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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