Seattle Mariners Roster in 2013: State Of The Union:
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By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Intern): Follow @ryandana1
Seattle Mariners fans must be pretty amazing, Felix Hernandez sticking with their team through recent times. The Mariners were established in 1977 and have made the playoffs just 4 times in their history. They were the AL West champs 3 times (’95, ’97, ’01) and winners of the Wild Card once (’00). They have never won a World Series, or even an AL Pennant, and in 2012 they shipped off a fan favorite, Ichiro Suzuki, to the Yankees. The AL West is a tough division. The Rangers and Athletics made the playoffs last year, and the Angels just landed the prize of the off-season in slugger Josh Hamilton. I guess one bright spot is the Astros are moving to the AL West, so the Mariners won’t be rebuilding within the brutal division alone.
The Seattle Mariners hopes and dreams start where they have for years now, on the shoulders of King Felix. Felix Hernandez is no doubt an Ace. He has pitched 200+ innings every year since ’08, and had a sub 4.00 ERA every year since ’07. Hernandez won the AL Cy Young in 2010, and is a perennial contender for the award. Last year the Seattle fireballer threw his first Perfect Game. Hernandez will once again be atop the Mariners rotation, which as of now figures to include Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, and Hector Noesi.
Hisashi Iwakuma was a pleasant surprise for the Mariners in 2012. He wasn’t a greatly sought after oversees free agent last year, overshadowed greatly by fellow Japanese hurler Yu Darvish, but proved to be a great signing. Iwakuma started 2012 in the bullpen until he later earned a spot in the team’s rotation. Iwakuma managed a very respectable 3.16 ERA in the 125.1 innings he split between the rotation and the pen. This success is part of the reason the Mariners resigned the pitcher to a 2YR/14 Million Dollar deal this past November. He figures to hold down the 2nd spot in the rotation and should do just fine if 2012 was a sign of things to come.
Blake Beavan is still just 23 Years Old, but he already has 41 Major League Starts under his belt which gives the club hope he can hold down the 3rd or 4th slot in the rotation. Beavan clearly has the talent which is what made him a 1st Round draft pick out of high school for the Rangers, and the reason the Mariners made sure he was a part of the package they received in return for Cliff Lee in 2010. Beavan’s 2012 stats won’t impress a lot of people, but they were a good start for a young player like himself to build and improve upon.
Felix Hernandez Highlights: Mature Lyrics so Parental Guidance is advised
Another pitcher vying for the 3rd or 4th spot in the 2013 rotation is Erasmo Ramirez. Ramirez is a 22 Year Old, Nicaraguan who got his 1st taste of the Majors last year, pitching in 16 games, half of which were starts. It was a small sample size, but Ramirez had a 3.36 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP. He had a ton of success throughout his 4+ seasons in the minors so his success was no fluke. Likely to end out the rotation is Hector Noesi. Noesi was brought over with Jesus Montero in the Michael Pineda trade with the Yankees and pitched the majority of his 2012 campaign in the Big Leagues. Noesi was just 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA – which he will surely look to improve upon in 2013, but he is still only 25 years old with limited big league experience, so he should be allowed time to figure things out. Look for this young staff, especially the latter 3, to improve on their 2012 campaigns. It wouldn’t be surprising if the rotation was the most successful aspect of the Mariners in 2013 and beyond, as they have young talented pitchers in abundance.
Speaking of the young pitching, there is a plethora of electric arms in the Mariners farm system. In fact they are a big reason why Jim Callis of Baseball America ranked the Mariners as the 2nd best farm system behind only the Cardinals. The “Big 3” arms in the system would be Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, and James Paxton, who all spent 2012 at AA, although Hultzen moved up to AAA mid-season. They could all potentially get a taste of the big leagues in 2013, although none are ready to begin the season there, and there isn’t really a rush to get them there at this point. They could be used in a trade to bring in an impact, game changing bat that the Mariners still need. The Mariners reportedly tried to package one of them with other top prospects in a deal for Justin Upton, but Upton exercised his partial no-trade clause and rejected the deal.
The Mariners bullpen has some decent arms. Tom Wilhelmsen, Oliver Perez, and Charlie Furbush all had a sub 3.00 ERA in 2012 and Wilhelmsen held down the Closer’s role well converting 29 Saves. The big, power-pitching, Righty Stephen Pryor should be a lot better in his second Major League season, which will greatly help the back-end of the bullpen. Pryor has a great arm, and could definitely be a future closer, but for now he will hope to nail down a consistent 7th or 8th inning role until he proves himself ready for the 9th. Shawn Kelley is another very serviceable arm out in the pen for the Mariners, which gives them a good stable of arms to call in for relief appearances. The 2012 bullpen had a collective 3.39 ERA good for 12th in the MLB – and held opponents to a .230 BAA which was 6th in the Majors. Expect a similar middle of the road performance in 2013.
