2017 MLB Season Preview – American League West

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Houston Astros

2016 Record:84-78  • 3rd AL West

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Over

Moving In: DH Carlos Beltran • C Brian McCann • RF Josh Reddick • P Charlie Morton • OF Nori Aoki

Moving Out: C Jason Castro • 3B Luis Valbuena • OF Colby Rasmus • P Doug Fister • P Pat Neshek

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Dallas Keuchel. Saying that the 2015 AL Cy Young winner had a down year would be an understatement. Keuchel went from 20-8/2.48/1.01/216 in 232 innings to 9-12/4.55/1.29/144 in 168 innings in 2016. Yes, Keuchel did struggle with injuries throughout the season but when he was healthy, he struggled with his command and ended up surrendering more hits, walks and HR than his previous season. While the ‘stros did bolster their lineup in the offseason, they did not address a rotation that is one or two injuries away from a big problem. In order to become the clear cut favourite in the AL West, the Astros will need Keuchel to return to his 2015 form.

Potential Breakout: P Joe Musgrove. A supplemental first round pick (46) by the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove was acquired by the Astros in the J.A Happ trade. Since then, Musgrove has shot through the Astros minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2016. In 10 starts last season, Musgrove went (4-4/4.06/1.21/55 in 62 innings. Musgrove will open the season in competition with Mike Fiers for the 5th spot in the rotation. If he does not claim it, look for him to either go to the bullpen or be the first call up from AAA if an injury occurs.

Top Prospect: P Frances Martes • Age: 21  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Jiovanni Mier (21st) over Mike Trout (25th) in 2009.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Altuve • 2016 Stats: .338/.928/24/96/7.7 WAR in 640 AB

Money’s Man Crush: In all honesty, what is not to love about the Astros? They play in one of the sexier ballparks in MLB. They have some of, if not the best throwback jerseys in the majors. And they’re loaded with an absolute embarrassing amount of young, talented players. It’s hard to pick whom to swoon over more when you have the likes of SS Carlos Correa, 2B Jose Altuve, RF George Springer, 3B Alex Bregman, P Lance McCullers, and that is just a sample smattering of the studs that the ‘stros possess.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL West.

 

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Los Angeles Angels

2016 Record: 74-88 • 4th AL West

O/U on Wins: 76.5 • Under

Moving In: 2B Danny Espinosa • OF Cameron Maybin • OF Ben Revere • P Jesse Chavez • P Andrew Bailey • 3B Luis Valbuena

Moving Out: P Jered Weaver • P CJ Wilson •P Jhoulys Chacin • P Tim Lincecum • C Jett Bandy • SS Gregario Petit

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Garrett Richards. After a breakout season in 2014 was cut short by a torn knee ligament, Richards once again had a season interrupted because of a torn ligament. In 2016, he made 6 starts before being diagnosed with a torn UCL. Although he required Tommy John surgery, Richards opted against the surgery, instead going with rehab and biometric injections similar to Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Although it will take a miracle short of Joseph Gordon Levitt seeing actual angels for the LA Angels to make the playoffs or even compete for them for that matter, Richards’ return and progress from injury could be a bright spot for the Angels that is not named Mike Trout.

Potential Breakout: P Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs is currently in his second stint with the Angels. He was originally drafted by them in the first round of 2009 and then traded to the Diamondbacks in a package for Dan Haren in 2010, before being reacquired in a three team trade in 2013. However his 2nd debut for the Angels was cut short by Tommy John surgery which also kept him out for all of 2015. In 2016, Skaggs made 10 starts for the Angels, he went (3-4/4.17/1.49/50 in 49.2 innings. Skaggs did average a K/9 over 9 but also had a BB/9 of 4.2 in his limited action. With the Angels lacking depth on the mound and barring any setbacks or further injuries, you can expect Skaggs to set a new career high in starts since he made 18 in 2014.

