Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Seattle Mariners 2013 Team Breakdown

Well it’s that time.  Football is done.  Pitchers and catchers have reported.  Everyone is heading out to purchase their fantasy baseball magazines.  And you are wondering what your team is looking like heading into the new season.  Well I’m here to start breaking down teams and see what they are looking like for this year.  I waited for most of the free agents to sign.  Others may sign after I talk about a team, and when that happens I’ll update the team breakdown as necessary.  Last year I started with the NL East.  This year I’ll start with the AL West.  And while I ranked teams alphabetically last year, this year I’ll rank them based on last season’s standings.  I’ll continue with the AL West and the team that finished in last place in 2012, the Seattle Mariners.

Projected 2013 Roster

C-            Jesus Montero
1B-          Justin Smoak
2B-          Dustin Ackley
SS-          Brendan Ryan
3B-          Kyle Seager
LF-          Raul Ibanez
CF-          Franklin Gutierrez
RF-          Michael Morse
DH-         Kendrys Morales

Starting Rotation:
Felix Hernandez, Hishahi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmus Ramirez, Hector Noesi

Tom Wilhelmsen (closer), Lucas Luetge, Charlie Furbush, Oliver Perez, Josh Kinney, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps

Projected Batting Order

2B-            Dustin Ackley
3B-            Kyle Seager
RF-            Michael Morse
DH-           Kendrys Morales
C-              Jesus Montero
LF-            Raul Ibanez
1B-            Justin Smoak
CF-            Franklin Gutierrez
SS-            Brendan Ryan

The Mariners finished in last in the very competitive AL West last year.  They’ve done a lot to improve this year by adding some talented players through trades, signing some talented free agents, and, most importantly, by being in the division that added the Houston Astros.  Nothing will help the Mariners escape the basement more than the appearance of the hapless Astros in their division.  So that’s a good start.

The Mariners have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball the last few years.  A lot of that has been their players.  A lot was their ballpark.  Then the ballpark, started keeping talented offensive free agents away, and the Mariners realized they needed to make a change.  What was once perception became a reality as players thought Seattle was a terrible offensive place to play, and they stayed away.  Having subpar offensive players truly made Seattle a terrible offensive place to play, so that’s what they addressed this offseason.  First, they moved in the fences.  Then they made two big trades to add offense, adding Michael Morse from the Nationals and Kendrys Morales from the Angels.  Those two bats, added to Jesus Montero, a trade from the Yankees last year, will hopefully give this team enough pop to compete.  In addition, they re-signed popular Raul Ibanez to be a left-handed power bat, though he’s likely a platoon player now against right-handed pitchers.  They also took a chance on Jason Bay, signing him to a low risk deal.  He can platoon with Ibanez, and they can hopefully produce enough power to be a threat.  However that’s not all it takes to compete, as the top two hitters in this lineup are up in the air.  I listed Ackley and Seager, though it could be reversed.  And neither is likely going to bring back memoires of Ricky Henderson.  Or even Kenny Lofton.  If the top of their lineup can’t get on base, then the bats of Morse, Morales, Montero, Smoak and Ibanez/Bay will be struggling to produce runs.  I like what the team has done, but they have to do a lot to compete in this division.

The leading hitter on this team was Jesus Montero last year, and he hit 260.  Ouch.  So it’s not just a power outage that Seattle was dealing with, it was total offensive ineptitude.  Morales, Bay, Ibanez and Morse all help with the lack of power.  Only Morales and Morse address the other hitting concerns, and just barely at that.  Kyle Seager was second on the team with a 259 AVG.  I put him second in my lineup.  Dustin Ackley hit an abysmal 226 last year.  Perhaps it was a down year.  Perhaps he was hurt.  I hope it was one of those for Seattle’s sake because otherwise his breakout rookie campaign could have been a fluke.  Who knows?  But the top of the lineup is an issue.  I put Ackley at leadoff because his skill set most closely matches that expected of a leadoff man.  But that may be a mistake with his struggles.  I put Seager second, but that may not be optimal as he led the team with 20 HR and 86 RBI last year.  Justin Smoak was second on the team with 19 HR, but that came with a 217 AVG.  Michael Morse would have been third with his 18 HR, and he only played in 102 games last year.  They need him to be a big HR hitter.  That should give Montero more pitches to hit, and he may be able to improve on his 15 HR.  Ibanez and Bay could combine for 15 more HR.  Morse and Morales could each have 20 in them.  And who knows what guys like Ackely, Seager and Gutierrez can contribute.  There should be more long balls this year, but if no one is on base, this team will still struggle offensively.  They’ll be better, but I don’t know if this offense will take them to the playoffs.

On the pitching side of things, King Felix was the team leader again.  He was actually second on the team with 13 Wins, but had a 3.06 ERA to go with a team leading 223 Ks.  He also led the team in IP, WHIP and BAA (among starters).  He is their best player.  And though he had a bit of a down year (for him), he was still superb.  With a new deal in place making him the highest paid pitcher in baseball, he will continue to lead this club.  He is a great pitcher in a great offensive division.  But he still competes and is one of the best pitchers in the game.  That being said, he can’t do it alone.  The second best pitcher on this team, Jason Vargas, was shipped off to LA for Kendrys Morales making their battle that much more difficult.  If we say it’s a wash and both teams made out equally positive, then they are in the exact same place they were before the trade.  And that leaves the M’s in 4th place in this division, which is no longer last only because there is a new team that will be taking up lodging in the AL West’s basement for the next few years. Kevin Millwood was the M’s number 3 starter, was average at best, and is now gone too.  That brings us to Blake Beavan, who may now be their number 2 man.  He was 11-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 26 starts last year.  Hishashi Iwakuma started 16 games while pitching in 30 overall.  He should be the number 3 man.  Erasmus Ramirez will be number 4, though he only started 8 of his 16 games.  And Hector Noesi logged 18 starts in 22 games.  He fared the best of those last three, going 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA.  These starters should keep the Mariners in games, but that’s about it.  None of them are going to be All Stars (outside of Felix) and the Mariners are hoping a re-vamped offense will support their patchwork starting rotation.  Tom Wilhemsen and his 29 Saves lead their bullpen.  He was solid with his 2.50 ERA and should be set at the back end of that bullpen.  Oliver Perez re-invented himself as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen with a 2.12 ERA in 33 games last season.  He’ll return to Seattle’s bullpen.  Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor and Josh Kinney all had sub-4 ERAs in their limited appearances last season.  All return and should be serviceable in Safeco this year.  This bullpen won’t win any awards, but should be okay.

2013 Outlook

Geography has been unkind to the Mariners.  They play in a division with some of the best teams in the league.  The Rangers have won 2 of the past 3 AL pennants, the Angels have been offseason champs for the past 2 years, and Oakland took their raw, young team and won the division last year.  The Mariners don’t have the money of the Angels, talent of the Rangers, or magic of Oakland.  Despite their additions, I think they will still finish behind all those teams again this year.  The pieces they added on offense will help, but all that power is limited when no one ever gets on base.  I think the Mariners will struggle to put men on this year.  And while King Felix is great and closer Tom Wilhemsen was good last year, there are questions behind those two, both starting and relieving.  The Mariners will finish exactly where they did last year, which is no longer last, only because the Astros are joining this division and may be the worst team in baseball.  That is the first time geography has done the Mariners a favor.  But the rest will be up to them.  And I don’t think they have the talent to get it done this year.  

No comments:

Post a Comment