The Mariners lineup in 2012 was…bad. They finished last in the Majors with a .234 BA, .296 OBP, and .369 SLG%. The 2013 outlook isn’t much better at this point. They went out and got Kendry Morales from the Angels in exchange for Jason Vargas, and Michael Morse in a 3-way deal in which they gave up John Jaso. Jaso had the highest Batting Average on the team in 2012, and the 2nd highest Offensive WAR on the ball club. They may have upgraded their lineup slightly this offseason, also adding Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay as veteran depth options, but it is still nowhere near what it needs to be for them to be serious contenders. They are running low on options to fix this during this winter. Michael Bourn is still available, but the likelihood of the Mariners signing him drastically went down with the trade for Morse. They no longer seem to have an open OF spot for Bourn, but I’m sure if they end up signing him (not saying they will) they can find room. Now one projection I’ve seen for the 2013 Mariners starting lineup looks like this…
I’m not convinced this will be the everyday lineup, but it will look something like it. The Mariners surprisingly have a fair amount of options/versatility to move around in their lineup including; 1B Justin Smoak, OF Jason Bay, INF Robert Andino, and a SS prospect named Nick Franklin, that aren’t seen in the projection.
By getting Kendry Morales and Michael Morse (2 DH options), and getting rid of John Jaso (Their only other real catching option), the Catching job went to one of last season’s primary DHs for the Mariners, Jesus Montero. In Montero’s rookie campaign he hit .260/.298/.386 with 15 HRs and 63 RBI. These aren’t great numbers for a DH, and maybe not what people were expecting with all the hype surrounding Montero, but if he could put up those kind of numbers while catching 100+ games, that’s a good offensive catcher. How well he will play defensively remains to be seen. In the 46 games he caught in 2012 he accrued a -5 DRS (defensive runs saved) which is not a good start and only threw out 16.9% of runners (11 out of 65). Overall I think Montero’s offense will improve in his 2nd season in the Majors, but due to the increased time spend behind the plate the numbers may not climb to what he is capable of just yet. Defensively I think it will be a rough season for Montero, but maybe his offense can make up for the lack of defensive ability. It is also of note that the Mariners have just signed Kelly Shoppach to be Montero’s backup. Shoppach isn’t a guy the Mariners want to rely on, but he is a good backup/insurance policy if Montero really struggles. Shoppach is a much better defensive Catcher and has thrown out 41% of would-be base stealers for his career.
A 3rd Catcher I feel compelled to mention is Mike Zunino. Zunino was drafted in 2012 and has played only 44 professional baseball games, but there are a lot of fans hyping his debut already. He is an advanced player for the amount of time he has spent in pro-ball, but I don’t figure him to see the big leagues in 2013. He only briefly reached AA, and although very successful there, they have Montero and no need to rush prospects to the big leagues in 2013. Maybe you will get a glimpse of him as a September call-up. He’s an amazing talent, but probably not going to crack the Mariners lineup just yet.
Kyle Seager had an outstanding 1st full season in the Majors – hitting .259/.316/.423 with 20 HRs, 86 RBI, and 35 2Bs, all while manning the hot corner in 2012. Whether it impresses you or not, he was Top 20 in the AL in both RBI and 2Bs in his first season in the Majors, all of that facing tough AL West pitching on a regular basis. The future seems bright for one of the few real run producers in the Mariners lineup from a horrible 2012 campaign swinging the lumber as a team.
Center Field at Safeco Field will become a “no fly zone” in 2013 again as an integral part of the Mariners defense returns with what seems like a clean bill of health. Franklin Gutierrez will patrol Center Field in 2013. Gutierrez was hampered by a variety of injuries that allowed him to play in just 40 games in 2012 and 92 games in 2011, but seemingly healthy now, he should return to form in 2013. Gutierrez is first and foremost an outstanding defensive outfielder. He has a cannon for an arm and range to spare. In his 1st season with the Mariners back in ’09 he had a 30.9 UZR which lead the league and is really just ridiculous. In 2010 he received his 1st, and only Gold Glove Award/ Offensively Gutierrez is far less impressive, but considering the offensive struggles the Mariners had his bat will be welcomed back in the lineup as well. He is a career .256/.308/.384 hitter and has shown that he can muscle a dozen or so balls out of the ballpark on a good year.
At Shortstop it will almost certainly be Brendan Ryan beginning the year as the starter. Ryan’s defense like Gutierrez is top-notch, but also like Gutierrez his bat is nowhere near as good. In Ryan’s case, the gap is even more pronounced. Ryan hit .194/.277/.278 in 2012 and has only 15 HRs in just over 2000 career ABs. The only reason Ryan has a job in the MLB is because he has 89 DRS in the past 4 years at a prime position. He hasn’t won a Gold Glove, but he is of that caliber. The Mariners other main option at SS would be Nick Franklin. Although he faced more resistance last year at the AAA level than the rest of the Minors which he tore up, he would almost certainly out hit Ryan in the Majors if he were to start 2013 there, but he will likely get a chance to work on some things at AAA again. A mid-season call-up is completely possible especially since it seems the Mariners aren’t going anywhere this year.
