With Spring Training rapidly approaching, we're taking an in-depth look at the Mariners' roster. This is the fourth part of an Around the Horn series looking at each position. Today: second base.The big question: How much is left in Robinson Cano's tank?Cano has maintained his status as one of the
With Spring Training rapidly approaching, we're taking an in-depth look at the Mariners' roster. This is the fourth part of an Around the Horn series looking at each position. Today: second base.
The big question: How much is left in Robinson Cano's tank?
Cano has maintained his status as one of the top second basemen in the Majors. He's been ranked the second-best player at his position behind the Astros' Jose Altuve by MLB Network's Shredder and No. 5 by MLB.com's Mike Petriello going into this season, which will be his 14th in MLB and fifth with Seattle.
He's continued to put up strong offensive numbers -- a .280/.338/.453 line with 23 homers and 97 RBIs last season -- and has been an American League All-Star for seven of the past eight years, winning All-Star MVP honors last season.
But while Cano still has six years and $144 million remaining on his 10-year contract, he turned 35 in October and struggled with his defensive range last year while dealing with a gimpy quadriceps for much of the second half. A healthy and productive Cano would be a big factor this year for a team fighting to make up ground in the American League West.
The starter: Cano
The Mariners rely on Cano as a critical part of the middle of their order, as he's expected to hit third behind speedsters Dee Gordon and Jean Segura. That figures to set up plenty of RBI opportunities, and Cano knows how to take advantage.
The always-calm veteran led the AL with 51 hits with runners in scoring position last year, batting.327 with 10 doubles and eight homers in 156 at-bats with RISP.
One area the Mariners need to get better production from Cano, however, is against southpaw pitchers. The lefty-swinging Cano has hit lefties well in his career, but last year he had just a .208/.259/.298 line with four homers in 178 at-bats vs. same-handed pitchers, while batting .312/.371/.519 with 19 homers in 414 at-bats against righties.
Backing up:Andrew Romine, Taylor Motter
Romine, the veteran utility man, started 17 games at second base for the Tigers last year and can play anywhere on the infield. Motter also can handle every position, and he started 11 at second last year when Cano was on the disabled list with a strained quad.
Romine has more experience, with eight years in the Majors and better offensive numbers, but whoever wins the utility job could fill in at second if needed.
Depth:James Beckham, Rey Navarro, Jordan Cowan
Beckham was the White Sox starting second baseman from 2010-14 and has 668 MLB starts at the position, while also coming in as a late-innings replacement in five games there last year for the Mariners as a September callup. The 31-year-old re-signed on a Minor League deal after hitting .262 with nine homers and 45 RBIs in 83 games for Triple-A Tacoma last season.
Navarro is another non-roster invitee to camp. The 28-year-old hit .278 with seven homers and 82 RBIs in 126 games for the Angels' Triple-A club last year. He played 10 games in the Majors for the Orioles in '15.
Cowan is a 22-year-old local product out of Kentlake High, a 37th-round Draft pick in 2013 who hit .271/.345/.335 in 121 games for Class A Advanced Modesto last year and earned an invitation to camp by winning a competition the Mariners hold among their Minor Leaguers to reward the most "productive team plate appearances."
• Mariners' Spring Training info
In the pipeline
Bryson Brigman, the Mariners' No. 28-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, was drafted as a shortstop in the third round out of the University of San Diego in 2016, but the 22-year-old played 80 of his 120 games at second base last year for Class A Clinton, and some scouts feel his arm is better suited there in the long run. He put up a .235/306/.296 line with two homers and 36 RBIs in the Midwest League.
Donnie Walton, Seattle's No. 30 prospect, was a fifth-round Draft pick in 2016 out of Oklahoma State. He split time between shortstop and second last year with Modesto, where the 23-year-old posted a .269/.349/.368 line with two homers and 24 RBIs in 67 games.
• Mariners' Top 30 Prospects
By the numbers
Cano surpassed 300 home runs and 500 doubles for his career last season, now sitting at 301 and 512. He became one of just five players in MLB history to reach both those milestones before the end of their age-34 season, and it's an exclusive club: Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial and current standouts Jose Pujols and Jose Cabrera.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.