Predicting the Seattle Mariners’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Predicting the Seattle Mariners' 2014 Opening Day Lineup
After a busy offseason that included five-time all-star second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal, the Seattle Mariners have their eyes set on getting out of the cellar of the AL West and making the postseason for the first time since the 2001 season.
Seattle has certainly made their intentions clear: they want to be a competitive team this upcoming season by not only signing Cano, but also outfielder Corey Hart, catcher John Buck, and reliever Fernando Rodney.
Last season, it was a difficult year all around for the Seattle as they ranked in the lower half of the league in overall batting (22nd) and pitching (26th). There were also a middle-of-the-pack fielding ball club (14th).
So in light of their forgettable 2013 season, this past offseason they made a huge step forward by improving their team's roster, which is a big deal after the fact that they have finished the last five out of six seasons in fourth place in their division. These roster additions were essential as the rest of the AL West teams also improved their rosters over the past few months.
The offseason saw the Texas Rangers acquire first baseman Prince Fielder and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. The Los Angeles Angels addressed their pitching needs by adding getting Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago and filling a hole at third base with former World Series MVP David Freese. Finally, the Oakland Athletics, who are the defending division champs for the past two seasons, bolstered their pitching staff by signing starter Scott Kazmir and trading for closer Jim Johnson.
The fact remains that the AL West over the past two years has been at best a two-team race for the division crown between the Athletics and Rangers. So with that said, Seattle is looking to put themselves in the hunt for their first division title since the 2001 regular season.
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1. Brad Miller, SS
In his rookie campaign in 2013, the 24-year-old spent most of his time as the Mariner's lead-off hitter as he batted .265 with eight home runs, 36 RBIs, and 41 runs scored in 76 games played. Miller will look to build off last year by possibly doubling his production at the plate with an opportunity to play in his first complete season in the majors.
If he is able to continue to get on base this upcoming season, it will certainly help the power hitters behind him drive in more runs and increase the chances of the team winning more games. So with more playing next season for the promising shortstop, he will be able to further his development as a big-league hitter and make his case as the team's lead-off hitter for years to come.
2. Michael Saunders, CF
Saunders in the 2013 season experienced a dip in production as his home runs dropped from 19 to 12, his RBIs lowered from 57-46, and most importantly his batting average fell from .247 to .236 from the year prior. It was just that kind of year for the 27-year-old and the Mariners last season. But with a clean slate for this upcoming season, each will be looking to bounce back offensively in a big way. Saunders will also have the help of Cano hitting behind. That will mean that he will see better pitches thrown to him. So with an improved overall lineup around him, he may be able to regain his production from 2012, or possibly a little better.
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
As the new big bat in the Mariners' lineup, Cano will be held with the responsibility as the primarily run-producer. This will not be out of the norm for the 31-year-old as he was a consistent hitter in the New York Yankees' lineup for the first nine seasons in the majors. That includes hitting at least 25 home runs in the past five seasons, driving in over 100 RBIs in three out of the last four years, and batting over .300 in five consecutive seasons. Cano wanted the huge contract and now he has a chance to prove that he can be Seattle's central offensive force in their lineup.
4. Kyle Seager, 3B
The 26-year-old continued to make strides in development as a hitter in his third season in the majors last year, as he had career-highs in home runs (22), hits (160), runs scored (79), walks (68) and games played in one season (160). As the cleanup hitter behind Robinson Cano, Seager will have plenty of opportunities to drive in more runs and learn a thing or two from the five-time Silver Slugger award winner. So with that said, the third baseman should see his production increase which will help further his development at the plate in his fourth season in the MLB.
5. Corey Hart, RF
After missing the entire 2013 season due to season-ending left knee surgery, the 31-year-old is looking to post similar numbers to what he had as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. In a three-year span from 2010-12, Hart was a very productive player as he hit 25-plus home runs and drove in over 80 RBIs in two of the seasons. If he is able to regain his form at the plate after a year off, Hart's bat in the lineup will certainly help Seattle become a much better offensive team. But with that said, it will ultimately come down to the nine-year veteran's health as he works his way back from his left knee injury.
6. Justin Smoak, 1B
The 27-year-old over the past three seasons has been a consistent hitter with the Mariners as over that span he has gotten 100-plus hits, 15-plus home runs, and 50-plus RBIs in each year. So in his fifth season in the majors expect much of the same from the switch hitter as he will be part of an improved batting order that features power hitters in Robinson Cano, Corey Hart, and Kyle Seager.
An uptick in production would not be out of the question for Smoak as his increase in his triple slash from .217/.290/.364 in 2012 to .238/.334/.412 in 2013 may be an indication that he could continue his improvements at the plate in this upcoming season.
7. Logan Morrison, DH
The Mariners' offseason acquisition will step right in as the team's designated hitter with the departure of Raul Ibanez who signed with the Angels this past December. Morrison had played his first four seasons with the Miami Marlins and had his least productive year with the team last season. But with that said, he was limited to only 85 games played for the team in 2013 which in turn capped his amount of production for the year. So with an opportunity to be Seattle's full-time DH, Morrison could become a viable player for the ball club this upcoming season.
8. Dustin Ackley, LF
After making a seamless transition from second base to the outfield last season, Ackley will be looking rebound after an off-year at the plate in 2013. That year he hit .253 with just four home runs and 31 RBIs. Last season's struggles at the plate also included being sent down the minors for about a month due to his inconsistency as a batter in his third year in the league. So with a fresh start this upcoming season, Ackley will be looking to prove that can not only be a legitimate major league player, but also an essential part to Mariners' offense.
9. Mike Zunino, C
His rookie season last year was a struggle at the plate after he broke his left hand in late July. He had a triple slash of just .176/.256/.311 in 23 games after he returned from his injury. Despite his inconsistency at the plate in the second half of the season as he was working his way back from injury, there is no doubting that Zunino is a catcher with promising talent.
So with his left hand now completely healed and struggles likely behind him, he is in line for a much more productive year in 2014 barring any significant injury. The guidance of veteran catcher John Buck will also help as mentor to help guide him through the season.
Pitcher: Felix Hernandez
After another success season under his belt, King Felix will once again be a dominant pitcher on the mound for the Mariners in their hopes to snap their 13-year postseason absence. Despite the team's struggles, the 27-year-old has been a workhorse for the ball club in the past eight seasons. He made at least 30 starts and threw for at least 190 innings.
This also includes double-digit wins recorded in the last five seasons and a sub-3.50 ERA in each season as well. So with that said, Hernandez will be Seattle's ace this upcoming season. He will be a viable candidate for the CY Young award.