Mar 212013
 

Weekly preview of each of the Rangers’ American League West rivals for the 2013 season – from the bottom up.

  1. Seattle Mariners
  2. Houston Astros

Breaking Down the West   Seattle Mariners   Moving the fences in...The Mariners look forward to the arrival of the Astros in the American League West with the hope of getting out of last place for the first time in the last three years.  The Mariners took some positive steps during the offseason, including securing one of the best pitchers in the game to a long-term contract, but it won’t be enough to overcome Oakland, Anaheim or Texas.

This is a team with young talented players at some key positions in “King” Felix Hernandez (SP), Dustin Ackley (2B), Jesus Montero (C/DH), Kyle Seager (3B), Michael Saunders (RF) and the freshly drafted Mike Zunino (C).  Couple the young talent with some veterans sprinkled in and we should see the Mariners improve upon their 77-85 mark from 2012.  By how much is the question…

The Bats & Gloves

This lineup has some holes in it, but if a few of these guys can take a step in the right direction, it’s a lineup that could greatly improve over last year’s performance.

Projected Lineup

  1. Dustin Ackley, 2B
  2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
  3. Kyle Seager, 3B
  4. Michael Morse, LF
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Jesus Montero, C
  7. Justin Smoak, 1B
  8. Michael Saunders, RF
  9. Brendan Ryan, SS

I don’t think Manager Eric Wedge has unveiled his official Opening Day lineup, but it should look similar to what’s above, barring injury.  There are three bats in this lineup that peak my interest:

  • Breaking Down the West   Seattle Mariners   Moving the fences in...Dustin Ackley was less than impressive last year (.226/.294/.328) and MUST take a major step in 2013 for this lineup to have success.  Keep in mind that he is still only 25 years old, but as the table-setter, the Mariners will be depending on him to get on base at a higher rate than .294.
  • Kyle Seager is an impressive young player (also only 25) who I secretly admire.  In his first full season last year, Seager put up a pretty respectable line (.259/.316/.423) with many of his metrics improving in the second half.  I think Seager will improve further in 2013 and be an important part of this lineup’s run production.
  • In mid-December, the Mariners shipped the frustrating Jason Vargas to the Angels for Kendrys Morales who just didn’t have a spot in the Angel’s stacked lineup.  It was one of those rare intra-division trades that addressed a need for both teams at the major league level.  I loved this trade for the Mariners.  Morales has has been hindered by injury and lack of playing time over the last two seasons, but it wasn’t that long ago (2009) that he finished 5th in the AL MVP voting (.306/.355/.569) and was the centerpiece of the Angel’s lineup.  Can he return to that form?  He’s only 29 years old, and I could see the change of scenery and opportunity to play ever day get him close.

Defensively, the Mariners are good, as the mantra of “pitching and defense” is still part of their identity.  They only committed 72 errors in 2012 (2nd best in AL) and had the second highest Defensive Efficiency rating in the American League.

The middle of the lineup may get some help from the fences moving in, but remember…that works both ways.

The Arms

The Mariners have something that we Ranger fans have coveted for a long, long time…a true Ace.  Perhaps one of the more upsetting off-season occurrences that didn’t directly involve the Rangers was the contract extension between the Mariners and King Felix which will keep Hernandez in Seattle through 2019.

Quick – who were the other four starters for Seattle last year?

I gave you Vargas, so that doesn’t count, and you probably thought of former-Ranger prospect Blake Beavan.  Do either of those guys do much for you?  Me neither, but the Mainers pitching staff was pretty good in 2012 when compared to the rest of the American League:

  • 4th in team ERA in AL at 3.76
  • 3rd in team WHIP in AL at 1.241

So, this is what a pitcher’s park and King Felix will get you.

Projected Rotation

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Joe Saunders
  4. Blake Beavan
  5. Brandon Mauer – this spot is still an open competition, but Mauer’s got my vote. Erasmo Ramirez was probably the favorite to win the spot (ala Martin Perez) and could still win the spot (ala not Martin Perez).

Breaking Down the West   Seattle Mariners   Moving the fences in...Can Hisashi Iwakuma be a legit #2?  There is no doubt in my mind that he can if he isn’t already.  Last year’s performance was good, but take a closer look – he was great at the end of the season.  Keep in mind 2012 was his first season in MLB, so the inconsistencies near the beginning of the season can be dismissed as part of his “adjustment period”.  In August and September, Iwakuma posted a 7-3 record with an ERA in the low 2′s.  I think he’s adjusted and gives the Mariners a nice 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.

The Pen

The bullpen is fair, anchored by Tom Wilhelmson who assumed the closing duties last year and converted 29 saves on 24 opportunities.  Bullpens are generally boring.

The Manager

Eric Wedge.  Enough said.  Nothing special.  Career 703-755 managerial record with Indians and Mariners.

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, the Mariners could push for 3rd place in the American League West, but I think a 4th place finish is more likely.

IF…the the lineup can get consistency from some of the youngsters (Ackley, Montero, Smoak).  IF…the back-end of the rotation can be average.  IF…they can stay healthy.  Three big IF’s, but it could happen.

  • Best case: 84-78 record behind the emergence of Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero as legit major league all-star caliber players.
  • Worst case: 77-85…again…hey, they have King Felix.

