The Mariners are a team moving in the right direction – and with the Astros moving over to the AL West, at least we know Seattle won’t finish last anymore. The Ms have always had a system that focused on home-grown players but over the last couple seasons they have gone outside of the organization to improve and it seems to be working.
The Mariners have notoriously made horrible free agent signings and trades (see Jeff Cirillo, Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima, Chone Figgins … you can even go all the way back to the Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek trade) but over the last couple seasons they’ve made much smarter moves. They’ve acquired Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Kendrys Morales, and Michael Morse through trades to help their anemic offense while developing a pretty good pitching game from within. Does the young pitching staff have what it takes to take the Mariners to the next level? Probably not, but it’s good to see Seattle being competitive. Let’s see what we can expect in 2013.
2012 Team Rankings:
Runs: 27th Overall
Batting Average: 30th Overall
ERA: 10th Overall
WHIP: 7th Overall
Catchers: Jesus Montero, Kelly Shoppach – Grade: B
The Mariners got Montero from the Yankees in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Bronx and while Pineda spent all season on the disabled list Montero had a promising rookie campaign. In 135 games, the 22-year-old batted .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI. He seldom walks but has pop and ability to hit the gap for days. On the other hand, he spent much of last season as the DH and will move into a full time catcher role with Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez coming over which should mean fewer at-bats.
Shoppach split last season between the Red Sox and the Mets, hitting .233 with eight HR, 27 RBI, and 14 doubles. Despite a .226 career average, he’s a solid backup catcher.
First Base: Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, Kendrys Morales – Grade: C+
Smoak continues to struggle to do anything except hit home runs but at least he has provided a solid amount of pop in an otherwise anemic Mariners lineup. Over his first two seasons with the Mariners he is batting .225 and averaging 17 home runs, 53 RBI, and 44 runs per season. His .675 OPS is far from what you want from a first baseman, perhaps it is worth considering moving Montero to first.
Carp is another young first baseman who shares the team’s general inability to hit over .230. Although he has a solid showing in 2011 (.276, 12 home runs, 46 RBI in 79 games), he batted just .213 with five home runs and 20 RBI in 59 games last season. He has the ability to hit 30+ home runs per season but the Mariners seem intent on Smoak as the starter.
Morales came over from the Angels in a rare intra-divisional trade in return for Jason Vargas. In 2012 he batted .273 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI after being hit hard by injuries the previous two seasons. Although he is a chronic injury risk, he batted .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBI in his only other full season in the majors. He will likely spend most of the season as the starting DH but a healthy Morales could end up being the best hitter on this team.
Ackley is yet another member of the Mariners’ under-.230 club after batting just .226 in 2012. He added 12 home runs, 50 RBI, 84 runs, and 13 stolen bases which are all solid numbers for a second baseman—but his .622 OPS and 124 strike outs last year all point to a generally mediocre player.
The Mariners got Andino from the Orioles after the 2012 season in return for Trayvon Robinson, likely after deciding his .211 bating average would be a perfect fit for a team who finished dead last in the category. Andino has a bit of speed, a solid glove, and the ability to play all over the infield but he’s a career .235 hitter without much else to offer.
Brendan Ryan is a very good defensive shortstop. He’s as good on defense as he is bad on offense, having put up a .194 average with 31 RBI, 42 runs, and 11 stolen bases in 2012. He isn’t that bad a hitter generally, owning a career .244 average, but he won’t add much to the team’s terrible offense. His .555 OPS last season is as bad as you will find for a starter around the league, even on the Mariners.
Triunfel is one of the Mariners’ top prospects who will get his first real taste of the majors this season. He has fantastic speed and the ability to hit the gap. At the same time, he commits a ton of errors (163 over six minor league seasons) and hasn’t really developed any of his skills, actually dropping his OPS below .700 over the last two seasons. This one could go either way and considering he’s a prospect in Seattle I wouldn’t get too optimistic.
Seager was the only offensive bright spot in the Mariners’ mess of a lineup last season, batting .259 with 20 home runs, 86 RBI, 62 runs, 35 doubles, and 13 stolen bases. Along with a very good glove, Seager looks for real and is likely to repeat that kind of production again – if the rest of the Mariners don’t rub off on him.
