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Projecting the Mariners’ 60-man roster

What a very 2020 phrase to type

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
who will it beeeee now
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

If you haven’t been keeping up with baseball recently—and who can blame you, really—the TL;DR version of what’s happening is this: yes, there will be a season of 60 games, and teams are allowed to have two groups of players, a 30-player roster and a 30-player taxi squad as a pool to draw from for players who are injured or test positive for the virus.

Something to note: after the first two weeks of the season, rosters will go from 30 to 28 for...reasons, I guess. Because pitchers magically won’t get hurt anymore after two weeks? Sure. That might impact how teams handle players like Mitch Haniger, who won’t be ready to begin the season, from all we’ve heard, but who the Mariners probably don’t want to place on the 45-day IL, which would essentially cost him the entire season. As a reminder, players who test positive for COVID-19 are moved to a special IL list with no determined end date and their numbers don’t count against a club’s roster limit.

While the rosters won’t be finalized officially until Sunday, we’re starting to hear some leaks of who might be included on those ranks, including a couple of surprising names. Here’s our best guess as to what the 60-player group might look like. A reminder: if you forgot that, say, Kendall Graveman is a Mariner, you can look back at any of our 40 in 40s, helpfully pinned on the front page of the site.

Projected 30-player roster:

Starting Pitchers (6):

Marco Gonzales, Kendall Graveman, Yusei Kikuchi, Taijuan Walker, Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield

No surprises in this group. The Mariners say they’ll be going with a six-man rotation to begin the season, and these are the likeliest six. Erik Swanson or maybe Nick Margevicius might also be paired up with someone like Dunn for spring training-like three-and-three starts.

Relievers (9):

Austin Adams, Dan Altavilla, Gerson Bautista, Brandon Brennan, Carl Edwards Jr., Yoshihisa Hirano, Matt Magill, Yohan Ramirez, Erik Swanson

Things get a little dicier here, especially because Austin Adams is back at full health and prepared to reclaim his spot. Yohan Ramirez, as a Rule 5 pick, must be on the active squad or be sent back to the Astros, so he’s a lock. Conventional wisdom says that teams will want to increase their bullpens in this weirdo season, especially with two players being taken away two weeks in, so this number could be higher if they subtract from the infield group, with the likeliest candidates to be added players who are already on the 40-man: Nick Margevicius, Zac Grotz, Art Warren, etc.

Catchers (2):

Tom Murphy, Austin Nola

Infield (8):

J.P. Crawford, Dee Gordon, Shed Long, Kyle Seager, Daniel Vogelbach, Evan White, Tim Lopes, Dylan Moore

The infield group looks a little thick but remember that this group encompasses Vogelbach at DH most of the time, and Tim Lopes and Dylan Moore are super-utility players who can man the outfield as well, where the position group is a little thinner. For that reason, we’re projecting Patrick Wisdom, who is primarily a corner infielder, to the taxi squad. Donovan Walton is also a name in consideration here.

Outfield (5):

Braden Bishop, Jake Fraley, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith

There’s no reason to leave any of these guys off. With their ages (all in the mid-20s at least) and developmental curves (all of them have conquered the low-minors), they all need to be, if not in big-league games, exposed to the big league club on a daily basis. Mitch Haniger will presumably be on the 10-day IL at worst, meaning he’ll occupy a taxi squad spot (that is for now an assumption, but seems like the correct one).

Projected 30-player taxi squad:

The 40-man players (8):

RHP Nick Margevicius, LHP Nestor Cortez, RHP Zac Grotz, RHP Art Warren, LHP Taylor Guilbeau, RHP Taylor Williams, INF Donovan Walton, INF Sam Haggerty, 3B Patrick Wisdom

These players should all be first in line in case anything goes wrong with their counterparts above. Notice the alarming lack of outfielders in this group, however.

