2011 MLB Team Preview – Seattle Mariners

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

AL West Preview:

Los Angeles Angels

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers


2011 MLB Team Preview – Los Angeles Angels

Key Additions—Vernon Wells

Key Losses—Juan Rivera, Mike Napoli

Lineup—What got lost in the conversation when the Angels acquired Vernon Wells, was that they got better. Sure they took on a ton of money, but at the end of the day having Wells in your outfield makes you better. And having Wells play left field and moving Torii Hunter to right means that your outfield defense is much improved. However, that hinges completely on youngster Peter Bourjos. The kid can play defense, but will he hit enough to hold down the position? If so the outfield is in good shape. If not they will put Bobby Abreu back in the field, which could be a disaster defensively. The infield could be a different story. Will Kendry Morales return from his injury, and if so will he tame down any celebrations? I am a little suspect of the rest of that infield. Will Howie Kendrick hit, same could be said for Maicer izturis and Erick Aybar? I am not sold that Jeff Mathis will hit enough to be the full time catcher either. I don’t think this offense will provide a great amount of pop and consistently, but I like what the defense shapes up to be.

Rotation—If Jered Weaver is anything like he was last year, and having a full season of Dan Haren, this shapes up to be the best rotation in the division. Those two guys at the top form a very good 1-2 punch, and it is not like there is a drastic drop in #3 man Ervin Santana. Joel Pineiro provides them with a guy on the back end that can eat up innings and give you quality starts. The question is, what will they get out of Scott Kazmir in the #5 hole? This guy has such great stuff, and was highly regarded at one point, but has never been able to put it together. If he finally does, it will give the Halos a solid rotation front to back. If he doesn’t, he is killer to a bullpen as his short outings really add up.

Bullpen—The advantage this bullpen has is they have plenty of guys in that rotation that have the ability to go late into games before turning it over to the bullpen That is a good sign for the Angels, as I don’t think they are in great shape when it comes to closing games. Fernando Rodney is a solid closer, but not someone you can absolutely bank on getting the job done. Reports are Jordan Walden could also be in the run for saves, and I love this kids arm. He was clocked at over 100 in a game last year, and has absolutely shut down stuff. If he can harness that stuff he has the ability to provide a very good option in either the 8th or 9th inning for this team.

Impact Rookie—Jordan Walden, RHP. See above. There’s a lot to get excited about with the right arm of Walden. It’s important to note however, that elbow soreness limited him to just 60 innings in 2009 before rebounding in 2010.

Outlook—This team fell apart for Angels standards last year, winning only 80 games. But adding a starting pitcher in Haren for a full season, and getting an above average outfielder to help with the lineup, this team will only be better this year. I am not sure this was the intention, but if Bourjos can hit enough to hold down CF, this team will be built around pitching and defense, which I like a lot. Halos fans grew accustomed to winning, and although last year was a tough year, they should jump right back on the winning side of the standings this year.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

AL West Preview:

Los Angeles Angels

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

2011 MLB Team Preview – Detroit Tigers

Key Additions—Victor Martinez, Brad Penny

Key Losses—Johnny Damon, Jeremy Bonderman, Armando Galaragga

Lineup—With all of the troubles that Miguel Cabrera has had over the past month, I am hesitant to think that he will continue to carry this lineup. However, I do have some thoughts that if he able to kick his habit that maybe, just maybe he will be better. And that is what this lineup needs. Even with the addition of Martinez, I just don’t believe this lineup will be as good as advertised. Magglio Ordonez is still solid, but not nearly what he was. Carlos Guillen is aging, and they don’t have much punch on the left side of the infield. Unless Austin Jackson can live up to his potential, I just don’t see this lineup being good enough to consistently put up numbers.

Rotation—While Justin Verlander is an absolute stud at the front of this rotation, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have yet to prove that they can pitch consistently at the ML level. I felt at the time and continue to feel that Porcello was rushed to the majors. I do still believe in his ability, just not sure he can be the top end type of pitcher that they need. And I am not sure what they are thinking by trying to put Phil Coke in the rotation, as he hasn’t thrown more than 70 innings in any previous year. To think he is just going to become a solid starter doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Penny showed flashes of old form last year, but he can not be relied on to stay healthy. Barring a big year from Verlander and one or both of their young guys emerging, this year is going to be a rough go for this rotation.

Bullpen—After coming over from Houston to start the 2010 season, Jose Valverde posted very solid numbers last year for this bullpen. However, he doesn’t have much help in this pen. They do have some power arms in the pen with Zumaya (if he can ever stay healthy) and guys like Joaquin Benoit and Daniel Schlereth. But none of those guys have proven that they can consistently get major league hitters out. If they can get to Valverde they will be fine, but I question their ability to do so.

Impact Rookie—Andy Oliver, LHP. The Oklahoma State product and 2009 draftee (2nd Round) already made 5 starts for Detroit last year. They weren’t good starts but as mentioned above, this rotation may need all the help they can get. Oliver has a live arm and a plus change up and with some refinement, he can develop into a front line starter. Now Detroit just needs to show patience with their prospect, which is something they’ve had trouble doing in the past.

Outlook—I know there are quite a few analysts that are really high on this team, considering their veteran leadership, but I just don’t buy some of their guys coming back and providing a huge impact. There are just too many question marks surrounding this team to think that each one of them is going to pan out, and in my opinion, they need to all pan out for this team to compete. Age has caught up to this team, and despite the arrival of Victor Martinez, they may not have the horses to compete as in previous years.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

AL Central Preview:

Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins