Sunday, March 13, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Seattle Mariners

Last year, this team had very high expectations. But, the team floundered quickly and is now one of the worst in baseball. Does this team have any bright spots for hope in 2011?

What they Have: They do have 2 players that are of course the Mariners backbones. Ichiro is still a great hitter as he's been for awhile, and there is no reason why that shouldn't continue. And, they have the AL Cy Young winner from last year Felix Hernandez, and he will continue to be the ace of the weak pitching staff. The Mariners made some moves to help the offense this offseason, which was 30th in nearly every offensive category. They added DH Jack Cust from Oakland, and now he can focus only on hitting, because he is a pretty bad defender. He strikes out a lot, but can still hit with some re-tooling. The Mariners also added C Miguel Olivo, who can add some power to the lineup and some veteran leadership. They also traded for 2B Brendan Ryan from St. Louis who can fill a hole in the lineup until prized prospect Dustin Ackley is ready. The rest of the lineup is filled with veterans who have struggled. The pitching rotation behind King Felix is shaky, but does have some talent. The same goes with the bullpen behind the improving closer David Aardsma.

What they Don't Have: Offense. There is no power hitter in the lineup, and the M's have hitters that haven't had success for awhile.LF Milton Bradley is still a fire-starter, and CF Franklin Gutierrez is not a great offensive player as much as he is a good defender. 3B Chone Figgins is back to his natural position, and he should show some improvement, but he still has had too many offensive problems. 1B Justin Smoak is young, but still unpolished and will likely start the year at 1B. The rotation has too many questions behind King Felix, and none of the pitchers look to answer those questions. Doug Fister, Erik Bedard, Jason Vargas, and Michael Pineda round out the rotation, and none of those guys look like they will answer the call. The bullpen behind David Aardsma is also problematic, and they'll need guys like Brandon League, Garrett Olson, and Shawn Kelley to step up.

Any Help Coming? 2B Dustin Ackley is one of baseball's best prospects and despite some fielding issues, is still one of the best hitting prospects around. Michael Pineda will likely start the season at the 5th starter, and he's a flamethrower similar to Aroldis Chapman. SS Nick Franklin has some great offensive power and good defensive tools as well. OF Michael Saunders will also start the year with the big club, and needs to prove his worth from the Cliff Lee trade.

Outlook? Very bad. They have almost no offense, despite having good defensive players. They have too many questions in both the rotation and bullpen, and there are just too many questions surrounding this team to be competitive in the AL West. New manager Eric Wedge has a lot on his plate in his first season as Mariners skipper. No improvement is in the immediate future.

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