Pitchers (10):

Logan Gilbert, Sam Delaplane, Aaron Fletcher, Wyatt Mills, Ljay Newsome, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Brandon Williamson, Isaiah Campbell, Juan Then

This is the hardest group to predict, as it’s such a deep group in the organization as a whole, but also because the team is balancing developing prospects against having fill-ins ready to go in case pitchers on the 30-man get hurt, which they almost assuredly will. Gilbert is a lock and one of the few top prospects who might actually see big-league time this season (unless things go way sideways, which, to be fair, they might). Delaplane, Fletcher, and Mills all have AFL and Double-A experience and as relievers, would also be well-positioned to fill in for the big-league club if necessary. Newsome doesn’t have as extensive Double-A experience but was getting looks with the big-league club this spring training. The remaining group of five is made up of the organization’s top pitching prospects, who won’t see game action but would be there for development purposes: Kirby, Williamson, Campbell, Then, and Hancock. This is an unsatisfying arrangement, though, as it leaves off a boatload of pitchers who have a legitimate shot at being big-league contributors: Penn Murfee, Jack Anderson, Darren McCaughan, Anthony Misiewicz, as well as Joey Gerber, who has a very high ceiling and might nab a spot instead of one of the MLB-adjacent relievers above (another idea: the team only carries three catchers and ups the pitching number by one, which seems more likely).

Catchers (4):

Joseph Odom, Joe Hudson, Brian O’Keefe, Cal Raleigh

Catchers have an extra cache under these rules; the team will be allowed to bring three taxi squad players with them on the road, although one must be a catcher (who is also allowed to serve as the bullpen catcher). This is a bigger group, but the Mariners’ perilous catching depth necessitates hanging on to all of these fellows. Odom is the one who’s been with the organization the longest and is well-liked by the coaching staff and the best defensive catcher of the group, but any of them could also play some first base or DH in instrasquad games. It’s possible this number is three instead of four to make room for another pitcher.

Infielders (3):

Noelvi Marte, Jose Marmolejos, Jordan Cowan (plus Walton, Haggerty, Wisdom)

The big surprise here is Marte, who is reportedly going to be included despite not having played for any US-based affiliates yet. This was a key development year for Marte, though, in both learning the language and developing defensively to go along with his elite bat, so it makes sense that the Mariners want him exposed to a stateside baseball environment. Marmolejos impressed the team in an abbreviated spring by all accounts. Cowan, Haggerty and Wisdom all occupy the realm of plausible replacement-level depth and sit on the taxi squad waiting for a call instead of, in normal circumstances, Tacoma. Walton is likely the first up out of this group, having positional versatility that Wisdom doesn’t have and a track record from a brief but solid cup of coffee with the Mariners last season.

Outfielders (5):

Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Luis Liberato, Zach DeLoach, Eric Filia

File under: fun things you won’t see. Like Marte, the twin Js are hanging with the big boys to get experience they wouldn’t get otherwise in a non-existent minor league season, but won’t see game action. The same goes for DeLoach, the Mariners’ second-round draft pick in 2020 who recently signed his contract with the team. Filia and Liberato are the most seasoned in-house prospects who could fill in at the big league level if something catastrophic happens to that position group.

This is just a rough framework but it reveals something that wasn’t initially clear: taxi squad players likely won’t be seeing big-league action, at least not if the way clubs are constructing their taxi squad rosters is any indication. In addition to the Mariners, the Tigers and Dodgers are both reportedly putting top prospects onto their taxi squads. Clearly, the taxi squads—which have seemingly very regimented rules regarding their usage—are being used more as development opportunities than talent pools to be heavily drawn from (which, good, because if clubs were constantly having to pull players from taxi squads to replace injured players or those who tested positive for the virus, that’s probably a pretty clear sign that teams shouldn’t be playing baseball). It’s also another indication that the minor league season, despite the league dragging their feet to announce it, has gone from mostly dead to fully dead, and teams are looking to alternate routes to provide development for top prospects. This makes the idea of an expanded AFL even more of a juicy possibility, as teams would likely be more willing to send top prospects who haven’t had the strain of non-scrimmage games to cut their teeth against equal competition.

We’ll update this article if we get confirmation on any new names added to the squad, and will publish the complete list when that is released. In the meantime, I’ll be out on Tacoma’s Cheapskate Hill marking off six-foot distances, because that should be a popular spot this summer (if you know, you know).