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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Seattle Mariners team preview

2009 Record: 85-77   .525

Run Differential: -52

When Seattle looked to fill it's GM vacancy after the 2008 season they went outside the box.  What followed was a flurry of moves as the roster was completely reshaped in Jack Zduriencik image.  Jack Z may be even more statistically advanced than A's GM Billy Beane and it showed as he went after the best defensive players at each position.  Trading for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and signing Endy Chavez were the big moves made before the season.  Gutierrez had a season that Willie Mays would be proud of as he saved 25 runs more than the average center fielder.  During the season Jack Wilson, Ryan Langerhans, and Jack Hannahan were all acquired as the team cornered the market on elite defensive talent.  The best news, however, was from the performance of Felix Hernandez.  King Felix struck out 217 batters in 238 innings and posted a 2.49 ERA which earned him a second place finish in the Cy Young voting.  Ichiro got 200 hits again and Russell Branyan had a career year. Unfortunately the rest of the offense tanked and prevented this team from ever being taken seriously as a playoff contender.

The roster continued to take shape over the winter but the same questions remain.
Cliff Lee was acquired in a megablockbuster that also netted Philadelphia Roy Halladay.  With Lee at the top of the rotation next to Hernandez, the team could be a formidable playoff match-up for anybody.  Unfortunately, the offense wasn't really addressed. Chone Figgins was signed to replace the departed Adrian Beltre and Milton Bradley was also brought in. Negative attitude issues aside, Bradley will be the only consistent on-base threat not named Ichiro out there everyday (if he's healthy).  It's unlikely any player on the team will top 25 home runs and it shouldn't be a shock if no player hits 20.  Yes, Safeco is a tough park but the only player that can be considered a power hitter is Jose Lopez.  Low on base averages and low slugging percentages will cause this team to finish in the bottom third in the league in runs scored.  How then can a team with a porous offense and large questions in the rotation be considered a playoff contender?  In Seattle, the engine that drives the Mariners' car will again be its defense.  Last year's defense was incredible and this year's looks to be equally impressive.  Every position looks to be above average defensively except left field and several players are considered elite defenders (Gutierrez, Kotchman, Ichiro, Wilson). Figgins will be moved to second base and Jose Lopez moved to third as the team attempts to cluster its best defenders up the middle.  Regardless of whether or not this works out, give Jack Z credit for configuring his team to maximize their defensive abilities.  It's unlikely Seattle will be as successful as it was in 2008 in terms of wins and losses but that last season's results were unexpected anyway.  The foundation is set with key young players.  The formula for success is clear also.  Now Seattle simply needs to lure one or two big hitters to the Emerald City and this team will be scary.

Likely Opening Day Roster:
Pos.
Name
My Two Cents
C
Rob Johnson
Moore will probably pass him and if Bard hits Johnson will fall to third on the depth chart
C
Adam Moore
Pretty good hitter for a catcher and has now improved defense enough to get starting shot.
1b
Casey Kotchman
Couldn't really hit in the NL. Not sure how this is going to work out
2b
Chone Figgins
Hasn't played 2b regularly since he was a rookie. The move should make pitchers happy
3b
Jose Lopez
Last year had more HR than BB. Would actually have decent stats if not for Safeco Field
SS
Jack Wilson
Good defense but bat is pretty weak. 
LF
Milton Bradley
Will need to DH frequently but actually hit pretty well last year after April
CF
Franklin Gutierrez
Best defensive player in baseball?  His defense alone made him an MVP candidate
RF
Ichiro Suzuki
9 straight 200-hit seasons.  This year is season number ten meaning a HOF plaque is coming
IF
Jack Hannahan
One of many excellent defenders on this team, will likely come in late innings and backup SS
IF
Ryan Garko
Will platoon with Kotchman at first-base.  SEA might rank dead last in 1b offense
OF
Eric Byrnes
Tearing both hamstrings has robbed him of all his admirable qualities. If he doesn't hit, it's over
DH
Ken Griffey, Jr
Just let it end, Jr! He's still an OK platoon player but dreaming of glory days just saddens me
SP
Felix Hernandez
All Hail the King! Finally gets a good defense behind him and look at those results. 
SP
Cliff Lee
If he can avoid the injury bug will challenge Felix not only for team Cy Young but for league
SP
Ryan Rowland-Smith
I think he'd be a great swing man or a Justin Masterson-light but he will start this year
SP
Ian Snell
A 17 K effort in AAA last year shows there's talent here.  Will he finally realize it?
SP
Jason Vargas
Just keeping the seat warm until Bedard returns
Cl
David Aardsma
Not ready to call him a superstar yet but he's clearly figured things out
SU
Mark Lowe
Gives up a few too many homers to be top notch setup guy but cutting his walk rate helped in '09
RP
Brandon League
Traded by Toronto because they didn't know how to use him. Expect SEA to get better results
RP
Mark Kelley
Intriguing arm needs to stay healthy to give the team a clear picture of what he offers
RP
Sean White
A 28:20 K:BB ratio in 64 innings means this is unlikely to be a happy ending
RP
Garrett Olson
Looks like this guy will never live up to expectations. Despite great D, posted 5.60 ERA
RP
Jesus Colome
Throws hard. That's all I got.
DL: Erik Bedard - Really, when isn't this guy on the DL these days?

He'll win a Cy Young, but when?  At least the team won't have 
to wonder where after Felix signed a contract extension this winter.

Say Hello To: Chone Figgins, Ryan Garko, Eric Byrnes, Yusmeiro Petit, Josh Bard, Chad Cordero, Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman, Brandon League

Wave Goodbye: Adrian Beltre, Carlos Silva, Bill Hall, Brandon Morrow, Russell Branyan, Kenji Johjima, Chris Jakubauskas, Miguel Batista, Ray Corcoran

Rookies: Adam Moore - On this team any offense is a welcome sight.

Potential Breakout: Jose Lopez - 25 home runs while playing in Safeco is nothing to sneeze at.  The power is real, if he can improve his walk totals by about 20 we could see some serious improvements.

Welcome to Earth:  Chone Figgins - I like the guy, really I do, but I think there's something about playing for Mike Scioscia that makes a player with his skills excel.  Moving to Safeco won't help either.

Likely to Rebound: Milton Bradley - Just shutting his mouth makes him a rebound candidate.  The Cubs never should have expected him to hit 30 HR since he's never done that before. Instead he'll hit linedrives and walk.  Admirable skills for an unadmirable person.

Top 3 players: Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Ichiro

Top Prospect: Dustin Ackley 2b- Scouts expect this guy to hit .300/.400/.460 and steal 20 bases.  Not sure if he'll be able to stick at second or if he'll end up in the outfield.  Either way, if he develops more power he'll be a stud.

Prediction: 77-87  4th place A.L. West
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