Key Additions—Eric Wedge, Brendan Ryan
Key Losses—Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez
Lineup—When outside of Ichiro Suzuki, you have a lineup that just isn’t very good, and your key acquisition was Brendan Ryan, that is not a good sign. Actually, that is a bad sign for the Mariners. Chone Figgins is solid, although vastly overpaid, and their defensive outfield with Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez to go along with Ichiro makes it very very good. But this team just doesn’t have much pop or doesn’t hit for a good average. Offensively, it is going to be a long year in Seattle. However, watching Justin Smoak man first base and the likely mid season call up of Dustin Ackley at least gives Mariner fans something to get excited about. A top of the lineup of Ichiro, Ackley, and Smoak will actually give M’s fan some hope.
Rotation—When you are led by Felix Hernandez, who is arguably the top pitcher in baseball, you have definite faith in the top of the rotation. However, that is where the hope ends. With guys like Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, and Michael Pineda as your middle 3, that is not going to get the job done all that often. Considering the lineup they are putting together, in order to compete they are going to need these guys to shut down opposing teams, and they are just not capable of that. The question of what to expect out of Erik Bedard continues to a big question. He has had the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter, but injuries have derailed him. I for one, would love to see him put it together to see exactly what he’s capable of, though I don’t think he will. Like the offense, expect a tough year from this rotation outside of King Felix.
Bullpen—Well, I guess it is baseball, and 3 strikes and your out will apply to my season prediction of the Mariners. David Aardsma is a good reliever, but just not a great closer. And they really don’t have many guys who will be able to stop other teams. The problem for this team is they are going to have to rely on the bullpen a lot with that rotation. So not only are they not all that good, they are going to be tired. My guess is, by the end of the year, the stats will show this as one of the bottom tier bullpens in the league.
Impact Rookie—Dustin Ackley, 2B. It’s only a matter of time before Ackley gets the call and starts working toward his first batting title. Ackley draws walks, makes consistent contact, and runs well. A first baseman for most of his college career because he ruined his arm pitching in college, his defense at 2B lags behind his bat.
Outlook—When you have Ichiro and King Felix there should be some signs of optimism, but I just don’t see how. They are in a obvious rebuilding mode, one that will last beyond this year. Best case scenario for this team is guys like Figgins and Bedard have a great first halves of the year, and they can move them and continue to build for the future. They do have some young talent worth watching, but it is going to be a long season for the Mariners.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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