The past few seasons in Peoria have seen some relatively low-profile players -- some true longshots -- make big enough impressions that they ended up cracking the opening day roster for Seattle and being impact guys for the entire season. Two years ago it was big right-hander Michael Pineda, now of the New York Yankees, and last season it was a couple of left-handed relievers in Charlie Furbush and Rule 5 draftee Lucas Luetge. This year Seattle is seeing very strong performances from starting pitcher Brandon Maurer and outfielder Julio Morban, and the impression they seem to be making on the big league staff could have them playing in Seattle sooner rather than later.
Following a strong four inning appearance on Thursday in which he earned his second win of the spring, Maurer is now sporting an ERA under 1 (0.90) and the big righty has struck out 11 hitters in his 10 innings in Cactus League play. The left-handed hitting Morban had a loud two home run game with a couple of deep drives on Friday in an M's victory, and although he was optioned to minor league camp following that performance, the just-21 outfielder posted five extra base hits and walked four times in putting up a .982 OPS in his 13 games of big league action this spring.
Maurer and Morban, who were both added to the Mariners' 40-man roster for the first time in their careers back on November 20th, don't figure to break spring as starters for the club (although Maurer does still have an outside shot at that), the two prospects that were once under the radar have certainly piqued the interest of manager Eric Wedge. Wedge told MLB.com's Greg Johns about Maurer, "So far we've seen all good things." The fact that all of the 'Big Three' were sent down and Maurer remained in big league camp says a lot about where the club sees him right now. Speaking about Morban, Wedge said to Johns, "He has a nice swing, he has a nice approach at the plate, he's focused and he's had a great camp for us. This is a guy who came in here and made quite an impression."
Again, those impressions don't mean that Mariners fans should expect to see Maurer and Morban playing regularly in Seattle in the early part of 2013, but as the past few seasons have shown us, Spring Training does matter. And players that have stepped up in Peoria -- like Pineda, Furbush and Luetge in the past, and like Maurer and Morban this season -- remain in the forefront of the team's mind when the final roster decisions are being made and when help is needed shortly down the road. So don't be surprised if it is Maurer that is the first MiLB starter that cracks the Seattle roster this year, and don't be surprised if Morban is up in 2013, too -- possibly even before September.
Maurer (12) and Morban (16) were each in the SeattleClubhouse Top-20 prospects this past winter, but the progress they have already shown from the end of 2012 to this spring have undoubtedly moved them up the list of the best prospects in Seattle's system. And they appear even more likely now to be a couple more impact prospects that the Mariners can look forward to contributing at the big league level soon.
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