Top Prospect: OF Jahmi Jones • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Kaleb Cowart (18th) over OF Christian Yelich (24th), Aaron Sanchez (34th) and Noah Syndergaard (38th) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: OF Mike Trout • 2016 Stats: .315/.991/29/100/10.6 WAR in 549 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Nothing else needs to be said besides the name, Mike Trout.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL West

 

sonny-gray

 

Oakland A’s

2016 Record: 69-93 • 5th AL West

O/U on Wins: 66.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Rajai Davis • UT Trevor Plouffe • OF Matt Joyce • 1B/OF Chris Parmalee• OF Jaff Decker

Moving Out: UT Danny Valencia • P Ross Detwiler • OF Sam Fuld

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Sonny Gray. The A’s righty went from being an All Star and finishing 3rd in AL Cy Young voting in 2015 to a minus WAR pitcher in 2016. Although Gray was limited to just 117 innings last season because of injury, his 11 losses, 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are all new career highs (or lows). Gray was also more susceptible to the long ball, with a HR/9 of 1.4 over a paltry .7 the year before. Batters were also making more frequent and better contact off Gray, as he set a new career high in H/9 with 10.4. The A’s will need Gray to have a big bounce back season if they have any aspirations of competing to even break .500. A rebound season would also be beneficial to Gray’s trade value if and when the A’s start taking calls. You know Billy Beane won’t hesitate to make a deal for Gray if the right one comes along.

Potential Breakout: P Sean Manaea. The key piece that the A’s received from the Royals in exchange for Ben Zobrist in 2015, Manaea made his MLB debut in 2016 and looked very impressive. Manaea posted a stat line of 7-9/3.86/1.19/124 in 144 innings and had a WAR of 2.7. The continuing emergence of Manaea could make the thought of trading Sonny Gray that more enticing, especially if the A’s stumble out of the gate. On the flip, if the A’s do have a surprising season, you can bank on Manaea to be a vital contributor to the cause.

Top Prospect: SS/2B Franklin Barreto • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P James Simmons (21) over Rick Porcello (27) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Khris Davis  2016 Stats: .247/.831/42/102/2.8 WAR in 555 AB

Money’s Man Crush: I will tell you what it isn’t, it’s sure as hell not that archaic cesspool of a ballpark that the A’s play in. Luckily for the fans, the A’s have some of the sweetest throwback jerseys in MLB which gives them something to take their mind off the fact that the sewage system could backup at anytime. As far as which throwback is best, you can’t go wrong with any version from 1967-1976 or the late 80’s-early 90’s.

2017 Prediction: 4th AL West

 

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Seattle Mariners

2016 Record: 86-76 •2nd AL West

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: SS Jean Segura • UT Danny Valencia • P Drew Smyly • C Carlos Ruiz • P Mark Rzepcynski • P Casey Fien • P Chris Heston • P Shae Simmons

Moving Out: P Taijuan Walker • SS Ketel Marte • 1B Adam Lind • P Nate Karns • OF Nori Aoki • P Vidal Nuno • P Zack Lee

Key Player(s) in 2017: C Mike Zunino. Despite bringing in veteran backstop, Carlos Ruiz, in the offseason, the starting catching position is really Zunino’s to lose. With the dreaded word “bust” starting to float around more and more, this could be a make or break year for the former 3rd overall pick in 2012. Entering his 5th season, Zunino will need to improve his offensive production if he has any hopes of being the starting C for the entire season. Through four seasons, Zunino has produced a career stat line of .196/.632/50/133/1.8 WAR in 350 G. With the Mariners having division title and playoff ambitions, they will need production out of their C position. They will not have time to sit around and wait on Zunino.

Potential Breakout: P James Paxton. Every season it seems that Paxton is poised for a big breakout. He will rattle off a series of great starts before getting bit by the injury bug and hitting the shelves for an extended period of time. When he is healthy, Paxton shows signs of being one of the better young southpaws in the game. Unfortunately for him and the Mariners, his inability to remain on the field has prevented him from reaching his full potential. With Taijuan Walker’s departure, Paxton will be leaned on a little more this season, especially with the Mariners hopes for October baseball.

Top Prospect: OF Kyle Lewis • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Danny Hultzen (2nd) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez and S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 2B Robinson Cano • 2016 Stats: .298/.882/39/103/7.3 WAR in 655 AB

Money’s Man Crush: P Felix Hernandez. Even in the twilight of his career, every start by the King has a chance to be something special. It’s also hard not to love the fan section known as “the Kings Court.”

