Young right-hander Taijuan Walker could have a future in the rotation. He could also find a role out of the bullpen. Spring Training will be a great opportunity for the Mariners coaching staff to evaluate what the 22-year-old can provide in 2015. He made two appearances in the Arizona Fall League back in October, and reports have him at 100 percent health, so he should be able to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster with a strong Spring showing. In addition to Walker, lefty James Paxton will also get a long look at Spring Training assuming he avoids the injury bug. There's a chance both wind up being big factors for the M's pitching staff this season, if all goes according to plan.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
What to do with Weeks?
The Mariners signed veteran Rickie Weeks for additional depth in a move that is intriguing for a few reasons. Weeks, 32, has had some issues staying consistent over the past few seasons in Milwaukee. In 2013, he slashed just .209/.306/.357 in 104 games. His 2014 was markedly better, as he slashed .274/.357/.452 in 121 games. His power has decreased significantly since his career-high 29 home runs in 2010, too, but he also cut down on the strikeouts in 2014 (73, compared to 105 in 2013 and 169 in 2012). All this to say: the results of the Weeks signing could go either way, judging by his recent history. Finding the best lineup spot for him is also something the coaching staff will have to determine soon as well.
Iwakuma in line for a better 2015?
Hisashi Iwakuma had a tough Spring Training last year, when he was sidelined with a finger injury. His regular season was mostly solid, until something (fatigue?) caught up to him and he finished his final seven starts with a 7.88 ERA. After the ups and downs of his 2014 campaign, Iwakuma has reported to camp refreshed and re-focused toward bigger things in 2015. Assuming he stays away from any injury setbacks this spring, a healthy Hisashi Iwakuma will go a long way toward giving the M's a deadly one-two punch atop their strong starting staff.
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY SportsSteven Bisig
Getting the gang back together & on the same page
Judging by the comments made to the media so far, the Mariners — and manager Lloyd McClendon — are expecting BIG things in 2015. At Spring Training, they'll have to get past the media attention lavished upon them (as a team many pick to be an A.L. West power) and work on building the cohesion and chemistry commonly seen by the most successful teams each year. Everybody wants this season to be one of the best in Seattle sports history, and that'll all kick off over the next few weeks in camp.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Fielding the best, most productive lineup
The inconsistent offense of 2014 was a large factor in the Mariners falling just short of a playoff role. After re-tooling with Nelson Cruz and outfielders Seth Smith & Justin Ruggiano this offseason, the 2015 squad should be a more productive unit. How productive it can be, however, will be a result of the 1-9 lineup Lloyd McClendon and his staff put out there on a daily basis. So how will Spring Training factor into that? Evaluating each player's skill set and how to best utilize their assets is something the coaches will have to do over the next few weeks.