Written by Griffin Cooper

The single biggest question surrounding the 2010 Mariners will continue to be starting pitching, but there are also going to be some uncertainties in the field.

The only players that we know for a fact will be starting are Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro, in center and right respectively. Assuming he doesn't get traded, you can slide Jose Lopez into the "lock" category at second base too.

That's it though; every other position is pretty blurry. Let's take a look at them, one by one.


Most likely to start: Rob Johnson

Other Candidates: Adam Moore, Kenji Johjima

It'd be spectacular if Adam Moore was somehow ready for a starting role by next season, but it's highly unlikely.

I feel for Kenji Johjima, I really do, but he's clearly fallen out of favor with the new management, and I would not be surprised to see the team buy him out, or just flat out release him this offseason. There's no point in paying a backup catcher $8 million, when we have our catcher of the future nearly ready to burst onto the major league scene.

If Rob Johnson can continue to improve his offense, and maybe learn how to consistently catch the ball this off season, he'll probably be able to do a decent job of holding down the starting role until Moore is ready.

First Base:

Most likely to start: Russell Branyan

Other Candidates: Mike Carp, Chris Shelton

I for one fully believe that Russell Branyan is going to re-sign with the Mariners. If he does, he seems like the most sensible option at first base. The team may decide to slide him into the DH role because of his back troubles, but due to the issues he has against lefties that might not work out all too well. He's too good of a hitter to be reduced to a platoon split.

Mike Carp and Chris Shelton, on the other hand, are not. Barring the signing of a power bat this off season, they would be perfect candidates for a DH platoon split. Either that, or one of them (probably Mike Carp), will earn sole possession of the DH spot.

Second Base:

Most likely to start: Jose Lopez

Other Candidates: Matt Tuiasosopo, Bill Hall

Unless Lopez gets traded this off season, which he might, I can't think of any scenario in which he wouldn't be the starting second baseman. His defense is not nearly as bad as a lot of people think. He struggles with range, but he's barely below average in the field. Jose Lopez is the least of our problems.

Tui has been solely a third baseman until recently, but since returning from the DL, he's been getting some time at second base. Although he can handle the bat, he's not much of a defender and I personally don't think he has the range for second base.

I have no idea where Bill Hall is going to play next year, but he's almost certainly going to be on the team, and he can pretty much play anywhere. So if we're in a bind and we have no second baseman, he would be able to step into the role.


Most likely to start: Jack Wilson

Other Candidates: Josh Wilson, Bill Hall

I don't know that the Mariners are going to pick up Jack Wilson's option for 2010. It's around $8 million, and that's a little bit pricey for a defense first player. I do, however, expect him to be a Mariner next season, even if that means passing on his option and signing him to an extension. If he is indeed our shortstop next year, we should be ecstatic to have him.

Josh Wilson has won over the hearts of some M's fans in his recent stint of filling in for Jack. I'm not one of them. He belongs in a backup role at best, and isn't nearly as good of a hitter as one might think from watching him over the last few weeks.

You're going to see Bill Hall's name at least two more times in this article, and that's something to be happy about. He's not fantastic at any position, but there are very few spots that we don't have a competent backup for, mainly because of him. On the other hand, I would be absolutely shocked if Bill Hall was our starting shortstop next year.

Third Base:

Most likely to start: Jack Hannahan/Bill Hall

Other Candidates: Matt Tuiasosopo, Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre

If we end up with a Jack Hannahan/Bill Hall platoon at third base, we could be doing a lot worse. I don't expect Hall to return to 2006 form, so him earning the starting job seems unlikely. Hannahan plays excellent defense, and despite having a good approach at the plate, he doesn't have the bat to be a full time starter. Because they both play good defense, though, a platoon split could work out nicely.

Tui has a better bat than Hannahan or Hall, but his defense just hasn't shown up. From what I've heard though, he's working hard on improving it, so he very well could get the starting job coming out of spring training.

I would absolutely love it if the Mariners re-signed Beltre, but I don't see it happening. Safeco Field is a terrible fit for him—we know it, he knows it, and you can bet his agent knows it. I'm sure Jack Z will give it his all, but don't count on it. If we do extend him, he'll obviously have the starting job handed to him.

Third base seems like more of a natural position for Jose Lopez, given his mediocre range, but unless we trade for or sign a starting second baseman, I don't see any reason he would get time at third.

Left Field:

Most likely to start: Michael Saunders

Other candidates: Ryan Langerhans, Bill Hall

Saunders has struggled a bit defensively this year since being called up, but he's looked very comfortable out in left and his above average range is obvious. I'd be surprised if he wasn't ready to start by next season.

Langerhans probably isn't going to get the starting job, but he's a more than serviceable fourth outfielder, and should play a significant role next season.

Yadda yadda yadda Bill Hall can play anywhere.

Center Field:

Most likely to start: Franklin Gutierrez

Other candidates: N/A

Franklin Gutierrez is going to be the starting center fielder next year, barring injuries (God forbid). He's fantastic and no one is going to challenge him.

Right Field:

Most likely to start: Ichiro

Other candidates: N/A

Pretty much everything that goes for Franklin Gutierrez goes for Ichiro too. Unless he gets hurt or traded, he's our guy.

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