Friday, March 15, 2013

2013 MLB Preview #16: Seattle Mariners

Greetings! Where King Felix reigns...

Projected Starters - Jesus Montero (C), Justin Smoak (1B), Dustin Ackley (2B), Brendan Ryan (SS), Kyle Seager (3B), Michael Morse (LF), Franklin Gutierrez (CF), Michael Saunders (RF), Kendrys Morales (DH)

This was not a good offense in 2012 (27th in runs scored), but I think it could take a step forward in 2013. Kyle Seager led the team in WAR last year after a rookie year where he hit 20 homers, stole 13 bases, and used his positional flexibility to add value. He's certainly not the best player on the roster, but if he can replicate that performance, it would be a nice baseline for Seattle. The Mariners went out and acquired some middle-of-the-order bats in the person of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales. In 2011, Morse hit 31 homers in Washington, showing plus-power in a big ballpark, and while he was injured in 2012 (which sapped that power), he certainly has big-time power potential. Morales comes over from the Angels where he has a career .822 OPS in a DH/1B role. There is some debate about Morales and his actual power, but he's got a 34-HR season under his belt, and I think he can safely be projected for a high average and 25 homers from the DH spot if he's healthy. Then, there is a slew of young, highly-regarded position players who have disappointed in their young careers. Jesus Montero is the guy I like most of that group, and he gets the chance to play the majority of the year at catcher. He hit 15 HRs in about 550 PA's last season, but there's no question he's got 25-30 homer power from the catcher spot, and with the fences coming closer in Safeco (a big thing), they'll need that pop from him. Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak are both on the verge of being "forgotten" as former elite prospects. Neither player posted even a .300 OBP or 20 homers last season, and it's put up or shut up time for them.

Projected - Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez

Felix is one of the top-5 pitchers in baseball, and there's really no debate about it. He has posted five consecutive years of a sub-3.50 ERA, five straight seasons with 200+ innings (including four straight of 230+ innings), and 217+ strikeouts in four straight years. He's one of the most durable pitchers in the league, and with elite stuff, there's no reason to suggest he won't have another 5-7 WAR season anchoring this rotation. After that, there is no "standout" guy, but the returns could be solid in a pitcher's park. I'm pretty high on both Erasmo Ramirez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and both guys posted sub-4.00 ERA's in limited starts last year. Each guy is penciled in for a spot, and if they can replicate that level, that's solid. Joe Saunders was brought in to eat innings, and while he's probably a 4.00-4.25 ERA pitcher, he'll throw 190-200 innings and will take advantage of the large dimensions. Beavan is a prototypical 5th starter, and he'll produce a 4.50-ish ERA with one of the lowest K-rates in the league (3.96 K/9 in 2012).

Projected - Tom Wilhelmsen (closer), Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor, Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, Lucas Leutge

Brandon League is gone... but the loss won't be felt. Tom Wilhelmsen did a stellar job in the role last year, and he's the full-time guy now. He threw 79 innings with a 2.51 ERA and a K/9 near 10, and that will play in a big way in that role. Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor are the X-factors for the pen, as each guy is a big-time prospect with high-end stuff, but neither has pitched at this level with any substance.


I think I'm higher on Seattle than most people are, and there are a few reasons. First, it's difficult to overstate the impact of a legit #1 starter and Felix's ability to post a 6-7 WAR season is a big-time deal. Also, I expect much better performance from Jesus Montero this season (25 homers or so from catcher), and I think Dustin Ackley turns it around a bit. Throw in Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse performing solidly, and suddenly, this could be a mid-tier offense instead of a laughing stock. They won't challenge the Texas/LA tier, but Seattle is really competitive.


81-81, 3rd in AL West

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