Seattle Mariners Preview
With the first team in the AL West, and arguably the team that has gone through the most roster turnover in the American League the past two offseasons, is the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners definitely have some good pieces on their roster, like SP Felix Hernandez, 2B Robinson Cano and OF/DH Nelson Cruz, but there are still some areas of question. However, second year GM Jerry Dipoto claims that the Mariners are in win-now mode, and since they are the franchise with the longest playoff drought, you have to believe him.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Drew Smyly, Yovani Gallardo
This rotation looks to be pretty good, and any rotation with Felix Hernandez has a chance to be in the top half of the league. It's not just about him, however, as Iwakuma is one of the most durable starters in the game and Paxton is a young up and comer. Yovani Gallardo is durable as well and was a long term ace for the Milwaukee Brewers, and Drew Smyly was a good pickup to round out the rotation. After that, Ariel Miranda, Rob Whalen and Chris Heston provide some good depth, and GM Dipoto has done a really good job putting this rotation together.
BULLPEN: Edwin Diaz (CL), Steve Cishek, Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski, Dan Altavilla, Evan Scribner, Ariel Miranda, Dillon Overton
Edwin Diaz came out of nowhere during the latter portion of the season to become one of the better closers in baseball, and Steve Cishek has experience as a setup man and closer as well. This bullpen is full of "no names", but has a chance to be solid throughout. Vincent, Rzepczynski and Scribner all had good seasons last year, and Dan Altavilla came on strong in 15 appearances. Ariel Miranda is a long reliever, and prospect Dillon Overton seems poised to make the big league jump. Shae Simmons, James Pazos, Casey Fien, and Zac Curtis are all in the running for a roster spot as well.
CATCHERS: Mike Zunino, Carlos Ruiz
The catching battle will be interesting in Seattle this year, as Mike Zunino is the favorite due to his power bat, but don't count out the other two guys. Carlos Ruiz is a veteran who has won a World Series before, and Tuffy Gosewich has experience in both Arizona and Atlanta. If either has a really great Spring Training, they could take the starting job from Zunino, but I wouldn't expect that. Carlos Ruiz's experience should earn him the backup job either way, and his ability to handle great starting pitchers (Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt) would earn him a spot anywhere.
INFIELDERS: Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, Danny Valencia, Dan Vogelbach, Shawn O'Malley
I feel like the Mariners are a bat or two short, as they are pretty weak at at least one starting lineup position. It's not second or third base, where All-Stars Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager are, and former All-Star Jean Segura had a nice bounce back season in Arizona after dealing with injury and losing his child the year prior. Danny Valencia was the best hitter on the Athletics at times during last season, and Shawn O'Malley is a utility guy that can play anywhere. Dan Vogelbach gets the last infield spot due to his prospect status, his ability to play first base and DH, and his power. Keep an eye on Mike Freeman and Taylor Motter as well, along with first base prospect DJ Peterson.
OUTFIELDERS: Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin, Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Haniger
Nelson Cruz is the starting designated hitter at the moment, and the speedy, defensive whiz Jarrod Dyson was just traded in from Kansas City. Leonys Martin is another player like Dyson, but his bat is better. I did only keep four outfielders on the active roster, in part due to the lack of depth and also because Valencia and O'Malley can play in the outfield. I gave the last spot to Mitch Haniger, who was okay in limited time with Arizona last season. Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia are going to be competing with him not just for a roster spot, but for a starting spot as well.
LINEUP: Martin (CF), Segura (SS), Cano (2B), Cruz (DH), Seager (3B), Valencia (1B), Zunino (C), Haniger (RF), Dyson (LF)
If you look at that lineup, spots 1-7 are essentially set, and I suppose Nelson Cruz could bump out either Dyson or Haniger from the outfield and either Vogelbach or Ruiz could step in at DH. But, the Mariners still need another bat to either play first base or a corner outfield position, because although Haniger and Dyson are both decent, but they can't both be in the everyday lineup. The rotation should be improved since Hernandez and Iwakuma are coming off of down years, and the bullpen should be solid. I don't think this is a playoff team, however, but third place in the AL West looks reasonable again. You'll have to wait until 2018, Mariners' fans. I think this is an 84 win team.