MADISON, March 1, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting waith the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number 19, the Seattle Mariners.
2013 Record: 71-91 with a -130 run differential.
Key Additions: 2B Robinson Cano, IF Willie Bloomquist, 1B Corey Hart, OF/1B Logan Morrison and RHP Fernando Rodney
Key Losses: LHP Joe Saunders, RHP Carter Capps and 1B Kendrys Morales, who is still unsigned.
Projected 2014 Lineup:
OF Dustin Ackley
3B Kyle Seager
2B Robinson Cano
DH Corey Hart
OF Logan Morrison
1B Justin Smoak
OF Michael Saunders
C Mike Zunino
SS Brad Miller
Projected 2014 Rotation:
James Paxton/Brandon Maurer/Scott Baker
Best Case: Despite early injury scares both Hisashi Iwakua and Taijuan Walker recover quickly and fall in line behind Felix Hernandez to form an excellent top of the rotation. Robinson Cano proves worth every penny of his contract, at least the 2014 part of it, posting a 150 OPS+ and playing excellent defense. Kyle Seager continues to thrive in relative anonymity and continues his offensive growth posting an OPS over .800. The 1B/DH logjam that was created in the offseason works itself out as Kendrys Morales signs elsewhere, allowing the M’s to collect a first round pick, and Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak all hit better than expected contributing to the Mariners scoring over 700 runs for the first time since 2007. The Mariners thrive while the A’s and Angels both struggle and the Mariners finish second to the Rangers just missing a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case: While Hisashi Iwakuma recovers from his finger injury relatively quickly, Taijuan Walker’s shoulder inflammation leads to other issues as he attempts to pitch through the injury and he never gets on track. James Paxton shows that he needs more minor league seasoning after struggling in his April audition and is sent back to Tacoma. While Robinson Cano continues to be one of the top five players in baseball he is unable to provide life into an offense that is otherwise largely inept. The offseason acquisitions of Hart and Morrison prove futile as Hart struggles getting back to form after missing last seasons and Morrison fails to live up to the promise shown in his rookie year. Fernando Rodney’s struggles last year continue and the Mariners hand the closer role back to Danny Farquahar. The Mariners are better than the Astros they fail to move up in the standings and finish fourth in the AL West.
Prospect Watch: The two most highly touted prospects in the Mariners system will likely leave spring training as part of the big clubs roster. Taijuan Walker made his MLB debut last September after logging 141.1 innings with a 2.93 ERA and 160 K’s. Walker will likely start the season on the DL with shoulder inflammation but when healthy will assume a spot in the rotation which the Mariners hope he will occupy for a long time. Walker’s injury opens a spot for James Paxton to make the Mariners too. Paxton threw 145.2 innings with 131 K’s and a 4.45 ERA. The Mariners system seems to be a bit light on hitting prospects but DJ Peterson, the Mariners 2013 first round pick, is the most highly touted. Peterson appeared in only 56 games after being drafted but posted a .303/.365/.553 slash line.