2010 Seattle Mariners Preview

Felix Hernandez, RHP
Cliff Lee, LHP
Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP
Ian Snell, RHP
Jason Vargas, LHP

Closers and Setup
David Aardsma, RHP
Brandon League, RHP

Starting Lineup
Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Chone Figgins, 3B
Milton Bradley, LF
Jose Lopez, 2B
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Franklin Gutierrez, CF
Ken Griffey Jr., DH
Jack Wilson, SS
Rob Johnson, C

Player in Decline

Decline is too strong a word here, but expecting Chone Figgins to repeat his six-win season is too optimistic. He should remain a productive player, though.

Player on the Rise

Brandon League actually broke out last season, but few people seemed to notice thanks to his artificially-high ERA. If League maintains his new found splitter, watch out for him to start vulturing saves from David Aardsma and late inning wins from high-leverage situations.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Ichiro Suzuki: Elite
Felix Hernandez: Elite
Cliff Lee: Elite
Chone Figgins: Average
David Aardsma: Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Dustin Ackley, OF
2. Michael Saunders, OF
3. Adam Moore, C
4. Carlos Triunfel, 3B
5. Alex Liddi, 3B
6. Nick Franklin, SS
7. Michael Pineda, RHP
8. Gabriel Noriega, SS
9. Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B
10. Nick Hill, RHP

Overall team outlook:The Seattle Mariners, at the time of publication, appear to be right up there with Texas and Anaheim heading into the 2010 season as a roughly mid-80 win team. It’s been a winter full of activity for the Mariner front office and they’ve done a remarkable job of patching holes with limited outlay in the free agent market.

The Starting Rotation:The starting rotation is going to get the lion’s share of attention in 2010. Fronted by the newly extended Felix Hernandez and newly traded-for Cliff Lee, there is probably no better 1-2 in baseball on paper. Both are legitimate Cy Young candidates on their own, but in Safeco Field and in front of another year of stellar defense, it would not surprise us if they ended up in an Adam Wainwright-Chris Carpenter type of situation by the end of the year. Behind those two the picture is less clear.

Ryan Rowland-Smith can be a solidly average starter, and Ian Snell could be anywhere from awful to good depending on which version shows up. There are numerous candidates for the fifth spot in Doug Fister, Luke French, Garrett Olson, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jason Vargas, and the ones left out will help provide some decent depth both in the bullpen and in Triple-A.

The Bullpen: The bullpen appeared good last year, for a time leading the league in ERA, but it was never actually all that successful, getting by with good luck. David Aardsma was legitimately good, though, as were Mark Lowe and Shawn Kelley. All three return this year and should be bolstered by the addition of Brandon League, a dynamite reliever and another flamethrower. Four above-average righties give the Mariners pen some much better potential this season. Leftovers from the fifth starter competition, along with a few other names like Nick Hill, should round out the back of the pen.

The Starting Lineup: It’s not a menacing lineup on paper, and offense is not likely to be a strong suit for the 2010 Mariners, but there’s some upside here. Mostly, it’s upside over the 2009 team, which scored a league-worst 640 runs. Using 2009 totals to estimate 2010 performance is always a bad idea, since people tend to forget to regress those 2009 totals beforehand. Starting from scratch and building up projections focused solely on 2010 is always the best way to go. Doing so for the offense this season gives us an unexpected conclusion. While seemingly unimproved from 2009, the group of players project to score in the range of about 730 runs, a massive improvement. The reasons for this are an improvement in OBP among hitters and general regression away from the totals received at shortstop, third base, and left field, which were universally black holes for the 2009 team.

In addition to improved discipline at the plate, the Mariners lineup in 2010 is much better suited to the confines of Safeco Field. Both newcomers Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins are switch-hitters, giving manager Don Wakamatsu more flexibility and allowing the team to put as many as five hitters in the left-handed batter’s box, where Safeco actually helps offense.

The Bench: Bench depth could be a weak point for the Mariners. Carrying Ken Griffey Jr., whose only role is basically as a backup DH, hurts the flexibility that the starting lineup provides. To that end, the Mariners might consider carrying an 11-man pitching staff in order to add another bench slot. One of Adam Moore or Josh Bard will be the backup catcher, and Jack Hannahan and probably a yet-unsigned right-handed outfield bat will be in place to cover the other seven positions in the field.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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