Inbox: Which Mariners are ones to watch?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from fans

January 24th, 2019
Seattle Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi poses for photographers following a news conference after his signing with the team, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in Seattle. Kikuchi is the latest Japanese star to decide on calling Seattle home in the majors. The Mariners hope their new left-handed pitcher can help in their rebuild process. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)Elaine Thompson/AP

What should we be most excited about this year with the Mariners? Young players' development?
-- Lonnie G., Olympia, Wash.

In a word, yes. The speed of center fielder , who stole 40 bags for the Rays in 2018. The power potential of left fielder , who hit 30 homers for the Brewers two years ago. The transition of Yusei Kikuchi from Japan. The progress of athletic young shortstop and the ongoing development of Mitch Haniger and . This year is going to be all about the progress of that younger nucleus.
There hasn't been much to get excited about in terms of prospects the past few years, but the impending arrivals of highly regarded pitchers and Justin Dunn, and Minor League progress of outfielder Jarred Kelenic and holdovers Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Logan Gilbert and others makes this a far different scenario.
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I certainly understand the difficulty for fans in facing a "step back" season if the team isn't in playoff contention, but when it comes to potential storylines and up-and-coming players to get excited about, I think it could actually be pretty interesting if some of those youngsters start to shine.
Please tell me the roster reshaping of this offseason is not done?
-- Ben B., Bonney Lake, Wash.

Not sure how much more to expect, given that general manager Jerry Dipoto has already made nine trades and moved 10 guys who were prominent members of last year's club in exchange for younger prospects and payroll flexibility for the future. Most all of these deals had an eye more on the long-term than this coming season, but I do expect Dipoto to make a couple more additions to help this season.
He'll definitely add another experienced free-agent reliever on a one-year deal, much as he did with lefty and righty , to bolster that group. Don't look for a big-name guy, but someone they see as a good value who is looking for an opportunity in what has been a slow-moving market.
And there's always the possibility still of trading if the Mariners can find a match, though obviously that hasn't been easy with his $25 million remaining contract and the limited market for DHs.
Are the Mariners looking for a veteran catcher or going with what they have?
-- Ken M., Olympia, Wash.

That's the other move that wouldn't surprise me in the next few weeks as they're definitely open to adding a backup who could complement newly acquired , which would mean a right-handed hitter with some experience. They like returnee and his leadership and pitch-framing ability, and they also have brought in veteran on a Minor League deal. But added depth would be welcome and there is still a group of unsigned free agents, including a couple of former Mariners in and .
What do you think the chances are of Ichiro making the Major League roster for the season?
-- Katie W., Spokane, Wash.

If he stays healthy this spring, he's pretty much a lock to make the expanded 28-man roster for the Opening Series in Japan. But once the club cuts down to 25 players for the rest of the season, it's hard to picture a 45-year-old Ichiro earning playing time on a team that has so clearly stated its goal of using 2019 as a springboard to the future, so I'm going to say those odds would be slim. Of course, you never know how injuries might affect things, which is how Ichiro returned to Seattle last spring.
The Mariners still appear to need a true fourth outfielder. doesn't seem cut out for center or right field duty, while utility players Dylan Moore and seem more like infielders. Any chance Dipoto is still in the hunt for an outfielder?
-- Inigo O, Manila, Philippines

I think they're pretty set for now. Bruce actually played right field and he was a three-time All-Star there with the Reds, so he could fill in behind Haniger if needed. As for center, Smith figures to get the majority of time there and Haniger could slide over in a pinch. The Mariners are also very interested to see how , ranked as the club's No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, looks this spring now that he's fully recovered from a broken wrist while playing very well in Double-A Arkansas. And Eric Filia and a number of other youngsters will get good looks this spring as well.
Are the Mariners planning a celebration for Edgar Martinez?
-- Rebecca G., Puyallup, Wash.

Mariners fans will have a chance to celebrate Edgar Martinez's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the Aug. 9-11 weekend series against the Rays at T-Mobile Park, with an Edgar bobblehead night on Friday, a pregame ceremony and replica Hall of Fame plaque giveaway on Saturday and an Edgar Martinez Drive South replica street sign like the ones on the street to the south of the ballpark that was named in his honor in 2005.

Fans at the afternoon game on Sunday, July 21 against the Angels will also be able to watch the Cooperstown induction ceremonies live on the big screen at T-Mobile Park prior to the game.
If you were projecting the Opening Day lineup as the roster stands right now, what would it be?
-- JCL, Seattle

Surprisingly, they don't let me make out the lineup, but I'd go with something like:
Mallex Smith, CF
Dee Gordon, 2B
Mitch Haniger, RF
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
, 3B
Domingo Santana, LF
, 1B
Omar Narvaez, C
, SS