The Mariners waited until after Monday's minor league finales to announce their full roster expansion, and the group is smaller than expected. Ryan Divish passed along the names last night. These players get a little less than a month to soak up big league experience, learn from veterans, and most importantly, get a major league salary. These guys will make more money in the next four weeks than they did their entire season in the minors.
James Paxton, LH SP.
Paxton is the first surprise. There was just one open spot on the 40-man roster, and Paxton now occupies it. Paxton's had an up and down year in Tacoma, struggling with the ability to go deep into games and consistency with his control. He also saw his strikeout rate drop below a batter per inning for the first time as a professional. Paxton was murder on lefties, but wasn't particularly effective versus right-handed hitting (.777 OPS against).
Paxton finished with a 4.45 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, and 8.1 K/9. Paxton's peripherals paint a better picture (3.55 FIP, 3.89 SIERA), but for one reason or another, Paxton runs a high BABIP over his career. This year he sat at .340, and his career mark in the minors is .335. Paxton's ability to generate swinging strikes has continued to decline, and he turns 25 in two months.
It's safe to say Paxton's star has considerably dimmed as a member of the big three pitching prospects, and it's surprising to me that he received this promotion. There's been quite a bit of debate over whether he'll end up in the bullpen or in the rotation, and while Paxton's future is simply in his own hands, this year wasn't particularly encouraging for his starting pitching prospects. He'll likely pitch out of the bullpen in Seattle for the remainder of 2013, and time will tell whether he will remain there going forward. I suspect that he will.
Chance Ruffin, RH RP/SP
Remember him? Ruffin came over in the Doug Fister trade as the PTBNL, a near MLB-ready reliever who was a closer candidate, and who could strike batters out with ease. Things didn't work out in the bigs, and Ruffin has been buried in the minors for two years. His 2012 was a disaster, and he got shelled all year in relief with Tacoma, had poor control, and couldn't strike anybody out. The Mariners went for a hail mary and moved him back to AA Jackson, where Ruffin worked as a starter until the middle of July.
Ruffin actually had some success starting in Jackson for a while. On June 10th, Ruffin carried a 2.80 ERA through 11 starts, and while the strikeouts were down, the control was better. Ruffin essentially switched to the Blake Beavan "here it is, hit it" method, and while that worked for a while, it eventually caught up to him. Ruffin struggled badly for the next month, but due to some roster shuffles made his way up to Tacoma in July. After two torched starts, Ruffin was switched back to the bullpen, where he's pitched in relief since.
Since being moved back to the pen, Ruffin has been terrific. His strikeouts are back up (19 in 20.2 innings), the control has returned (just three walks in the same sample), and the results are there too (1.74 ERA). It's time to start paying attention to Chance Ruffin again after his weird season, and that's why he's here. It's not too late to consider him a potential bullpen piece going forward, and seeing him face big league hitting again when he's hot will be an interesting test.
Carlos Triunfel, RH IF
Triunfel is back for a second cup of coffee, after his first cup didn't last very long or go very well. With the promotions of Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, Triunfel became lost in the mix, and was eventually shipped back down to AAA, where things went downhill. Triunfel picked it a bit towards the end, but it's another year of the same old thing from Triunfel, as the organization continues to wait for a breakout that doesn't seem likely to come. Low patience, low power, questionable defense - there's nothing new to report. Triunfel is going to play very much.
Hector Noesi, RH RP/SP
Spot starts, long relief, whatever. Noesi was terrible in Seattle, he's been terrible in Tacoma, and I'm not writing anything else about Hector Noesi.
I'm a bit surprised Blake Beavan isn't around, as teams often like to call up a bunch of long relief guys in September to get them work when games get out of hand. Noesi is that guy now, but still. Blake Beavan is better than Hector Noesi, and Blake Beavan isn't very good. The Mariners didn't give Carlos Peguero his annual merry-go-round ride, other than him getting kicked off before the rotation started in April. Peguero saw a fairly massive decline in production this year at age 26, but he's still on the 40-man. I suppose the team wants to give all the available at-bats to Abraham Almonte instead of Peguero, so this isn't really that surprising at all.
Arizona Fall League:
Also announced was the list of those going to the Arizona Fall League, which will include Danny Hultzen, Carson Smith, Stefen Romero, Chris Taylor, Patrick Kivlehan, Brandon Maurer, and Dominic Leone, who does not and will not play third.
Hultzen finally got some innings in on Sunday after being out of action since late June, and if would be tremendous if he could actually get some real work in before next season begins. No real surprises over the rest of the roster.