Notes on King Felix, Hobgood and spring training

Checking in on a few topics from this week and looking ahead to spring training.

Yes, he is the King. The baseball world was buzzing for a while Thursday with the report that Felix Hernandez may be about to sign a seven-year, $175 million dollar deal with the Seattle Mariners. There are some reports out of Seattle now that say those terms may not be accurate.

If they are, that's a $25 million average annual value, topping a mark for pitchers that had been set by Zach Greinke's six-year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers in December. The annual average of that deal is $24.5 million.

King Felix is younger and better then Greinke, but I would think any club would be hesitant to hand out such a huge contract to a pitcher. The Mariners were in a tough spot. They want to show their fans they actually give a damn and needed to keep and probably not trade such a popular and good player.

But that is a massive dollar commitment. Still, Hernandez who will turn 27 in April, is entering his prime years. If any pitcher should have a deal that good, he is probably the one worthy of it. Wonder if the M's have any concerns about his averaging 238 innings pitched the last four seasons? In Jim Palmer's day that was no big deal, but now that puts you at the top of the league.

The Mariners probably felt they had little choice but to do this, but I'll bet their top management will be sitting on the edge of their seats for every start he makes the next several years.

In his most recent chat with ESPN.com readers on Thursday, Keith Law was asked this question:

Kyle (NY): (Matt) Hobgood not making the O's top 10 (prospects list) is not surprising, but it encouraged me to revisit the 2009 draft. In retrospect, which selection was more laughable then and now: Hob"bad" (see what I did there?), Tate or Sanchez?

KLaw: Great question. I think I had all three guys ranked 10+ spots below where they went. Sanchez might have had the biggest discrepancy, but he also had the highest floor of the three. Tate was the guy who was overrated from day one, IMO. Hobgood at least threw hard before he got hurt.

I post this answer because it does get tiresome to read comments that indicate Hobgood was a third or fourth-round talent and the Orioles took such a massive reach with him. While selecting him fifth was higher than anyone I know had him projected, he was a first-round talent according to most of the experts and was the national high school player of the year.

Few players over the last few years have been more of a lightning rod for discussion than Hobgood. He's been hurt practically from the day they signed him. He's never thrown with the velocity for the Orioles that he did just days before the 2009 draft in a high school playoff game. Did you know he once outdueled Gerrit Cole in a high school postseason game? The same Cole that ranks No. 8 on Law's latest top 100, which is out this week.

We need to see what Hobgood can do when he is 100 percent healthy (hopefully this season), if he can get to that point. But criticism of this pick is unjust by those that base that criticism off and practically insist the O's basically took someone off the JV squad with a sketchy resume.

Finally, what aspect of spring training is most interesting to you with pitchers and catchers reporting next week? Here are a few from me.

* Who will win the fifth starter's job?

* Can Brian Roberts return to health and how well will he play if/when he does? A Roberts at even 80 percent of his former self could be huge for this team.

* Can Chris Davis play better defense at first base?

* Will the O's search for a bat continue during the spring? If some pitchers get hurt in other camps, will those teams approach the Orioles in their search for a starter and will there be a match?

What do you think?: What will be the questions and topics you will be following closely in spring training?

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