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL West

 

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Texas Rangers

2016 Record: 95-67 • 1st AL West

O/U on Wins: 86.5 • Under

Moving In: 1B Mike Napoli • P Tyson Ross • P Andrew Cashner • P Allen Webster

Moving Out: UT Ian Desmond • DH Carlos Beltran • 1B Mitch Moreland • P Derek Holland • P Colby Lewis

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Yu Darvish. In 2016, Darvish made 17 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery. He went 7-5/3.41/1.12/132 in 100.1 innings, clearly showing very little signs of rust. With both the Astros and the Mariners fortifying their rosters in the offseason, while the Rangers lost key pieces to their 2016 success, a return to dominance for Darvish will be vital for the Rangers to defend their AL West title. 2017 will also be the final one in regards to Darvish’s contract. His performance this season will dictate which kind of deal he will land and perhaps where it will be too. Personally, I doubt that the Rangers will let Darvish get away but I would not be surprised at all to see him test the free agent market and compare offers.

Potential Breakout: 3B Joey Gallo. Signing of Mike Napoli hurts his chances of landing the everyday 1B job. Has worked at making himself more versatile and can also play 3B and LF, as well as DH. Gallo has light tower power but his all or nothing approach at the plate (76 strikeouts in 133 AB for his career) has hindered his offensive progression. At 23 years of age, Gallo is still young enough for the Rangers to be patient with his free swinging ways but for his own production, Gallo will need to drastically cut down on his K’s if he has ambitions of being an everyday DH while he waits for a position to open.

Top Prospect: OF Leody Taveras • Age: OF • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: OF Jake Skole (15th) over Christian Yelich (23rd) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: P Cole Hamels • 2016 Stats: 15 W/3.32/1.30/200/4.9 WAR in 200.7 IP

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Adrian Beltre. If you’re a baseball fan and you don’t love Adrian Beltre then we can never be friends.

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL West

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2016 MLB Regular Season Predictions • American League

2016-opening-day

Happy Opening Day to all of the baseball fans out there! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still emotionally hungover from last years Blue Jays playoff run. Every baseball moment from the “Bat Flip Heard Around the World” has been a complete blur, as was the subsequent offseason. Yet all of that is past us. Every team has a clean slate, and anything can happen.

 

American League East

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

2015 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 78 Wins • Push

X-Factor: Chris Tillman • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Dylan Bundy • RHP

Futures Report: Hunter Harvey • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

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Boston Red Sox

2015 Record: 78-84 (5th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Clay Buchholz • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF

Futures Report: Yoan Moancada • 2B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL East

 

AP Blue Jays Yankees Baseball

 

New York Yankees

2015 Record: 87-75 • (2nd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 85 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Nathan Eovaldi • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Luis Severino • SP

Futures Report: Jorge Mateo • SS

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL East

 

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Tampa Bay Rays

2015 Record: 80-82 • (4th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Corey Dickerson • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Jake Odorizzi • SP

Futures Report: Blake Snell • LHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

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Toronto Blue Jays

2015 Record: 93-69 • (1st AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Troy Tulowitzki • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Aaron Sanchez • SP

Futures Report: Anthony Alford • OF

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL East

 

 

American League Central

 

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Chicago White Sox

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Todd Frazier • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Carlos Rodon • SP

Futures Report: Carson Fullmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL Central

 

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Cleveland Indians

2015 Record: 81-80 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Michael Brantley • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Tyler Naquin • OF

Futures Report: Bradley Zimmer • OF

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL Central

 

Detroit Tigers batter Miguel Cabrera watches the ball as he hits a two-run, two-strike, two-out, home run to tie the game in New York

 

Detroit Tigers

2015 Record: 74-87 • (5th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Justin Verlander • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Daniel Norris • SP

Futures Report: Michael Fulmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL Central

 

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Kansas City Royals

2015 Record: 95-67 • (1st AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 84.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Lorenzo Cain • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Danny Duffy • SP

Futures Report: Raul Adalberto Mondesi • 2B/SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL Central

 

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

 

Minnesota Twins

2015 Record: 83-79 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 80 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Miguel Sano • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Byron Buxton • OF

Futures Report: Jose Berrios • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL Central

 

 

American League West

 

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Houston Astros

2015 Record: 86-76 • (2nd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Carlos Correa • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Ken Giles • RP

Futures Report: Alex Bergman • SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL West

 

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Los Angeles Angels

2015 Record: 85-77 • (3rd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 79.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Albert Pujols • 1B/DH

Potential Breakout Player: Andrew Heaney • SP

Futures Report: Taylor Ward • C

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL West

 

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros

 

Oakland A’s

2015 Record: 68-94 • (5th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 76 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Sonny Gray • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Kendall Graveman • SP

Futures Report: Franklin Barreto • SS

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL West

 

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

 

Seattle Mariners

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Kyle Seager • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Taijuan Walker • SP

Futures Report: Alex Jackson • OF

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL West

 

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Texas Rangers

2015 Record: 88-74 • (1st AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Yu Darvish • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Roughned Odor • 2B

Futures Report: Joey Gallo • 3B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL West

 

Awards

American League MVP

  1. Troy Tulowitzki • SS • Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Carlos Correa • SS • Houston Astros
  3. Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox

 

American League Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale • LHP • Chicago White Sox
  2. Cole Hamels • LHP • Texas Rangers
  3. Chris Archer • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

American League Rookie of the Year

  1. Byron Buxton • OF • Minnesota Twins
  2. Joey Gallo • 3B • Texas Rangers
  3. Blake Snell • SP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

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Love it or Hate it · Week Two · 2015 MLB Season

What We Loved:

Lawrie and Escobar

  • A’s vs. Royals. If you’re a fan of the old time, hardnosed style of baseball, then this has become a must watch series. Takeout slides, bean balls, emptying benches and ejections were in ample supply in this 2014 AL Wild Card rematch. Lost in all the hate and animosity was the fact that the Royals were able to stay hot as they took 2 of 3 from the A’s. Make sure you have your PVR’s set on June 26th-28th for the next time these two square off, this time the A’s will have home field advantage.
  • Beginning of Brighter Days in the Windy City. Both the Cubs and the White Sox have promoted their teams top prospects, 3B Kris Bryant and LHP Carlos Rodon. Although he struggled in his debut, Bryant has looked rather impressive in the 3 games he has played thus far; he even added a “house league homer” to his short highlight reel. Rodon, on the other hand, is set to join the White Sox early this week and will pitch out of the bullpen to begin his MLB career. The stream of prospects heading to the Windy City will only continue to flow as the Cubs are set to promote (another) top prospect, SS Addison Russell, at some point this week.
  • Nelson Cruz is who we thought he was. The Mariners big offseason acquisition is currently hitting .358/8/16 with an ungodly 1.234 OPS for the short season. That includes having a stat line of .500/6/10 this week alone.
  • The Braves (current) Big Three. The trio of starters, Julio Teheran (2-0/3.71 ERA), Alex Wood (1-0/3.93 ERA) and Shelby Miller (2-0/1.69 ERA), are easily the Braves biggest strength and have shown that even with a somewhat suspect lineup, the Braves could potentially contend based on their arms alone.
  • The return of Garrett Richards. Sure it wasn’t the prettiest of starts (5IP/5 H/4 ER) but at least Garrett Richards is back on a big league mound after undergoing surgery for a torn patellar tendon.
  • Adam Jones. The Orioles CF is making an early and strong case for being the best CF in MLB. Jones is currently hitting .438/5/16 with a 1.294 OPS.
  • The promotion of OF Yasmany Tomas by the Diamondbacks.

What We Hated:

Lawrie

  • Kelvin Herrera headhunting. I am a big fan of that old style of baseball mentioned above. I also believe in the “you hit one of ours, we’ll hit one of yours,” approach in baseball. What I don’t agree with is throwing at a guy’s head. Not only is it a blatant intent to injure, but it could also kill someone, especially when you’re hitting 100mph on the radar gun like Herrera does. If you really want to get “revenge” for an aggressive takeout slide or one of your guys getting plunked, by all means hit one of their batters, but just aim for the ribs or thigh.
  • Another DL trip for Derek Holland. The pitching starved Rangers were banking on the veteran left hander to be one of the brighter spots in a bleak rotation, but instead, Holland will spend upwards of the next two months on the DL with (another) shoulder injury. That now makes 9 Rangers currently sitting on the Disabled List.
  • Are the Marlins this bad? Off to a 3-10 start and with rumours starting to circulate about the security of Manager Mike Redmond’s job, the Marlins seem far from the team that a lot of people were expecting to make some noise in the National League this season.
  • Travis d’Arnaud’s durability. The Mets catcher is headed to the DL again. It’s a shame to see a combo of bad luck and proneness for injury keeping a player of d’Arnaud’s talent out of the lineup on a consistent basis.
  • Mets injury woes. David Wright (hamstring), Travis d’Arnaud (Broken Hand) and Jerry Blevins (Fractured Forearm) are all the latest members of the Mets to wind up on the DL. At least this means that we will see one of the Mets top prospects, Kevin Plawecki, make his MLB debut.
  • Kris Bryant’s debut. Not that we actually “hate” it, but the highly touted Bryant went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts in his MLB debut. Don’t worry… I’m sure it won’t be a trend.
  • The Diamondbacks using Yasmany Tomas as a glorified pinch hitter.

Paul Wilson

Irrelevant Major Leaguer of the Week:

SP Paul Wilson · 7 yrs · 170 G · 153 GS · 941.2 IP · 40/58 W/L · 619 K · 4.86 ERA · 1.450 WHIP ·

Blue Jays Edition

What We Loved:

Kevin Pillar

  • Kevin F*****g Pillar! Dude is playing on a different level. Followed up his highlight reel performance in Baltimore by making what could very well be the catch of the year…
  • Devin Travis. Sure Tony the Chain is looking alright in Detroit, but Travis could prove to be a downright steal. All Travis has done since he made the team has played exceptional 2B D and not given away one single at bat. Seriously. Travis works each and every count like he is an 8 year pro. Oh… and he can also hit lead off.
  • Josh Donaldson’s bat waking up. The Jays three bagger went 11 for 29 with 3 HR and 7 RBI this past week.
  • The Old Breed. Veteran starting pitchers, Buehrle (2-0/3.75 ERA) and Dickey (0-1/3.26 ERA) have proven to be their usual reliable selves, as well as the lone bright spots, in a Blue Jays rotation that currently has a collective ERA of 5.14.
  • Liam Hendriks. Never thought I’d heap praise in any kind towards one of the Jay’s “jobbers,” but the Aussie right hander has looked pretty decent in a mop up role out of the pen. Hendricks has seen his fastball velocity rise and has used it to strike out 9 in 5.1 shutout innings thus far.

What We Hated:

Devon Travis

  • Not being able to have anything nice. First it’s discovered that the oft-injured Jose Reyes could spend some time on the DL with a fractured rib. Then, early bright spot, Devin Travis, wears a fastball in the ribs and is forced to leave the game after sliding back to 1B to avoid a pickoff. Sure it turned out to be just a bone bruise… but still… anytime you have to employ a double play combo of Goins and Tolleson is a lose/lose.
  • Blue Jay Killers. The Jays had the privilege of facing not one, but two players, whom flat out OWN the Jays for their careers. First, Desmond Jennings and the Rays came to town and took 3 of 4, including the Home Opener. Dezzy joins the likes of Longo and Carl Crawford as current and former Rays players, who just RAKE against the Jays. With Jennings and the Rays leaving town, the Braves were next to roll into the Dome. With them came the former O and long time Blue Jay killer, Nick Markakais. Sure enough, Markakis and the Braves were able to take 2 of 3 over the weekend. And we’re not even mentioning how the Jays have already faced known Blue Jay murderers, Brett Gardener and Adam Jones, to open the season.
  • Dalton Pompey. The young CF has had more struggles than highlights in the young season. Given Kevin Pillar’s ridiculous play to start the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pompey be the one optioned to AAA Buffalo to make room for Saunders once he comes off the DL.
  • The Young Guns. The three starting pitchers NOT NAMED Buehrle or Dickey all currently have an ERA sitting North of 6.00.
  • Gibby doing his best Dusty Baker. Don’t you just get the feeling that Gibby is just going to grind the young arms of Osuna and Castro right into the Rogers Centre turf? And speaking of that turf…
  • The amount of times per broadcast that you have to hear about the new turf. The over/under is set at 10.5 mentions per game; always take the over.

Alberto Castillo

Irrelevant Blue Jay of the Week:

C Alberto Castillo · 132 G · 316 AB · 2 HR · 20 RBI · .206 AVG · .534 OPS

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2015 MLB Season Preview · AL West · Seattle Mariners

Safeco Field

Seattle Mariners

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.

Cano and the King

 

Honourable Mentions:

  • 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.

 

 

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.

walker paxton

 

Honourable Mention:

  • 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.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle Mariners

Top Positional Prospect: Alex Jackson · OF · MLB ETA: 2017

Alex Jackson

Top Pitching Prospect: Edwin Diaz · RHP · MLB ETA: 2017

edwin diaz

Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=sea

Final Prediction: 1st AL West

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