Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Seattle Mariners Preview/Prediction

Our next post takes us up to the Pacific Northwest, where the two juggernauts in the division are threatening to leave the Mariners behind.  They are putting it together slowly and they have some great depth in the minor leagues, but that means that they will struggle this year. Again.

Infield: Jesus Montero at catcher, Justin Smoak at first base, Dustin Ackley at second base, Brendan Ryan at shortstop, and Kyle Seager at third base.

I'm going to say Montero at catcher because if I have to watch Miguel Olivo catch another 100 plus games I am going to throw myself off the West Seattle bridge. Montero might be better defensively and is definitely better offensively and he is younger.  In his first full year in the big leagues he will show why the Mariners traded Michael Pineda.  The kid can flat out hit and I predict a solid .280 with 15 home runs, which are good numbers for anyone, let alone a 22 year old rookie.  Justin Smoak needs to be the player the Mainers thought they were getting when they traded Cliff Lee otherwise as he was the key cog in that trade.  Smoak needs to be in anchor in that lineup and needs to show that he can hit for some power.  He needs to hit 20-25 home runs and he needs to hit at least .260.  These are minimum expectations for the cleanup hitter on any team, even one is anemic as the Mariners.  This is Dustin Ackley's first opening day and yet he shows a maturity beyond his years.  He is only 24 and this could be a breakout year for him.  I think Ackley will hit .300 this year and continue to drive the ball into the gaps for doubles and triples.  He won't show a lot of power but he will get on base and since the lead off hitter probably won't, that is just as important.  Brendan Ryan is a throwback player and what I mean by that is he is an all glove no hit shortstop.  He has great range and a strong arm but he is not a great hitter.  Ryan will be hitting in the 9-hole and his primary job will be turning the line up over for the guys at the top.  With Mike Carp being on the disable list Chone Figgins will be moving to left field and Kyle Seager will be taking reps at third base.  I personally hope that Seager does well so that Figgins will not move to third base when Carp returns. I think Seager will stay in the starting lineup and will have a decent year.  He will hit around .260 with 10 home runs which is not terrible for a rookie.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Ackley will have the best season of these five.  He will get to .300 with double digit triples and home runs and I think he could get to 100 runs if the people behind him can bring him in. He will also get double digit steals and will provide excellent offense.  A rarity on this team.

Outfield: Chone Figgins in left field, Michael Saunders in center field and Ichiro Suzuki in right field.

Chone Figgins might challenge Clint Barmes for the worst everyday player in all of baseball.  Chone Figgins can't even hit his own weight.  The only value he provides is stolen bases and you can't steal bases if you can't get on base.  I don't think that Figgins will end the year on the team much to the happiness of every Mariner fan out there.  After cutting Milton Bradley last year the Mariners are not afraid to cut bait and I think they will with Figgins as well.  Michael Saunders is starting because Franklin Gutierrez is out with a shoulder injury.  Saunders is a career .196 hitter after 578 at bats and he has some speed but provides little else.  Gutierrez is a much better defender than Saunders and he can hit better than him, although that is not saying a whole hell of a lot.  Ichiro is a future hall of famer who had under 200 hits for the first time in his 11 year career.  I think he will have 200 hits again this year and his average will once again be over .300.  I think that last season was a fluke and while he will never be the .356 hitter of the past I think .310 is a reasonable expectation.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Ichiro will have the best season.  Moving from the 3-hole should increase his RBI chances, as long as the guys in front of him can get on base.  I think one of them will but it will not be Figgins.  I think he will get 80 RBI's which is very good for him.

Starting Pitching: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi, Kevin Millwood.

2010 Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and if he could get some run support would have the wins to prove it.  Once again he will have over 200 strike outs and an ERA under 3 but will only have about 14 wins to show for it.  I feel sorry for Felix just because he knows he has to throw a shutout in order to win.  Jason Vargas is a flyball pitcher and in the expansive Safeco field that is a good thing.  He needs to have an effective defense behind him as he pitches to contact.  I think he will win 10 games but another one that should have more wins but doesn't get much run support.  The Mariners are even worse than the Giants at scoring runs and so their pitchers suffer for it. Blake Beavan pitches worse at Safeco field then he does on the road.  Neither one is very good by the way.  I don't think that Beavan will stay in the rotation all year long as he will pitch himself out of it.  Hector Noesi came over from the Yankees in the Pineda Montero trade and won a starting job out of spring.  Now that he is out of New York and at a stadium for conducive for pitchers I think he will have a good year.  He won't get a ton of strikeouts but he won't walk a bunch of people either.  Kevin Millwood earned a spot on the rotation because the young studs aren't ready.  James Paxton, Tijaun Walker, Danny Hultzen, and Erasmo Ramirez are the future of the Seattle Mariners rotation but all of them need more seasoning.  It wouldn't surprise me to see one of them take Millwood's spot before the end of the season.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Felix Hernandez could be cut in half and he would be the best two pitchers on this team.  Felix will once again have the best year and he will be in Cy Young contention once again.  The only thing that will be holding him back would be the wins and that won't be his fault.  He won it in 2010 being absolutely dominant and I think he will be dominant again.

Bullpen: Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, George Sherill, and Steve Delabar.

Brandon League had a great year last year, earning his first all-star appearance.  He had 37 saves last year and as long as he doesn't have to pitch against the Orioles is one of the safer bets when it comes to relievers.    I think he gets to 35 saves again because someone has to get the saves on this team.  Even the Mariners win enough games to record that many saves.  Tom Wilhelmsen has a good fastball and a better curve and I think he will have a good year.  He will be eighth inning guy this year and will be called on in many high pressure situations.  I think there will be a lot of low scoring games this year so he will be asked to pitch in tight games.  George Sherill is the primary lefty out of the bullpen for the Mariners.  In his first go-round with the team he was lights out against lefties and righties, but that was in 2007.  He won't be used in an as many situations as he will be brought in primarily to face left handers and that is it.  Steve Delabar is a great story.  At this time last year he was a high school teacher and now he will be facing major league hitters. He is the best option they have and that shows to the quality of the bullpen the last few years.  He does throw hard and I think he will be reasonably successful.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Brandon League won't be an all-star this season like he was in 2011 but he will still have the best season of these guys.  He will have an ERA under 3 and get to 35 saves again.  He will keep throwing that devastating sinker and will not allow many home runs.  Again as long as he not playing the Orioles who he blew three saves against last year.

Record: 73-89, third in the American League West

Next up:  St. Louis Cardinals

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