Baseball season is closing in on us quickly and one of the major questions surrounding the Seattle Mariners has been offense. Now, the additions of Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay, the Mariners’ offense suddenly doesn’t look so terrible. However, offense is no longer their biggest problem.
What about starting pitching?
After Felix Hernandez, there are four mediocre starting pitchers with some upside, but not enough to build a solid rotation for the entire season. This really brings me to one conclusion: the Mariners plan on bringing up one of their prospects into the starting rotation. If SP Danny Hultzen blows up in spring training, it will be hard not to put him in the four or five spot in the starting rotation.
Getting Morales was a little more costly than most people realize. Former Mariners SP Jason Vargas has averaged 200 innings per season over the last three years–that can be something that is hard to replace with unproven talent like Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez and Hector Noesi.
If the Mariners do decide to go with the pitchers I mentioned above, they are going to have to put up a lot of runs to keep their record even at times during the season. Everybody knows the Mariners were a bunch of underachievers last year at the plate. Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley both did not have great, good or even average seasons and they must play better. I expect both players to blow up this year and I am predicting 30 plus home runs for Smoak and borderline 100 RBIs. As for Ackley, he needs to have a batting average somewhere around .290, 18 home runs, 70 RBIs and 70 runs.
The Mariners may have made some big trades and couple good role playing free agent signs, but the success of the Mariners revolves around Ackley and Smoak. If two young guys can play the game at a high level, it will bring the rest of the team up too.
The Mariners still have to contend with the Los Angeles Angels, it seems the market they play in allows them to sign huge stars all the time and the Mariners will struggle to compete with them. However, last year the Angels struggled to compete as a team and finished third in the division behind the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers. Even with 88 wins, the Mariners might not get out of fourth place. The good news? New AL West rival Houston Astros will have last place locked up before the season even starts.
Follow Kase Brammer on Twitter @KBlive33