Mariners - 2015

General - The Mariners were once one of the worst hitting teams in baseball. They had King Felix on the mound, but no bats to score him runs. The park generally prevents the Mariners from scoring runs but they moved the fences in to generate more offense. It has not met with a lot of success. After signing Robinson Cano away from the Yankees in the free agent market it was thought this would improve their offense. The Mariners scored ten more runs than the 2013 team and finished only ahead of the Astros in batting average. So now they have signed Nelson Cruz, who was the only player last year to hit 40 or more homeruns to add a few more runs to the offense. On the bright side the pitching staff had the top ERA in baseball and overall they scored 80 more runs than the opposition. They fell just a game short of appearing in the playoff race. It is hoped the acquisition of Nelson Cruz will be enough to make up for that one game. The Mariners are the only team in the American league lacking a pennant.

Key 2015 Additions - The big acquisition was Nelson Cruz to put in the DH spot. The Mariners did not get any production from that spot last year. They also added another bat for the outfield in Seth Smith trading one of their bullpen pitchers to the Padres. To make up for the loss of Brandon Maurer they traded oft injured Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays for J.A. Happ. Time will tell if the pitcher/outfield swaps will improve the club. While the club is set at second base the Mariners signed Rickie Weeks as a free agent. Rickie seems more inclined to play a position other than second base in 2015. The Mariners are expected to use his right handed bat in the outfield.

Catcher - Mike Zunino hit for power last year with 22 homeruns but the Mariners would like to see an improvement in his .199 average and his .254 OBA. Part of the struggle can be linked to his 17/158 walk to whiff ratio. It is hoped one more year of experience will help improve his plate discipline. They have kind of given up on Jesus Montero making it as the catcher. Jesus Sucre is the player who got the second most starts at the position last year. His offense was almost non-existent, with a .213 average and OBA and a .246 slugging. In 61 at bats Sucre did not take one walk. John Baker is a non-roster invitee that has experience behind the plate. He played for the Cubs last year but only hit .192, the second straight year he has failed to hit over .200.

First Base - Justin Smoak is gone and the Mariners are hoping for more offensive output from Logan Morrison. Logan does not hit for as much power as Justin, but he will hit for a higher average and a better OBA. Last year Logan hit .262, far surpassing Smoak in offensive production. Jesus Montero could make the team as his back up against tough lefthanders. He wants to prove that he is no flop, slimming down this year in an attempt to improve on his .235 average last year in limited at bats. In AAA he did have an OPS of .839. This could also be a position the right handed bat of Rickie Weeks plays. Last year the Brewers thought of making Rickie a first baseman, but he insisted on staying at second base and lost a lot of playing time. Rickie is not smooth on defense, but he has a potent bat, slugging .452 last year.

Second Base - Last year Robinson Cano played 157 games here. That does not leave a lot of room for Rickie Weeks. Cano should improve on his .314 batting average with Nelson Cruz batting behind him. His power will never match what he produced in the hitter’s park of Yankee stadium. If Cano should be injured Weeks will still have competition for the second base job. Willie Bloomquist has been mister utility for a number of years now. Last year he hit .278 but missed much of last year because of injury. Willie lacks any kind of power, but his glove fits anywhere on the field.

Third Base - The Mariners hope for a better offensive year from Kyle Seager. He hit 25 homeruns last year to help him become their leading run producer with 96 RBIs. If he can improve on his .268 batting average that could lead to better production. Last year he struggled against lefthanders (.242). With Cano and Cruz in the lineup, adding the potent bat of Seager will make for a big three in the offense. Bloomquist will be the main replacement at this position, but the Mariners may also see how Weeks can respond with the glove here.

Shortstop - This will be a spring training battle between Brad Miller and Chris Taylor. Taylor was bumped by Cano from the second base position. When Miller struggled with the bat (.221) and committed 18 errors the Mariners moved Taylor to short. Taylor did not hit for the power of Miller, but carried the better average (.287) and the more consistent glove, but in much fewer games. Willie Bloomquist will be the backup allowing the Mariners to option the loser of this battle to the minors (if they have options) to get more at bats.

Left Field - Neither Seth Smith or Dustin Ackley have a right field arm. Dustin tends to have a very weak arm so he will settle in left field. The Mariners have not got the production they expected from the second player selected in the 2009 draft after Bryce Harper. Last year Ackley only hit .245 with a .291 OBA. Those numbers took a downturn against lefthanders. This is where you may see a lot of Rickie Weeks, especially against the lefthanders. If Ackley continues to struggle with the bat and Weeks shows he can play the position and shows some offense with the bat, Ackley could see less playing time. When the Mariners want to give Nelson Cruz some time away from the DH spot this will be the position he roams. He is not a bad outfielder.

