Ah, the offense. Every Mariner fan's nightmare for three straight years. Eric Wedge has said he thinks the offense will take major steps forward this year, even going as far to say they might be league average. WHOA! Don't go throwing around such aggressive terms as decent, average, and mediocre until we see some results. Luckily, the Mariners showed that the offense improved when they split with the A's in Japan. Oh what's that? They suck still? Damn it. It's hard to compliment a team that scored four runs and needed extra innings for two of them on offensive prowess. Hopefully, Japan was just a minor hiccup on the path to redemption for the M's hitters.
Currently, the M's have 14 hitters on the roster, and they need to cut one to have the commonplace 13-man rotation. The cut is a no brainer to me. Alex Liddi still hasn't proved he's ready for big time, and needs more time in AAA to hone his hitting and fielding. Jack Z will cut him if he hasn't already. I'm going to preview the Mariners in their projected batting order and then do the bench.
Update: The M's have inexplicably optioned Carlos Peguero in favor of Alex Liddi. I guess they want shitty fielding and spotty power with the same amount of strikeouts. Screw that.
1. Chone Figgins, LF: Does anyone in Seattle like Chone Figgins? It's a bold but legitimate question. I hate him. He has done nothing but ruin a huge investment for two years and his time is pretty much up. Barring a miracle, he'll hit average at best this year and maybe help the M's every three games or so. He can play all over the field at below average levels, which helps and doesn't help. You can put him multiple places, but he'll suck wherever he plays.
Best-case Scenario: Figgins returns to Anaheim form, hits .300, and scores 100 runs for a suddenly potent M's offense. He finally is happy in his role and the Mariners feel good about having him under control for one more year.
Worst-case Scenario: He tanks again. Hitting .185 in May, he's yanked from the leadoff spot, which Ichiro takes back, and the M's make up another injury for him. They put him on the field again in July to try and trade him, there are no takers, and the M's have to eat his salary and cut him loose.
Most Likely: I hope to God for best-case, but I can't see it happening. Definitely something a lot closer to worst-case.
2. Dustin Ackley, 2B: The hope and future of the first half of Jack Z's plan rests with Ackley. He was the primary piece of the puzzle around which the M's will build in the next few years. Scouts league-wide rave about his talent, and they have good reason to do so. He's a beast, has a great beard and may be the M's only above-average player if everything goes to shit this year. In Ack We Trust.
Best-case Scenario: Ackley picks up where he left off last year, and tears it up in the first half, hitting .310. He backs up Robby Cano in the all-star game and the entire baseball world learns his name. He finishes around .300, with 85 RBIs and 15 homers.
Worst-case Scenario: Pitchers make adjustments to Ackley and he goes through a sophomore slump. Wedge moves him down in the order as he starts to regain confidence. Then, injury strikes, and no one knows what the future will hold for the offensive cornerstone of the franchise.
Most Likely: Ackley will probably hit about .290 and be the best offensive player in the lineup this season. Yikes. I think best-case is more likely.
3. Ichiro, RF: Coming off the worst season of his career by far in 2011, Ichiro will have to prove he's still a great player in 2012. Frankly, last year sucked with Ichiro. He didn't do anything right. He couldn't buy a break with the fans either, because he played like his usual selfish self most of the time. His move to the three-hole should help take some of the pressure off and maybe give him a fresh outlook. He's going to be facing huge expectations in the final year of his expensive contract.
Best-case Scenario: Ichiro is Ichiro again. He hits .320, goes back to the all-star game, and starts showing some of his power in the three-hole. He reinvents himself late in his career and becomes a formidable hitter once again.
Worst-case Scenario: He continues to decline, and bitches about hitting away from the leadoff spot. Seattle calls for his head, and he doesn't get a new contract in 2013, bringing an end to the tenure of the most polarizing athlete in Seattle sports history.
Most Likely: I think Ichiro will bounce back. Will he be vintage Ichiro? Maybe not. But I think he'll hit .300 again or at least adjust to the three-hole by hitting more homers and driving in runs. He'll be an all-star again because he's Japanese, and therefore only needs to play half-decent to garner the votes needed to start.
4. Justin Smoak, 1B: Justin's 2011 was riddled with injuries and mishaps. His father died in May, his thumbs got messed up at different times, and he took a grounder off the nose in August. Fucking brutal year for the Goose Creek Crusher. 2011 was supposed to be the year Smoak asserted himself as the gem of the Cliff Lee trade. Guess that's gonna have to be 2012. He did jack one in Japan, which was comforting.
Best-case Scenario: Justin finally makes the leap from what if to what is. He live up to the hype and cranks 25 homers to go with 100 RBIs and a .275 average. Solid, with the potential to become all-star caliber.
Worst-case Scenario: Injuries frustrate Smoak again. He can't stay healthy, and still can't make the progress that the M's need him to make. He ends up hitting sixth, and the roster still lacks a solid cleanup hitter.
