Seattle Mariners 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 72-90

Player WAR Player WAR
C Miguel Olivo 0.8 SP1 Felix Hernandez 5.7
1B Justin Smoak 2.1 SP2 Jason Vargas 1.8
2B Dustin Ackley 3.7 SP3 Kevin Millwood 1.9
SS Brendan Ryan 1.9 SP4 Hisashi Iwakuma 1
3B Kyle Seager 1 SP5 Hector Noesi 1.1
LF Mike Carp 1.4 CP Brandon League 1
CF Franklin Gutierrez 2 RP Shawn Kelley 0.2
RF Ichiro Suzuki 1.1 RP George Sherrill 0.5
DH Jesus Montero 3 RP Chance Ruffin 0.4
Bench Chone Figgins 0.7 RP Tom Wilhelmsen 0.1
Bench John Jaso 1 RP Steve Delabar 0.1
Bench Michael Saunders 0.3 RP Blake Beavan 0.6
Bench Casper Wells 1.3 Charlie Furbush 0.5
Bench Trayvon Robinson 0.3 Hong-Chi Kuoh 0
20.6 14.9

The Mariners made a big trade in the offseason, moving Michael Pineda after an impressive rookie season to the Yankees for Jesus Montero. Montero’s bat should make an immediate improvement to the Mariners’ offense, which was the worst in the majors in 2011. The rest of the lineup is still a question though, and the loss of Pineda hurts their rotation. They should improve on their 2011 record, but it will still be a fairly long season in Seattle.

Montero’s ability to catch has been a common topic during the offseason, with most coming to the conclusion that he’s not good enough to hold down the position. Seattle could try him out their for a few games, but I figure he’ll get the majority of his starts at DH. His homer potential will drop in Safeco, but he should still put up good offensive numbers. With Montero at DH, Miguel Olivo will be the starting catcher. His offense is below average, and his walk rate is non-existant which, combined with his defense, which took a step back last year, made him a replacement level catcher. He was a 3 win player in 2010 though, so it’s not out of the question for him to be an average player. John Jaso, who struggled last year as well, will back him up. He too was much better in 2010 and could potentially end up being the starter if he can outperform Olivo. Justin Smoak is the starter at first base, and I expect him to take a step forward this year. He won’t become a star, but he should be a slightly above average first baseman. Dustin Ackley impressed in just over half the season last year, and even if he doesn’t improve on those numbers at all he could be worth at least 4 wins in 2012. Brendan Ryan is the starting shortstop, and while his offense is below average, his defense is very good, which should result in him being about a 2 win player in 2012. Chone Figgins may start the season as the starting third baseman, but I find it hard to believe that he’ll stick there or at the leadoff position. His performance has been beyond awful since he came to Seattle, so I think Kyle Seager will end up getting more time at third base. Seager has some nice minor league numbers, so the Mariners would be smart to at least give him a try at third.

Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, and Ichiro Suzuki will be the starting outfield. Carp’s defense isn’t good, but he’s got some power, which the Mariners desperately need. Gutierrez was said to be healthy coming into the season, but he’s now going to be out for 6 weeks, and will likely miss opening day. His defense is still as good as it ever was, but his offense has declined, apparently due to irritable bowel syndrome which is now under control. Suzuki had by far the worst season of his career in 2011, and it will be interesting to see if the Mariners keep him in the 3rd spot in the lineup, and how that will affect his performance. His slap hitting style isn’t as effective for him anymore, so he could try to hit for more power. I don’t see him becoming much more valuable again though, as he is 38 now. The bench will also likely include Casper Wells, who could end up playing quite a bit, or Michael Saunders.

Felix Hernandez will head up the rotation, and likely be in contention for the Cy Young again, but after him the rotation is a bit of a question. Jason Vargas is the number two, and he’s been surprisingly solid for the last two years given his peripherals. He doesn’t have much upside, but he can eat innings. Kevin Millwood is the likely number three, but he’s 37 and doesn’t look like he has a lot left. Hisashi Iwakuma and Hector Noesi, who was acquired from the Yankees, are the probable 4 and 5, but I don’t project them to be all that great in 2012 either.

Brandon League is the closer, and he’s developed into a pretty good closer since being traded to the Mariners. The rest of the pen is made up of some solid, but nothing-too-special relievers such as Shawn Kelley, George Sherrill, and Hong-Chi Kuoh. Blake Beavan and Charlie Furbush could compete for a spot in the rotation, but will more likely end up staying in the bullpen as well.

The Mariners offense should be improved in 2012, but their pitching is worse, which will result in them competing with Oakland for third place in the AL West. They have couple of guys who could make a nice core to build around, but other moves are needed before they can be competitive.