Liddi is likely the best offensive player in the Mariners’ farm system and will likely get a chance to play real innings this year. He has excellent pop (30 HR in 139 games in 2011), a great amount of extra-base hits, solid speed, and the ability to draw a walk. He is going to strike out a ton and his average isn’t great (what else is new?) but there is a good chance this kid ends up moving to first and replacing Smoak or moving to the outfield.
The recently acquired Michael Morse, who came over from the Nats in a three-team trade that cost Seattle John Jaso, could end up being a huge get. Although he was stifled by injuries in 2012, he still batted .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI. The previous year Morse came into his own with a .303 AVG, 31 home runs, 95 RBI, and 73 runs which is where he’ll be if he stays on the field.
Saunders looked good in his first full season, batting .247 with 19 home runs, 57 RBI, 71 runs, 31 triples, and 21 stolen bases. The former Mariners top prospect is never going to hit for a great average but has an excellent mix of pop and speed and should be a reliable outfielder if he keeps his strikeouts in check.
Aside from playing the role of Yankees playoff hero, Ibanez put up a very solid season at 40-years-old in 2012. He batted just .240 but put up 19 home runs and 62 RBI. He’s a reliable vet who will split time between the outfield, DH, and the bench.
A few years ago Gutierrez looked like he was developing into an All-Star outfielder but between injuries and general lack of ability, he has been limited to 132 games, .235 average, and .596 OPS over the last two seasons. I don’t see him being a factor once again.
The Ms took a shot on Bay after the Mets shelled out $21 million just to cut him from the roster. He couldn’t have possibly been a worse investment for the Mets, playing just 288 games and putting up just 26 home runs and .234 average over three years – on a four-year contract worth $66 million. Three seasons ago he earned that contract putting up a .267 average with 36 home runs, 119 RBI, 103 runs, and 13 stolen bases for the Red Sox—but it’s hard to imagine him getting back to that point.
You won’t get a better pitcher than Felix which is why the Mariners locked him up with a five-year, $135.5 million extension. He hasn’t had an ERA higher than 3.47 since 2007, and over his last four seasons he is averaging 15-10, 2.81 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 238 IP and 224 K. There’s no reason to expect anything else in 2013.
Iwakuma looked very promising in his first major league season as the 31-year-old went 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 125 IP while splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. In Japan, Iwakuma has a career 2.67 ERA and 1.13 WHIP so he seems to be right in line with the American conversion rate.
Ramirez is a solid looking prospect and looked good in 2012 despite only pitching 59 innings. In eight starts and eight relief appearances, Ramirez put up a 3.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 48 K. In five seasons in the minors, he owned a 41-17 record with a 3.19 ERA and 1.14 WHIP though he struggled a bit as he moved up to Triple-A.
Beavan has all the makings of a solid pitcher, though not a particularly impressive one. Over his first 41 MLB starts he is 16-17 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He isn’t going to overpower anyone and he gives up too many home runs so I expect him to stay in the mid-4.00 ERA range.
Noesi came over from the Yankees last season, along with Jesus Montero, and struggled mightily in his first season with the Ms. He went 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and gave up 21 homers in just 106 innings. He didn’t do any better when he was sent to the minors, going 2-6 with a 5.74 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. He’s 26 and has been in the minors for seven years now, I don’t see him developing into a major league caliber starter.
Wilhemsen stepped up last season to take over the closer role when Brandon League got hurt and ran with it. In 73 appearances he put up a 2.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 87 Ks while saving 29 out of 34 games. He’s a good looking pitcher and I expect him to keep up that kind of production.
Capps, Pryor, and Luetge all looked reliable in their first big league seasons last year as all three put up sub-4.00 ERAs while struggling with base runners. They’re all young but no one stands out that much.
Furbush doesn’t make a good starter but he makes a solid reliever, putting up a 2.72 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in his first year as a full-time bullpen arm. Same goes for Perez who struggled a ton as a starter with the Mets but put up a 2.12 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in his first season as a full-time reliever.
Team Grade: B-
Fearless Prediction: 81-81, 4th in AL West