Up next…you can probably figure it out from here.


Side note – we are close to two weeks away from the 2nd Annual Baseball Do Field Trip.  We still have tickets available.  If you want to go and your want your shirt to be ready for the Field Trip,  you need to order your tickets by next Wednesday at the latest.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
Feb 102012
 

2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)On to round two…

To catch up on what we’re doing and understand the scoring, check out Part 1.

Score at the end of Round 1:

  1. Rangers: 5 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 4 = 21
  2. Angels: 3 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 17
  3. Athletics: 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2 = 8
  4. Mariners: 1 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 7

Left Field

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Josh Hamilton, TEX
  2. Vernon Wells, LAA
  3. Seth Smith, OAK
  4. Trayvon Robinson, SEA

Let’s break this down.  Vernon Wells is a better player than what we saw in 2011.  Josh Hamilton is as well.  Josh Hamilton is a better player than Vernon Wells.  Is he so much better that he deserves the bonus point here?  I think so.  If we go by 2011 alone, Josh would easily get the bonus, posting a 4.2 WAR, with Wells at 0.3 (Seth Smith was actually better than Wells with a 1.9).

I’m willing to look beyond just 2011 as I do really think Wells will improve upon his first season with the Angels, in which he only played in 131 games.  That said, I think you could say the same thing about Josh.  While his 2011 numbers look good, they were accomplished in only 121 games due to injuries.  Hamilton posted a .882 OPS, compared to the 1.044 OPS he posted in 2010 (MVP season).

In addition to the superior 2011, Josh is also the superior player.

Center Field

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Peter Bourjos/Mike Trout, LAA
  2. Coco Crisp, OAK
  3. Craig Gentry/Julio Borbon, TEX
  4. Franklin Gutierrez, SEA

This was the weakest position across the board in 2011, with Bourjos putting together the best year without question.  There are rumors swirling that the Angels may look to deal Bourjos to make room for phenom Mike Trout.  While I like the idea of Bourjos leaving the American League West, I don’t know if I like the idea of Trout getting more playing time.  Whether it’s Bourjos or Trout or a combination of both (worst case), they lead the pack.  In fact, I’m giving the Angels duo the bonus here, which can base on speculation or Bourjos’ production last year (4.2 WAR) compared to the others on the list.

The battle for 2nd here was very close in my mind, and while I think Gentry can continue to improve (if he wins the job outright), I think Crisp is a better player in 2012.  This is definitely one to watch.

You could make an argument to put Gutierrez in the 3rd spot here, but he’s too far removed from his best season (2009) to think he’s going to be able to bounce back enough to outperform whoever mans center for the Rangers.

Right Field

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Torii Hunter, LAA
  2. Nelson Cruz, TEX
  3. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
  4. Josh Reddick, OAK

This was the toughest ranking of the outfield positions by far.  Let’s start at the bottom.

Reddick put together a nice season, but needs to prove he can do it again, which I don’t think he’ll do in 2012 as he’ll be in  much weaker line-up.

Ichiro is a Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest hitters of my lifetime.   Ichiro is also going to turn 39 later this year, and while it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down (40 SBs in 2011), his offensive production is on the decline.

So, it comes down to Nellie and Torii for the top spot.  I know many of my fellow Ranger fans are going to gripe about this one, but I have to give Hunter the top spot for 2012.

Cruz had the higher OPS in 2011, and is the better offensive player at this point.  Hunter is the better defensive player and has proven to be more durable and reliable.  It’s very close, but 150 games from Hunter edges out 125 games from Cruz.  Prove me wrong Nellie…

Designated Hitter

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Michael Young, TEX
  2. Jesus Montero, SEA
  3. Mark Trumbo/Kendry Morales, LAA
  4. Jonny Gomes, OAK

Jesus Montero has the ability to be #1 on this list, as does Mark Trumbo, but they won’t in 2012.

Montero was a very highly regarded prospect that came up in the Yankees farm system and debuted last year with the big league team.  He was recently dealt to Seattle in exchange for Michael Pineda.  While he’s well on his way to becoming a productive big league hitter, he’s still developing and has moved to a weaker line-up.  If we’re talking long-term, Montero is easily #1 on this list, as he has more upside than just about anyone on any of these lists. With that, I feel good about slotting him 2nd.

At first glace, I had the Angels in the 2nd spot here, but The Angels, like the Rangers, have some flexibility (though not as much) with the guys that are going to DH this year in that Trumbo and Morales can also play first base.

The soon-to-be 38 year-old Bobby Abreu struggled in 2011, and is becoming more of a situation hitter as opposed to a full-time DH, so I’ve removed him here.  It’s going to be interesting to see who get the bulk of at-bats at the DH position for LA in 2012.  I’m leaning towards it being split pretty evening, with Morales seeing a few more at-bats if he’s healthy, primarily because he’s a switch hitter.

Score at the end of Round 2:

  1. Rangers: 21 from Round 1 + 5 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 35
  2. Angels: 17 from Round 1 + 3 + 5 + 4 + 2 = 31
  3. Athletics: 8 from Round 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 1 = 15
  4. Mariners: 7 from Round 1 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 14

Round 3 will be posted early next week and will cover the bench and the manager.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
Login