Most Likely: Smoak will improve. He will approach the numbers I listed in best-case. And he will pan out. Patience, people.
5. Jesus Montero, DH: Well, it's become pretty clear that this guy can't catch. Pineda can't stay healthy and Montero is a DH. Fair trade. Sike! Suck it, Yankees! What Montero can do without a doubt is rake. Not like clean the yard in the fall, which I'm sure he can also do, but hit the ball hard. He can do that quite well. It's his rookie year, so expectations must be tempered. However, I think he can do great things this year and prove his value for the future.
Best-case Scenario: Jesus takes the MLB by storm and combines with Smoak and Ackley to form the offensive core of the future for the M's. He cranks 20+ jacks as well, and wins rookie of the year.
Worst-case Scenario: Montero struggles immensely due to his limited experience and huge hype. He never catches a game, and goes to AAA in June. He hits below .240 and doesn't change the M's poor hitting culture.
Most Likely: Jesus will have a good year. I don't think he'll be rookie of the year (see Moore, Matt or Harper, Bryce), but he could finish top five and still provide a huge lift for the Mariners lineup. He'll be solid, which is what the M's need: solid, consistent hitters that can provide offense for years to come.
6. Kyle Seager, 3B: Seager started game two in Japan, and had little success, much like the rest of the Mariner lineup. Fun stuff. He's a solid option at three infield positions, making him a utility infielder when everyone is healthy (come on Carp and Guti). For now, he'll split time with Casper Wells, and Figgins will switch positions accordingly.
Best-case Scenario: Seager hits .275 and solidifies himself as a major league player. He fills the utility infielder role admirably, and he shows the potential to be an eight or nine hitter on the future M's that will get back to the playoffs in 2015.
Worst-case Scenario: Seager shows his remarkable quick jump to the majors was way too fast, and he's in AAA when Carp and Guti come back at the end of April. He struggles to solidify any sort of role with the M's, and does most of his damage in September when the rosters expand.
Most Likely: Seager will stay in Seattle most of the year and maybe all of it. He's probably not the third baseman on the 2015 squad, but he'll be a decent stop gap ad show some nice flashes while never starting on a regular basis.
7. Miguel Olivo, C: Big Mike Olive doesn't have a future with the Mariners, but the Mariners don't have a viable solution at catcher yet, so Miguel is fine for 2012. He's the most veteran offensive player besides Ichiro, and Ichiro doesn't count because he never leads. So Olivo has that going for him. He also has decent power. He also swings and misses a lot. Like A LOT. Like most in the league by percentage in 2011. Shit. That's awful. Please be better Miguel.
Best-case Scenario: Olivo cranks out about 15 dingers and manages to catch 140 games. That would of course require him staying healthy, which could be tricky for a catcher his age. His veteran presence helps Adam Moore along, and maybe Moore becomes his successor. Or John Jaso.
Worst-case Scenario: Miguel misses the pitches he cranked for jacks last year. His knees give out, and the Mariners have to put him on the DL. He forces John Jaso into duty that in turn casts suspicion on Jaso's abilities, and the Mariners still don't have a catcher.
Most Likely: It could be a long year for Olivo. I could see him breaking down this year. I think he'll struggle at the plate, hitting 10 homers and only .215 or .220.
8. Michael Saunders, CF: It's officially sink or swim year for Michael Saunders. If he sucks again, his goose is officially cooked. Two goose references in one article? Wow, its late. But really, Saunders faces a ton of pressure this year, and Guti's continuing injury issues has given him his opportunity. Deliver, or get cut. Pretty simple.
Best-case Scenario: Saunders finally develops some consistency at the plate with the help of his new swing coach, and Eric Wedge gains faith in him. He doesn't see AAA, even after Guti and Carp come back. He becomes a solid fourth outfielder, and stays healthy so he can step in for the oft-injured Gutierrez in center.
Worst-case Scenario: He hits like he has in every previous major league stint. He keeps sucking and his defense declines. The M's send him down and cut him by June.
Most Likely: Wow. Tough one. I really should have faith in Saunders, because the organization does. I just can't shake my preconceptions though. Prove me wrong, Condor. The M's cut him by July.
9. Brendan Ryan, SS: What should we do about Brendan Ryan. He really struggles with injuries, but he definitely is a great guy to have around the clubhouse. His work ethic is solid, and Wedge has been everything in a manager that Tony Larussa wasn't for him. He had a vicious May last year, but then tapered off back to around where we can expect him to be. Unless he can reproduce May, he'll forever be a league average shortstop, which doesn't make you a great baseball player.
Best-case Scenario: May happens again. Except, you know, for longer than May. Like over the course of a whole season. He moves up to the two-hole accordingly and becomes the M's most entertaining player. Maybe a Gold Glove?
