10 Mariners to Watch this Spring

It will be a much different Mariners team that hits the field this Spring. Gone is Mike Cameron in centerfield. Gone is Carlos Guillen at shortstop. Gone is Arthur Rhodes. In their place is a cast of new faces, which will make up some of the Top 10 Mariners to Watch this Spring.

On a team-by-team basis, Spring Training means almost nothing. It is not unusual to see the team with the worst Spring record go on to be one of the best teams in the regular season. However, on an individual basis, it can mean a lot. Some players use the time between late February and early April to advance their skills at a new position or adjust to a new hitting style. Some pitchers, meanwhile, will work on a new pitch or pick-off move. Here are 10 Mariners to keep an eye on this Spring.

Ben Davis
Davis appears to be a better hitter when he is more aggressive, yet often in his two seasons in Seattle he became passive and lost his aggressiveness at the plate, falling into slumps. If he can show more consistency at the plate, he will have a much better chance of taking over as the primary catcher for the M's.

Raul Ibanez
Ibanez's extra base hits dropped dramatically in 2003 thanks in part to his higher groundball/flyball ratio. He'll need to get more lift on his hits in order to boost the homeruns. If he can improve that without adding an upper-cut to his swing, the power could return.

Scott Spiezio
Spiezio has not entered a season as the full-time third baseman since his time in the minors, where he was excellent defensively. He has spent parts of each year of his career there with little success. Given the entire off-season to work on his defense at third, however, Spiezio is sure to improve and regain his minor-league form. Keep an eye on his first step and overall range during Spring to gage how well he'll do during the year.

Randy Winn
Winn needs to fill the defensive shoes of Mike Cameron in center field, which will be both highly scrutinized and incredibly key to the season. He was an average center fielder in 2002 with the Devil Rays and above-average in left last year, and will work on regaining his form in center during the Spring. Look for him to cheat towards left to help Raul Ibanez while Ichiro Suzuki covers more ground in right.

Jamie Moyer
At 41, Moyer appears to be defying age. However, he may be starting to lose some of his control that has allowed him to succeed. He must now work harder than ever to maintain his command, which will allow him to anchor the M's staff yet again. Look for Moyer to spend as much time this Spring tutoring the younger pitchers as he spends ironing out the wrinkles in his own pitching motion.

Rafael Soriano
Even though he will miss the majority of the Spring with a strained oblique muscle, when he comes back Soriano will definitely be one to watch. He spent the off-season in the Dominican Winter League working on his off-speed pitches and during Spring Training he will do the same. The development of his slider and change will not only help him dominate in relief, but if they advance enough they could lead to his future in the rotation.

Travis Blackley
Like Clint Nageotte, Blackley is working with Bryan Price for the future. The Australian southpaw struggled against lefties in 2003 and will need to improve that aspect of his game. If he can hold major league hitters down in his time in camp, it will speak well for his future in the rotation.

Clint Nageotte
Nageotte has no chance to make the team out of Spring Training but his time with the team will be very valuable. He needs to learn to mix in his dominating slider instead of relying on it. During the Spring he will work with Price and what he learns will hopefully help him develop into the dominating pitcher some believe he can be.

George Sherrill
Sherrill is coming off a dominating 2003. Everywhere he pitched, from the Independent League to Double-A to the winter leagues, he mowed down the opposition with incredible ease. If he can continue to impress during Spring he may very well be awarded with the final spot in the bullpen.

Bob Melvin
As a rookie manager in 2003, Melvin hesitated to make the bold decision when the time called for him to do so. Coming into 2004, he should be much more comfortable and will hopefully see the team as his. He will surely manage the game in a more unorthodox style during the Spring than he would be during the regular season, but what he does could be a sign of some things to come.


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