Second Base will be played by Dustin Ackley who the Mariners have high hopes for after drafting him 2nd overall a few years back, but his sophomore season in 2012 wasn’t what the M’s were hoping for. His .226/.294/.328 line isn’t what you want out of your potential Leadoff hitter, and the Mariners desperately hope he can perform to his talent level this season. The Mariners need all their hitters to be at their best to put runs on the board.
The assumption for RF is that Michael Saunders will be the starter there. He like a lot of other Mariners is far from impressive with the bat. A career .220/.283/.365 isn’t going to get the job done from a Corner Outfielder. Saunders has some power, hitting 19 long balls and 31 two-baggers last season, which helped him have a career high .432 SLG%. Maybe he will continue on the upswing and turn in an even better year in 2013.
The LF/1B/DH shuffle will work like this. Morales will DH, Morse will play LF, and Smoak will man 1B… OR Morales will take 1B, Morse will DH and some combination of Bay/Ibanez will take LF. That’s at least the way I see this working out, and it could be that both of these options are utilized on a regular basis, but I would think the Mariners want to get the young Justin Smoak more experience and keep him in the lineup. This would mean the 1st scenario would be featured more prominently. Morales and Morse were the 2 big moves the M’s made this off-season to try to put some life into their lineup. Morales had his career year in ’09 hitting .306 with 34 HRs and 108 RBI for the Angels. Morse had his in ’11 hitting .303 with 31 HRs and 95 RBI with the Nationals. Both have failed to have that success in any other year, but have solid career numbers. Morales is a career .281/.331/.491 hitter, and Morse a .295/.347/.492 career hitter. The presence of the 2 sluggers in the lineup should instantly boost the Mariners past last season’s offensive production, but make it clear that others previously mentioned, like Ackley, Saunders, and Gutierrez will need to step their offense up to really make this Mariners lineup go.
Justin Smoak was another big part of the Cliff Lee trade, going from Texas to Seattle in the deal, and was always a highly ranked prospect after being drafted 11th overall in 2008. Smoak hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations set for him as some said he was the next “Mark Teixeira.” In 355 games, Smoak has hit .223/.306/.377 with 47 HRs. He was also touted as a great defender coming out of college. To this point I think his lack of offense has vastly overshadowed anything he has done on defense. I just can’t see the Mariners giving up on Smoak, so I think he will get another chance to prove himself, and if he could show improvement, that would be a HUGE help to the Mariners lineup in 2013.
After being a very good LF for the Pirates and Red Sox from ’04-09, Jason Bay signed a big deal with the New York Mets. He then proceeded to be a complete bust, and sign with the Mariners this winter – to try and regain some semblance of success. Ibanez similarly had some great years in his career, but Ibanez numbers dropped off for a legitimate reason in recent years, his advanced age is starting to catch up with him. Ibanez still managed to hit .240 with 19 HRs and 62 RBI with the Yankees in 2012 and was a hero for the team’s playoff run.
With all things considered, don’t expect to be buying any Mariners tickets in October. Their season will be 162 games in 2013 and not a game more. I think what Mariners fans can hope for is that their young player’s progress and the future will be brighter than the present. I give the Mariners credit for trying to improve their travesty of a lineup from 2012, but their efforts will not be enough to get them to the promise land.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***
Welcome to our newest Baseball Intern: Ryan Dana:
Ryan Dana is junior studying physical education with a concentration in coaching at Bridgewater State University. He has been playing baseball since he was 7 and coaching since he was 14. Ryan wants to be a college baseball coach once he graduates. Ryan is, and always will be, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. Secondary to baseball, he is a big health and fitness enthusiast. You can find Ryan on Twitter . Follow @ryandana1.
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Posted on January 31, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @ryandana1 on twitter, a's, AL West, angels, astros, baseball america, Blake Bleavan, Brendan Ryan, charlie furbush, cliff lee, cy young award, danny hultzen, Dustin Ackley, Erasmo Ramirez, felix hernandez, franklin gutierrez, gold glove, Gold Glove Award Winners AL, hector noesi, hisashi iwakuma, ichiro suzuki, Jack Zduriencik, james paxton, jason bay, Jason Vargas, jesus montero, Jim Callis, john jaso, justin smoak, justin upton, kelly shoppach, Kendry Morales, king felix, kyle seager, mark teixeira, mets, michael bourn, Michael Morse, michael pineda, Michael Saunders, mike zunino, nationals, Nick Franklin, oliver perez, pirates, prospects, rangers, raul ibanez, red sox, robert andino, ryan dana, safeco field, seattle mariners, Shawn Kelley, State of the Union, stephen pryor, taijuan walker, tom wilhelmsen, yankees, yu darvish. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.