Home Ballpark: Safeco Field
2014 Finish: 87-75 · 3rd AL West
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 85 · Over
What We Love:
Cano and the King: It must be nice to look at your team’s roster and see perennial candidates for the MVP and Cy Young awards. But that is exactly what the Mariners have in the duo of Robinson Cano and (King) Felix Hernandez. In 2014, Hernandez did everything short of sending the BBWAA gift baskets in order to win his second Cy Young. Unfortunately for Hernandez, who went 15-6 with a 2.14 ERA and struck out 248 batters over 236 innings in 2014, he was bested by Indians SP Corey Kluber. This wasn’t the first time that Hernandez finished as the runner up for the Cy, he finished 2nd to Zack Greinke back in 2009, before winning one of his own in 2010. The Mariners were the winner of the 2013 Robinson Cano Free Agent Sweepstakes, when they inked the six-time All Star to a 10yr/$240mil contract, and Cano didn’t disappoint in his Seattle debut. Cano played in 157 games for the Mariners, hitting .314/14/82 with and .836 OPS; good enough for 5th in AL MVP voting. The only negative aspect of Cano’s first season in Seattle was the impact spacious Safeco Field had on his power numbers; his 14 HR and .454 SLG% were the lowest since his 2008 totals. It should also be noted that both Cano and Hernadez are extremely durable, Hernandez hasn’t pitched less than 190 innings since 2006, and Cano hasn’t played less than 157 games since that same year. The Mariners will need both Cano and the King to be their usual elite selves this season if they want to snap that 14 year playoff drought.
- Kyle Seager at the hot corner: Underrated 3B enjoyed a breakout 2014 season and earned his first trip to the All Star game by hitting .268/25/96; he also won his first career Gold Glove.
- Iwakuma being Robin to Felix’s Batman: Only made 28 starts in 2014 due to injury but still won 15 games. He may be one of the more underrated starters in MLB.
- Untapped potential of Taijuan Walker and James Paxton: both pitchers are extremely talented and have immense potential but will need to be more consistent and durable in order to reach that potential.
- Mike Zunino’s receiving skills and game calling: Defensively gifted and did a superb job handling the Mariners pitchers as a rookie, but will need his bat to catch up to his defensive prowess.
- Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fljZ_QilQMQ
What We Hate:
Back of the Rotation: Sure the Mariners have Batman and Robin at the top of the rotation (Hernandez and Iwakuma) but after them, things are a little less certain. The Mariners 2015 rotation will be rounded out by two highly gifted, yet unproven prospects (Paxton and Walker) and a crapshoot southpaw (JA Happ). Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are the Mariners two top pitching prospects, they have an immense amount of potential, a (seemingly) limitless ceiling, and barely any major league experience. Of the two, Paxton has the most experience with 98 innings pitched, while Walker only has 53 innings to his credit. Who knows what to expect from them this season. Speaking of not knowing what to expect, JA Happ was brought in via trade from Toronto. Happ had a decent to mediocre season with the Blue Jays in 2014, going 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 26 starts. In his career, Happ has shown flashes of brilliance, but they have usually been spread out between below average starts. With the two unproven youngsters in the rotation, the Mariners will need Happ to perform like he has shown he can. If any of those three struggle, LHP Roenis Elias should be able to slide from the long relief role into the rotation.
- The Nelson Cruz contract: Not only could it be one year too late, but the Mariners haven’t gambled this much on free agent, right-handed power since the Richie Sexson/Adrian Beltre contracts a decade ago.
- Bottom of the lineup: 6 through 9 hitters could leave something to desire from an offensive producing standpoint.
- A 40lb Lighter Jesus Montero: Sure it might help him finally reach the potential that made him a top prospect, but now there is less of a chance of seeing someone throws (another) ice cream sandwich at him.
Player to Watch: OF Dustin Ackley. When the Mariners selected Ackley with the 2nd overall pick back in 2009, they believed they were drafting a player with an advanced offensive bat. Originally drafted as a 2B, Ackley, now an OF, had been experiencing an average to below average start to his major league career; before his mini-breakout in 2014. Last season, Ackley hit .245 with 14 HR and 65 RBI in 143 games, although his .293 OBP did leave something to desire. The Mariners offense will need Ackley to build off of his successes last season as, even with the Nelson Cruz signing, this could be a team that struggles to score.
Top Positional Prospect: Alex Jackson · OF · MLB ETA: 2017
Top Pitching Prospect: Edwin Diaz · RHP · MLB ETA: 2017
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=sea
Final Prediction: 1st AL West