Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Seattle Mariners

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-Digger's Daily-

Does anyone remember Seattle won 116 games back in 2001? Seattle was a team on the rise. They reeled off 90+ wins in four consecutive season's to begin the new millennium. Since then, losers in 6 of 8 including 95 last year.

Good news on the horizon? Perhaps 2012 marks the beginning of a new Mariners era of better baseball. Don't expect miracles - or 80 wins. There's a nucleus of young talent and Seattle hopes these guys are the answer for years to come.

Starting rotation appears set with Felix Hernandez returning to dazzle hitters. If it wasn't for weak hitting teammates - Felix would be a 20 game winners year after year. Japanese import Hisashi Iwakuma was rated 2nd to Rangers Yu Darvish but there's concern over whether or not his shoulder is sound - and if his fastball is strong enough to get out Major League hitters consistantly? Jason Vargas is locked in. Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi hope good fortunes of spring secure April rotation slots.

Closer Brandon League saved 37 in '11. Seattle's bullpen was gassed by mid-season. Expect more of the same if starters faulter.

Seattle's biggest acquisition - Jesus Montero - came at the expense of future star flame thrower, Michael Pineda. It was well worth it for a M's team struggling to score runs. Montero is the real deal. He'll hit in the middle of a young, untested lineup. It's a make or break year for 1B Justin Smoak. Dustin Ackley is a star for years to come at 2B. SS remains a weak spot with Brendan Ryan. 3B/OF Chone Figgins has been a monumental bust for Seattle after tearing it up for the Angels. He's battling Kyle Seager for the starting nod at 3B. Ichiro returns to RF. CF Franklin Gutierrez hasn't lived up to hype. LF is Mike Carp's to win or lose this spring unless Smoak bombs out (then Carp moves to first). Behind the plate is Miguel Olivo who provides a little pop when not striking out. All in all, Seattle's lineup is weakest in AL West on paper. They're going to need heads up base running and timely hitting or this will be another long season.

Prediction: Seattle's lineup can't compete vs Texas and Angels. Montero, Ackley & Hernandez will put up great numbers. It's anyone's guess how the rest of this team does. Rebuilding comes in many forms. If young hitters struggle (Smoak, Gutierrez, Seager) then Seattle's make over will need another. 70+ wins is generous in this division but it's within reach if peaces fit.

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