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Oakland Athletics 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 76-86

Player WAR Player WAR
C Kurt Suzuki 2.4 SP1 Brandon McCarthy 3.1
1B Daric Barton 1.5 SP2 Bartolo Colon 2
2B Jemile Weeks 2.9 SP3 Brad Peacock 1.3
SS Cliff Pennington 2 SP4 Jarrod Parker 1
3B Josh Donaldson 1 SP5 Tommy Milone 2
LF Coco Crisp 2 CP Brian Fuentes 0.5
CF Yoenis Cespedes 1.8 RP Grant Balfour 0.9
RF Josh Reddick 2 RP Joey Devine 0.6
DH Jonny Gomes 1.4 RP Jerry Blevins 0.4
Bench Seth Smith 1.8 RP Fautino De Los Santos 0.3
Bench Brandon Allen 0.4 RP Ryan Cook 0
Bench Anthony Recker 0.4 RP Graham Godfrey 0.1
Bench Adam Rosales 0.6 Tyson Ross 0.5
Bench Collin Cowgill 0.8 Dallas Braden 1.6
Chris Carter 0.4 Brett Anderson 1
Manny Ramirez 0
21.4 15.3

The Athletics made some major moves in the offseason, trading two of their best young starting pitchers and their closer for a pretty nice haul of prospects. They also signed Yoenis Cespedes, which came as a surprise to many, especially because they already had a bunch of outfielders. They won’t compete in 2012, but have some nice pieces which would result in a competitive team in 2014.

At catcher the A’s will have Kurt Suzuki, whose offense has taken a step back the last two seasons. His BABIP has dropped to .245 over that time, which has lessened his value from ’08-’09. His defense is about average though, and with the drop in catcher production around the majors, he’s still about league average. The infield consists of, around the diamond, Daric Barton, Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, and whoever ends up playing third base after Scott Sizemore’s injury. Barton will have to perform better in 2012 if he wants to keep his job, which he may not even have at the start of the season if Brandon Allen or Chris Carter impress in the spring. Barton still walks a ton, but the other two have a lot more power potential. Weeks had a nice rookie season, although his walk rate declined from what it was in the minors. If he can improve that as well as his glove, he could be a 3-4 win player. Pennington had a down year defensively according to the metrics, which made him lose most of his value. His offense is nothing special, so he needs to show that his defensive performance in ’10 wasn’t an anomaly. Sizemore wasn’t going to be terrific at third base, but he has an above average walk rate and appeared to be a decent hitter. Josh Donaldson, who will apparently get the first crack at winning the job, won’t be a huge downgrade if he can produce similarly to his numbers in AAA last year and not be a huge sinkhole on the field. Adam Rosales could see time there as well. He had a pretty good 2010 season in limited playing time, although he missed a lot of time due to injury in 2011.

Oakland acquired no less than 8 OF/DH types in the offseason, which should result in some hearty competition for the starting spots in spring training. Crisp appears to have a job locked down, after being resigned to a multi-year contract in the offseason, although he’s likely to move to left if the A’s want Cespedes in center. It has been reported that the A’s told Cespedes that he would have a starting job on opening day, which was part of the reason that he signed, so he’s likely to at least start out the season in center. I think Josh Reddick will see the most PAs in right, after the A’s traded Andrew Bailey to acquire him. Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes, Collin Cowgill, and Manny Ramirez are all in competition for DH/outfield at bats. Cowgill will start in the minors, and Ramirez has to serve his suspension, but Gomes and Smith, along with Carter and Allen could all walk away with a starting job. The bench will be made up of some of these fellows, along with Anthony Recker, and Rosales or Donaldson.

After trading their two most established starters in Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, the Athletics have a young and unproven rotation, besides free-agent signing Bartolo Colon. Brandon McCarthy is the only returning member, and while he is unlikely to lead the AL in FIP again in 2012, his peripherals indicate that he could still have a very good season. Colon showed that he still has some gas left in the tank last year, and with him moving to Oakland his stats could actually improve. The last three spots of the rotation will likely be Brad Peacock, Jarrod Parker and Tom Milone, until Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson return. Peacock and Parker have the best stuff of the three, but Milone could be a valuable piece at the back end as well. Braden will likely return in May, while Anderson’s not back until July or August.

Brian Fuentes is slated to be the A’s closer, while being set-up by Grant Balfour and Joey Devine. All three should have some value for the club, and will be joined by Jerry Blevins, and Fautino De Los Santos to combine for a slightly above average, while wholely unexciting pen.

The Athletics influx of young talent through offseason moves won’t pay dividends in 2012, but could push them to be competitive in the AL West by 2014. It will be an uphill battle with the strength of the Rangers and Angels, but the potential is there if they can get their stadium/city issues dealt with.

Offseason Acquisitions: Yoenis Cespedes, Collin Cowgill, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes, Manny Ramirez, Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook, Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, Bartolo Colon

Offseason Losses: Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Ryan Sweeney, Michael Wuertz, Gio Gonzalez, Rich Harden, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman