstops in the game, which is why general manager Jack Zduriencik traded for him two years ago to replace Yuniesky Betancourt and why he's still hoping to see him put together a full season. However, given Jack Wilson's lack of durability, shortstop is indeed going to be an interesting position to watch this spring.
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I think the Mariners will give new acquisition Brendan Ryan a chance to compete for the starting job in Peoria, Ariz., and if he beats out both Wilsons, they could use Adam Kennedy at second base until Dustin Ackley's promotion. So I don't think it's a done deal that either Wilson will be the Opening Day starter.
When is the 2011 MLB Draft? And don't the Mariners have the No. 2 pick? Who are some possible candidates?
-- John R., Seattle
The First-Year Player Draft will be June 6-8 and, indeed, Seattle picks second behind Pittsburgh. That'll be a big moment this year for the Mariners, with the chance to add one of the premier prospects in what is being billed as an excellent draft.
Most everyone expects Pittsburgh will take Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, though I'm sure the Mariners would love to grab the young slugger if he slips to them. Rendon is just coming back from a fractured ankle, but he hit .394 with 26 home runs and 85 RBIs last season while being named College Player of the Year. There is also a strong group of pitchers available, with UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole and TCU lefty Matthew Purke generally mentioned atop the list. And the Mariners will likely look hard at UConn outfielder George Springer as well.
Why does management seem so adamant about keeping Dustin Ackley in Triple-A to start the season? Fans want to see him play and have been waiting. Seems like they should get him in the lineup and let him grow.
-- Timothy W., Gig Harbor, Wash.
There are two factors with Ackley. Without question, he's a premier prospect, but he has just one season of Minor League ball under his belt and went through a considerable adjustment last year in moving to a new defensive position -- while also being exposed to the pro game for the first time. Ackley started very slowly in Double-A and got more comfortable as the season progressed. He hit .263 at Double-A West Tenn and .274 at Triple-A Tacoma. Not bad, but not out of this world either.
So while he dominated the Arizona Fall League over the offseason, there's reason to think that, at 22, he still needs a little more seasoning so he doesn't get overwhelmed and set back by being pushed to the big leagues too quickly. And there is also the matter of preserving a year of club control by not starting Ackley's Major League service time until June or so, which could mean having him for an extra season down the road before he becomes a free agent after six full years in the Majors. That's a strategy many teams employ, and it can make sense for a club building for the future.
For years, we've heard how National League players struggle at the plate in the American League and have seen it in Seattle. With our GM spending all that time in the NL and bringing so many players from there, how much has that affected the Mariners' offense the last couple years?
-- Tod B., Port Townsend, Wash.
Interesting question, Tod, and a theory often bounced around. But let's look closer. Most of the new Mariners who struggled last year were AL guys -- Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman grew up with the Angels and Milton Bradley spent six seasons with AL clubs.
In Zduriencik's first season, his primary non-pitching additions were Franklin Gutierrez (from Cleveland), Russell Branyan (who spent the first half of his career with Cleveland), Ken Griffey Jr. (he had a little AL experience somewhere before) and Jack Wilson (from Pittsburgh). There's so much movement between leagues that I don't think there's a dramatic difference, but regardless, Zduriencik's main moves to date haven't involved NL hitters, outside of Jack Wilson.
Can you speculate as to what the Mariners' rotation will look like on Opening Day, and what are the chances we see Erik Bedard and Michel Pineda as part of it?
-- Andrew L., Seattle
If all goes well in Spring Training, the Mariners would love to head into the season with a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Bedard and Pineda. Of course, there are question marks with Bedard's health and Pineda's youth. Which is why it'll be critical to see how guys like David Pauley, Luke French and newly signed Nate Robertson perform in the spring and whether anyone else steps up to provide further depth.
I just learned Jamie Moyer is a free agent and heard the Phillies might be looking to move Raul Ibanez. Any chance the Mariners would bring either of those guys back?
-- Alex S., Seattle
Moyer is indeed a free agent, but he also just had Tommy John surgery seven weeks ago and isn't going to be ready to pitch again until 2012 -- at the age of 49. If anybody can pull that off, it would be Moyer, but obviously he's not a candidate for anyone this season.
As for Ibanez, I don't think the Mariners are looking to trade for a 39-year-old whose numbers declined dramatically last year and is still under contract for $11.5 million this season. Both Ibanez and Moyer were good Mariners in their day, but it's time to look forward and build for the future with younger players who can become new fan favorites on their own.