Team Preview: Seattle Mariners

By: Josh Wasserman – Chief MLB Writer.

In the coming weeks leading up to Opening Day, FSLR will be previewing the 30 MLB teams and their respective chances for the 2014 season. Starting with the AL West, the Seattle Mariners are up first…

AL West:
Day 1: Seattle Mariners
Day 2: Oakland A’s
Day 3: Los Angeles Angels
Day 4: Houston Astros
Day 5: Texas Rangers

Seattle Mariners

2013 Record: 71-91 (4th)
2014 Projected Record: 80-82 (4th)

Having made the marquee signing of the offseason with Robinson Cano, the Mariners are in a better spot than they’ve been in years, finally acquiring a centerpiece for their young lineup. Unfortunately, the rest of their division continues to improve and the Mariners lack the all-around firepower to remain competitive until September. I don’t think their lineup is experienced enough to pull off a playoff run and their pitching is spread just too thin after the arms of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Taijuan Walker. Though prospects are finally looking up in Seattle, this year will most likely see them sitting closer to the bottom of the division than the top.

Projected Lineup:
1) Dustin Ackley, LF
2) Logan Morrison, DH
3) Robinson Cano, 2B
4) Justin Smoak, 1B
5) Corey Hart, RF
6) Kyle Seager, 3B
7) John Buck, C
8) Michael Saunders, CF
9) Nick Franklin, SS

From top to bottom, the Mariners have a pretty decent squad. They have some speed with Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager and plenty of power coming from Logan Morrison, Justin Smoak, and Nick Franklin. However, the indisputable cornerstone of the lineup is Cano. He provides power to all fields, can drive in runs, and his uncanny ability to get on base sets the table for the batters behind him. The only question is whether his teammates will perform. For all the hype Ackley received as a rookie, he has faltered in his first few years in the majors. In addition to the arrival of Cano, the acquisitions of Morrison, John Buck, and Corey Hart should help alleviate the departure of 2013 team home run leaders Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales. From what I see, the lineup is a trove of potential. It all comes down to whether the young players will meet Seattle management’s expectations or succumb to the pressures of fulfilling them.

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Projected Rotation:
1) Felix Hernandez, RHP
2) Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP
3) Taijuan Walker, RHP
4) James Paxton, LHP
5) Blake Beavan, RHP/Brandon Maurer, RHP

​No one can or will deny the fact that Felix Hernandez is one of the most fearsome aces in all of baseball. And luckily, the Mariners have him locked up for quite a few years down the road. Now, they only need to develop a steady enough rotation behind him to fill out the rest of the schedule. Last year, Hisashi Iwakuma quietly assembled a fantastic campaign that rivaled Hernandez’ numbers, and there is no reason to doubt he can’t repeat his performance. Taijuan Walker, the prized prospect of the organization, has been stunning in Spring Training thus far and should receive a slot in the starting rotation from day one (due to his ability, I can’t see the Mariners keeping him in AAA until May just to freeze his arbitration clock for a year). The question marks lie after Walker. Both Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer were granted some starts at the major league level last year and struggled mightily. James Paxton, on the other hand, flourished when he was given the opportunity. Moreover, he has been impressing at Spring Training thus far and, given that he doesn’t get injured over the next few weeks, should find a spot in the rotation. In my opinion, Beavan will be given the nod originally for the five spot, but that is not to say that Maurer won’t take it after a few poor starts from Beavan. Suffice it to say, for the Mariners to be competitive this year, all of their starters will have to post career years.

Projected Bullpen:
MR: Danny Farquhar, RHP
SU: Tom Wilhelmsen, RHP
CL: Fernando Rodney, RHP

Tom Wilhelmsen had a phenomenal year up until the All-Star Break where his outings started to deteriorate. The closer role was unquestionably his before a string of bad performances led to his demotion. With Fernando Rodney entering the mix after two dominant years with the Rays, Wilhelmsen will most likely see himself in the setup role at the beginning of the year with Rodney as the closer. In the middle innings, the Mariners have a few options, but not one of them is entirely reliable. Danny Farquhar, Hector Noesi, and Charlie Furbush can all put in a couple of solid innings here and there, but they cannot be depended upon all the time. All the Mariners need out of them are a respectable two innings once every few days in order to maintain the lead for Wilhelmsen and Rodney. Hernandez will go 7-8 innings every time he takes the mound so there’s a rest day right there, and Rodney and Wilhelmsen are pretty dependable so as long as the middle innings aren’t a complete disaster, the Mariners should be alright.

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