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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Seattle Mariners

Wild on Sports
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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Seattle Mariners
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Seattle Mariners
2012 Record:
75-87

The Mariners continued their recent trend of fielding a miserable offense and some park-aided pitching ‘stars’.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Joe Saunders, Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Jason Bay
NOTABLE LOSSES: Jason Vargas, John Jaso

Keys to Success: Will their young hitters be able to weather the physical and psychological effects of Safeco Field and become useful players? Can Dustin Ackley rebound from his terrible season? The Mariners don’t lack talented hitters-their lineup is littered with former top prospects-but sustained success has been hard to come by. Plate discipline doesn’t seem to be an issue, as Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Mike Carp all get on base…when they walk. Can Franklin Gutierrez either stay healthy or hit at a league average level again? He is a premium defensive player so if he can rediscover his lost offense, he’ll be a quietly valuable player. Will their bushel of promising pitching prospects fill out the back end of the rotation this year?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool


Mike Zunino, C:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
xx
 
xx
x
x
TBD
Top draft pick Zunino’s debut was a little ridiculous, but in a good way. He hit an insane .360/.447/.689 with 13 HR and 43 RBI between rookie-level Everett and then in a brief trial with AA-Jackson. Everett is a good hitting environment, and he should have destroyed that level as a 21-year-old, but his near-equal success in AA establishes him as a legitimate threat to become a top-tier offensive catcher. Zunino might start back at AA, and Seattle might want to give Jesus Montero a full season to prove once and for all whether or not he can stay at catcher. Still, Zunino could soon force his way into the major league lineup.
TIJUAN WALKER, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
xx
TBD
x
x
x
Walker’s numbers overall were mediocre. In 25 starts with AA-Jackson he went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA and and 118 strikeouts in 126.2 innings. However, he did so as a 19-year-old, which made him the youngest starting pitcher in the league, and he continually draws rave reviews for his mix of stuff. He has plenty of time figure out how to best utilize his impressive mix of pitches and when he does, he can be an ace. Walker may find Safeco Field especially rewarding, and could even challenge for an immediate role in the spring.
DANNY HULTZEN, LHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
x
x
 
x
x
Hultzen, taken second overall in the 2011 draft, was billed as a polished left-hander who might not have ace-level stuff but made up for it with a near-major league ready command of his pitches. He lived up to that reputation in AA-Jackson, going 8-3 with a 1.19 ERA (!!!) in 13 starts, with 79 K in 73 innings. However, he hit a wall at AAA-Tacoma, calling into question his big league readiness and even his ability to start. He went 1-4 with a 5.92 in 12 starts with Tacoma. Most disturbing was his 43 walks in 48.2 innings (although he did strike out 57), and that kind of control issue was completely out of the blue. There are no issues with his stuff, so if Hultzen can put that bad stretch behind him, he can compete for a rotation spot.
NICK FRANKLIN, SS (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
TBD
TBD
x
x
x
Franklin is a very solid shortstop prospect who is close to the majors, a good thing considering incumbent Brendan Ryan hit under .200 (albeit with arguably the best defense in the league). His overall .278/.347/.453 line with 11 HR in 121 games hides a major split between AA-Jackson (.322/.394/.502) and AAA-Tacoma (.243/.310/.416), but he’s only 22, and overall Franklin has hit well in the minors (.283/.351/.458). His speed right now is still solid but he’s been gradually slowing down as he gets older and fills out, to the point where it might not be a major part of his game in the majors. Expect him to start the year repeating AAA-Tacoma.
CARTER CAPPS and STEPHEN PRYOR, RHP (relievers):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
TBD
x
x
xx
x
These two pitchers deserve brief write-ups as rookie relievers who could instantly dominate, as they were excellent in the minor leagues and both held their own in the second half last year with Seattle. Don’t be surprised if either become Seattle’s closer this year. 


Top 2012 Draft Pick: Zunino 


Sleeper MLB Contributor: lhp JAMES PAXTON is a little behind Walker and Hultzen, but he is young and talented and could put it all together quickly. 


2013 Outlook and Projection: Seattle’s offensive misery is starting to look like Colorado’s desperate and futile attempts to find pitching in the earlier part of the last decade (and again now). They have been dead last in the American league in runs scored 4 years in a row…and the year before that, 2008, they were “only” second-to-last. Since 2010, Seattle has not had more than three players hit above league average (minimum: 200 at-bats). Last year’s best hitter, John Jaso, was traded away for one-dimensional power hitter Mike Morse, exactly the kind of hitter who struggles in Safeco. In fact, their slugger grab bag this winter seems destined to disappoint. The trio of Morse, Morales, and Bay, no matter where they play, will also bring down the team defense, although they are still strong up the middle. However, there is hope for the Mariners. Two things allow for a realistic scenario in which they surprise and contend: first, extreme pitching environments can often benefit the home team as it can be something of an equalizer against teams with better offenses. Mediocre fly ball pitchers can thrive, where in other environments they would fail. Not only that, but Seattle still has good pitching depth behind Felix Hernandez, with a good mix of veterans and young talent (watch out for the underrated Erasmo Ramirez). Second, Seattle has an impressive amount of prospects who are near-major league ready, in addition to players who are already on the team, like Jesus Montero. Their overflow of talent is also spread out over the diamond, the kind of mix that could instantly bring a team out of the basement. It would foolish to expect that, but it’s not impossible.
POSSIBLE CONTENDERS


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