Worst-case Scenario: May doesn't happen. The rest of the year happens. He can't stay healthy and sucks when he plays. Munenori Kawasaki takes over the starting job and Ryan becomes nothing more than a backup shortstop.
Most Likely: I think Ryan will split the difference. He won't lose his job outright, but he'll hit the DL once or twice and never really contribute at a high level consistently. He'll be decent. I'm thinking .240 range.
10. John Jaso, C/1B: Jeff Sullivan wrote that John Jaso only had one spring training hit as of Tuesday. Yikes. Not good. We don't know a whole lot about Jaso. He'll be a serviceable backup catcher I guess. He did help us get rid of a sodomist on our roster. Which is always good. We don't miss you Josh Lueke. We have Dan Cortes. What? Dan Cortes is gone? Damn it, I keep forgetting. Whatever.
Best-case Scenario: Jaso gains confidence with the help of having a wily grandfather starting in front of him. Olivo goes on the DL, and Jaso plays the role of stop gap solution admirably, and maybe even proves himself as a potential catcher of the future.
Worst-case Scenario: Jaso can't do jack shit and dwells in the minors all year, with Adam Moore replacing him on the roster. That would be a waste of a sodomist if you ask me.
Most Likely: A lot closer to worst-case. I don't have a lot of faith in Jaso.
11. Munenori Kawasaki: What a pleasant surprise Kawasaki has been in spring training. The guy's hitting .450! That's incredible. He showed some gap power Tuesday against Colorado as well, ripping a triple. Brendan Ryan better watch his back, because Kawasaki means business, and could lock down the shortstop job if he hits half as well as he has in spring training during the regular season.
Best-case Scenario: Kawasaki is the starting shortstop by May and holds that job down for most of the year. He hits for a high average, and provides some excitement from the bottom of the order, teaming with Figgins to wreck havoc in the nine-hole to leadoff spot connection.
Worst-case Scenario: Kawasaki's spring is fluky. He disappoints and struggles to hold his roster spot. He spends time in AAA late in the year, and only plays a significant role once the rosters expand in September.
Most Likely: Watch out for Kawasaki. I have tons of faith in him after his fantastic spring, and I think he's gonna impress some people. I fully expect him to get as many reps at shortstop as Brendan Ryan this year. Mark it down.
12. Casper Wells: Casper came to Seattle at the deadline last year, and preformed admirably until getting beaned by Brandon Morrow (fuck his couch). I actually attended Wells' debut and the game where Morrow drilled him. Wells will be remembered in 2012 for hitting a homer in four consecutive games, getting halfway to Griffey's record. He's projected as the fourth outfielder, and since he's not a pure center fielder like Saunders, he still is the fourth guy even with Guti injured.
Best-case Scenario: Casper's balance problems since the beaning resolve themselves and he continues ripping the ball. The Fister trade keeps looking better and better, as Wells locks down the starting left field job with Mike Carp struggling in the field and at the plate. Wells shows that he can start for a playoff team, which the Mariners need more than anything.
Worst-case Scenario: His balance problems linger, as do injury issues that he picks up midseason. He doesn't take the next step to starter that the organization needs him to make, and he sees time in AAA and on the DL.
Most Likely: Wells is young, so improvement will be expected. I think he can grab left field from Carp, but he'll need to stay healthy and focused. I don't think he'll have a breakout year, but I think he can certainly lay the foundation for one in 2013.
13. Carlos Peguero: Damn it. Carlos Peguero is back. RIP Greg Halman. Wish you were here. Now that that's over with, we have to live with a free swinging slugger who hits the lowest and fastest home runs ever and strikeouts out at an alarmingly frequent rate. Peguero has cranked five homers in the spring, and had four hits yesterday. Maybe he has some potential after all.
Best-case Scenario: Peguero hits his high ceiling, and adjusts to the mysterious curve ball thing pitchers keep throwing at him. His power earns him a consistent spot in left field and platooning at DH with Montero. He cranks fifteen jacks in half a season, and shows he can be a six-hole guy for the future Mariners.
Worst-case Scenario: More of the same. Month-long flirtations with the majors, followed by rapid descents to the minors and a call up anytime an outfielder gets hurt. Purgatory essentially. That would suck. Too much I-5 driving for me.
Most Likely: Ultimately, spring doesn't mean much. Pegs will be a purgatory guy all season long.
The Mariners have two key cogs on the DL right now in Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrez. We don't know exactly when they will come back, but when we find out, I'll write a separate preview for them. Also, I'm 0-for-1 with my demotion picks. Shawn Kelley went down to Tacoma yesterday. I thought for sure he'd play a big role. My last two picks are Lucas Luetge and Alex Liddi. Liddi I know I'll get right. Luetge's an anomaly. Wish me luck. Wow, I wrote this last night and missed on all three of my projected cuts. Whatever. Go M's.