The Seattle Mariners will open play tonight for the 2014 season in Anaheim against the Angels with Felix Hernandez on the mound, officially popping the top on the Robinson Cano era in Seattle. But outside of those two superstars, this year's roster for the M's has a definite look of youth to it.
Left-hander Roenis Elias was one of the biggest surprises of the spring, and the 25-year-old enters the season as the club's number four starter in the rotation. Elias, who ranked No. 38 on our annual countdown of the Top-50 prospects in Seattle's system over the winter, is joined by more Top-50 guys in outfielder and apparent leadoff hitter Abraham Almonte (No. 13), outfielder Stefen Romero (No. 7) and fellow lefty starter James Paxton (No. 3). But those four represent just part of the youth movement in Seattle.
Starting shortstop Brad Miller was No. 7 on our pre-2012 list, starting catcher Mike Zunino was No. 2 on that list and right-hander Taijuan Walker -- who starts the season on the disabled list --was No. 1 on each of the last two years' lists. And pitchers Erasmo Ramirez, Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina and Stephen Pryor (who also starts the year on the DL) have been covered in our Top-50 countdowns over the last three seasons as well.
The Mariners are hoping that their young players can take a bigger step forward than they've shown the past few years, when players like Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak have failed to show much improvement. Will that happen? We'll find out as the games play out, but it is clear that the system is producing big leaguers, which is the goal.
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