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Inbox: Prospects to watch at Spring Training

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from Seattle fans
January 20, 2020

SEATTLE -- With just three weeks until pitchers and catchers report, let's get to your questions in the latest Mariners Inbox. Any chance we’ll see some top prospects play in the spring like Jarred Kelenic or Cal Raleigh? I remember seeing Jake Fraley and Shed Long **quite a bit last

SEATTLE -- With just three weeks until pitchers and catchers report, let's get to your questions in the latest Mariners Inbox.

Any chance we’ll see some top prospects play in the spring like Jarred Kelenic or Cal Raleigh? I remember seeing Jake Fraley and Shed Long quite a bit last spring?
-- Kyle R., Seattle, Wash.

If you want to see the prospects in Peoria, Ariz., you’re in luck. This will be the spring of opportunity for the Mariners’ young studs, and while the official list of invitees to Major League camp won’t be announced until later this week, general manager Jerry Dipoto has already said he plans to have nearly all the top prospects in camp, other than last year’s draftees and international signees.

Mariners' Top 30 Prospects list

Particularly in the early Cactus League games, that should mean plenty of opportunity to see Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez in the outfield, Raleigh behind the plate and Logan Gilbert and other youngsters on the mound. And, of course, Evan White, Kyle Lewis, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and Fraley are still considered prospects as well. That group should figure prominently in the Mariners’ plans during both spring and the regular season.

Is there any chance for Kelenic to make the team with a strong Spring Training?
-- Rory L., Moscow, Idaho

Funny you should ask. That is a question the Mariners’ top prospect himself posed to Dipoto this winter when he was in Seattle. The plan is for Kelenic to open the year at Double-A Arkansas, which is where he played the final month of 2020 after strong showings at Class-A West Virginia and Advanced-A Modesto.

Watch Kelenic use a Frisbee as target practice

The 20-year-old wondered if he batted a perfect 1.000 in Cactus League games, would that change the team’s thinking? Dipoto told Kelenic they’d have that discussion if indeed he pulled it off, but that story is more an illustration of the young outfielder’s confidence than a realistic scenario. Kelenic will open the year in Arkansas, and if he performs well there certainly is a chance he could reach the Majors before the end of the season.

Any word if Félix Hernández is garnering any MLB interest, or could this be the end? Maybe he’ll play internationally instead?
-- Tyler H., Seattle, Wash.

Hernández agreed with the Braves on a Minor League deal on Monday with a non-roster invitation to their big league camp. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that Hernandez will make $1 million if he makes the Braves’ Major League roster, which is no slam dunk given Atlanta already signed veteran Cole Hamels on a one-year, $18 million deal this winter to supplement its young pitching core.

Should Hernández make the Braves’ rotation, it would likely be as a fifth starter behind Hamels, Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz. But should he bounce back and land a job, the Braves will visit Seattle for a three-game series on May 29-31, which would be interesting, to say the least.

Would the Mariners consider designating Dee Gordon for assignment to clear space for Long to play every day or would they let him be a bench player?
-- Shawn F., Pleasant Grove, Utah

Figuring out Gordon’s role will be one of the stories to watch this spring as Long definitely figures to get much of the playing time at second base as part of the youth movement. Gordon is capable of backing up at shortstop as well, so he could find sporadic playing time at both those positions and be a veteran mentor to Long and J.P. Crawford.

Should either of those players get injured, Gordon would be the logical replacement at this point and the new 26-man roster limit could help Seattle carry him as an extra infielder. But given he turns 32 in April and is entering the final year of a contract paying him $13.8 million for 2020, Gordon isn’t in the club’s long-term plans, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he’s eventually traded, designated for assignment or released.

Are there any above average veteran first basemen available that could be signed to a short-term contract where they serve as a mentor and early-season insurance for White? If he gets off to a rough start, he’ll need to have relief.
-- Gregory G., Touchet, Wash.

There are some veteran free agents -- Mitch Moreland, Neil Walker, Ryan Zimmerman, Logan Forsythe -- who’d surely be happy to sign one-year deals if they had an opportunity to play. But the Mariners aren’t looking for veteran stopgaps this season.

White among MLB's Top 10 1B prospects for 2020

The plan is to give White every opportunity to make the jump from Double-A and, if he’s clearly not ready, they have Austin Nola and Daniel Vogelbach back from last year ton top of signing 28-year-old Patrick Wisdom to provide further depth at first and third base.

Since there is a high probability of Mitch Haniger getting traded to make room for upcoming prospects like Kelenic and Rodriguez, are we most likely going to trade for prospects or seasoned vets that can help immediately?
-- Suriel S., Lakenheath, England

I’m not among those who think a Haniger trade is imminent. The 2018 All-Star is only 29 years old and has three seasons remaining before he hits free agency. Even if Kelenic arrives this season, he’s likely targeted for center field. Lewis will open the year in left. Rodriguez is only 19 years old and a year or two away at the earliest.

Where does Haniger fit in the Mariners' future?

If he comes back strong and healthy this year, Haniger could remain a key piece of Seattle’s future plans. If they do choose to deal him at some point, it almost certainly would be for prime prospects or young MLB-ready players, probably on the pitching side.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.