Center Field - The Tigers were frustrated with the propensity for Austin Jackson to strike out and traded him mid-season, even though they did not have a great alternative to back him up. Jackson would be an ideal leadoff hitter if he did not strike out so much. Last year he had a 47/144 walk to whiff ratio and a .308 OBA, not what you are looking for in a leadoff hitter. The Brewers thought of converting Weeks to a centerfielder. The Mariners may try him here. They also have James Jones, who played the position last year until Jackson came along. Jones has a lot of speed (27 for 28 in stolen bases) but an impotent bat (.278 OBA and .311 slugging). Willie Bloomquist is probably getting a little old to play here. Justin Ruggiano is on the roster. He played last year with the Cubs hitting .281. He is best utilized as a fourth outfielder, defensive replacement.

Right Field - Seth Smith is the man here against right handed pitchers. Last year he hit .266 with 12 homeruns. He has always been a platoon player, but if Rickie Weeks plays left field against lefthanded pitchers for Ackley, the Mariners will need someone to platoon here. This may be where Nelson Cruz comes in handy, fitting in the right field spot against lefthanders and allowing the DH spot to be used to rest players or get the bat of Jesus Montero in the lineup.

Designated Hitter - Nelson Cruz will bring his 40 homeruns and 108 RBIs here. He will give Cano great protection in the lineup. He also is not a bad outfielder, so against left handed pitching you can move him to the outfield and let Jesus Montero get some bats in this spot. Willie Bloomquist could roam around the infield to give Cano, Seager and Morrison a rest from their positions. Cruz will not be set in stone at this position, but he will get the majority of at bats.

Starting Rotation - Led by King Felix, this has the potential to be one of the best rotations in the American League. Felix Hernandez was second in the Cy Young voting last year with his 15 wins, 2.14 ERA and 248 whiffs. The opposition hit only .200 off him. If their is a definition of an ace it is King Felix. Hisashi Iwakuma almost won a Cy Young in 2013. He saw some regression last year, especially towards the end of the season when he seemed much more hittable. He also won 15 games but his ERA went from below 3.00 to 3.52. Lefthanders seemed to have an easier time hitting him (.273), 60 points above their 2013 average. Their could be a battle for the last four spots in the rotation. Roenis Elias had the third spot last year, but like Iwakuma he staggered in his last few starts, finishing with a 3.85 ERA. J.A. Happ was acquired from the Blue Jays to start. His numbers (11-11, 4.52) may be the worst of the four. Two youngsters will battle for the final two spots. James Paxton had a 3.04 ERA with a .223 opposition average that only a bad spring will keep him off this rotation. Taijuan Walker (2.61 ERA) may have the best stuff of the group but nagging injuries delayed his start to the 2014 season.

Closer - The Mariners hope Fernando Rodney displays his bow and arrow pose another 48 times. He will be 38 entering the 2015 season but he can still get hitters out (2.85 ERA and a .244 opposition average). Lefthanded bats found his stuff a bit inviting with a .289 average.

Other Relievers - The bullpen has some young arms and they were one of the best in the league last year. Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina and Rodney each had more than 60 appearances with ERAs less than 3. Medina sometimes shows a little problem with command, walking 4.5 hitters per nine innings. Tom Wilhelmsen limited the opposition to a .171 average and was just three appearances short of making it four relievers with over 60 appearances and ERAs less than 3. They lack a proven lefthanded relief option. Charlie Furbush throws from the left side, but he didn’t have any greater success at getting lefties out than Medina, Farquhar and Wilhelmsen. There probably is no room in the starting rotation for Erasmo Ramirez, sending his 5.26 ERA to the bullpen to fill the long man role. Dominic Leone is another returning bullpen piece that was dominant against righthanders (.166) bit was too much barrel of the bat against lefties (.295).

Top 2015 Rookies - Carson Smith was dominant for 9 relief appearances last year (0.77 opposition average). With a good spring he could work himself into a bullpen role. Ji-Man Choi was signed out of Korea and moved from his catching position to first base. He has a power bat that could see some time at first base or DH if the Mariners are looking for offense. This will be a veteran team without a lot of room for rookies.

2015 Finish - The Mariners pitching is too strong and with the addition of Nelson Cruz they should score enough runs to win ball games in the AL West.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.