Seattle Mariners 2018 Season Preview

The Seattle Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since their historic regular season of 2001. 17 years and that’s the longest streak in the league. They can never find consistency and they make so many moves it feels like they have a new team every year. Same is the case this year in Seattle with a few big additions and losses but they feel they can be a contender this year. They have lots of power, a decent pitching staff and an above average bullpen that hopes can keep up with the Astros and compete with the Angels in the AL West. If Ichiro hits .396 like he used too, they’ll be in great shape!

Key Additions:

Ryon Healy, 1B

See Gordon, OF

Juan Nicasio, RHP

Ichiro Suzuki, OF

Key Losses:

Yonder Alonso, 1B

Jarrod Dyson, OF

Yovani Gallardo, RHP

Why they can win: The Mariners will fly under the radar but don’t sleep on their talent. Not many lineups have 5-6 20 homeruns candidates. They do. Their staff has James Paxton and Mike Leake who are very serviceable, an aging, hopeful rebound, in King Felix and two guys they are hoping can step up and if they do they’ll have success. They have one of the best closers in the league in Edwin Diaz and also added Juan Nicasio, who logs a ton of innings. If their pitching can sort itself out, they’ll hit enough to get to the playoffs. Speed of Dee Gordon at the top, .350obp Segura 2nd, Hall of Famer Cano 3 and power bat Nelson Cruz cleanup is not the way any pitcher wants to start a day.

Why they can lose: They always seem to under achieve. They’re always, somehow, the “sleeper pick” in some way, shape or form. They can lose if King Felix is truly declining like his numbers say and their 4-5 guys don’t pick up their end. If Cano begins to wear down, they could lose a big middle order of the bat. If Dee Gordon gets hurt or struggles that changes their entire offense. If guys under perform, and their feels like quite a few of those candidates, they’ll find themselves around .500 again.

Bottom Line: They crush the ball and pitching is very iffy. King Felix is a huge question mark. They have a little bit of everything now, offensively, with the addition of speed at the top of the lineup. They walk a good amount, they hit homeruns, but hopefully they can pitch. Problems with Mariners teams in the last was they have no one besides Felix to throw the ball. Well, now he’s aging and on the decline and they have James Paxton filling in who is a worthy successor, but maybe not the same flash as Felix in his prime. They have a pretty good pen that could bail them out but this seems like a team that will finish middle of the pack just like they always do.

Major4 Numbers Game:

Stud: James Paxton, SP

If you were to hazard a guess of who posted the following statline, my guess is James Paxton wouldn’t be one of the first 10 guesses. In 24 starts: 12-5 W/L, 2.98 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 21.6 K-BB%, and 12.5% Swinging-strike rate. Yes, please and sign me up for another year of that. Paxton still has durability questions, but posting a 4.6 WAR while missing 10 starts is absolutely elite. The lefty brings absolute smoke (95.4 MPH avg FB velo), and kept gaining confidence and improved results as the season continued. Signed for only $4.1M for 2018 and with two more years of team control, expect Paxton to enter the Cy Young conversation in the AL (barring health issues).

Sinkhole: Ryon Healy, 1B

Healy is a unit at 6’5 and 225 LBs, thus should be able to hit for power, and that he does. In 888 MLB PA, he has a solid .181 ISO and 38 HRs. He is pretty one dimensional. His height creates natural holes in his swing (23.5 K%, 12% Swinging-Strike Rate), and he has a similar walk rate to slap hitters like Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton (3.8 BB%). He does have a sustainable HR/FB rate (15.15), but had a very poor second half (84 wRC+). It just seems like a lateral, or possibly damning move for the Mariners as it blocks playing time from Vogelbach and potentially Nelson Cruz. Medium take: Healy isn’t even their starting 1B by All-Star break and becomes platoon only option at 1B/3B for Vogelbach and Seager.

Regression Candidate: Felix Hernandez, SP

Okay, so I’m not just saying this because King Felix was one of my favorite pitchers over the last 10 years. I really do think there is a good chance he bounces back from his 2017 season of: 16 starts, 0.4 WAR, 4.36 ERA, 5.02 FIP. That, my friends, was tough to type. But I swear there are some positives! He K-BB% was in line with his career marks (14.1) and his Swinging-Strike Rate was 9.6% so he is still commanding a repertoire that’s capable of missing bats. I’m not expecting prime Felix, and probably won’t reach the 3.0+ WAR needed to produce a surplus value on his contract, but a regression towards his mean is in order. Hot take: Hernandez starts 30+ games and posts a WAR of 2.5 and 180 Ks.

Impact Acquisition: Dee Gordon, CF

Yes, Dee Gordon at CF is not a typo. The Mariners believe that his incredible foot speed (2nd fastest runner on Statcast last year) plays up better in centerfield, particularly because of their pitchers flyball tendencies. As previously mentioned, Dee Gordon loves to run 60 SB/160 games over the last four seasons. That is silly. Dee isn’t gonna provide much pop, or be an above average contributor with the bat by advanced metrics (93 wRC+ career). He is a pitcher’s nightmare because he slaps the ball around (86.8 contact rate), and makes them uneasy on the mound (9.5 BSR 4th in MLB, Fangraphs) due to his elite running ability. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a new position at 30 years old, but he was a solid 2B (Gold Glove in 2015). He has a reasonable contract (3/$35.5M) and has been roughly a 3 WAR/600 PA player for his career. Oh yeah, and the Mariners also brought back Ichiro, so cue the nostalgia.

Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):

Kyle Lewis, OF (70)

Braden Bishop, OF

Evan White, 1B

Sam Carlson, RHP

Why We Love Them: It has been a long time since Griff and the gang were in town. They have been one of the least successful teams the last two decades but this team has some firepower on offense. Tough not to like Dee Gordon and Robbie Cano. Nelson Cruz crushes the ball and Felix was the best pitcher in the AL for about a decade. It’s not for lack of trying but they can get to the playoffs! They have potential to have some sick uniforms but they’re just ok but they do have an awesome stadium and they have ICHIRO BACK!

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