Unlike the bullpen or the lineup or the bench, the starting rotation for the M’s has been set since before Japan and should stay that way for at least a month or two. In the perfect world, Millwood and Vargas will both not be Mariners by September and Danny Hultzen and James Paxton will be.
1. Felix Hernandez: What is there to say about Felix? He’s a pretty good pitcher. He HAS to carry this rotation, absolutely has to. Something to take note of, his velocity has been down a bit this spring; he is sitting in the low 90 range on his fastball compared to 94 of last year. This happened in Japan and it happened in the start he made against the Rockies on April 2. It didn’t impact his performance, but if he goes down with an injury, we are screwed.
Best Case- Felix does his thing like usual, puts up over 200 innings, 200 K’s, a sub 3 ERA and wins like 17 games because the M’s offense realizes how spoiled they are to have him. He is in contention for another Cy Young and the Yankees pursue him ridiculously hard just to be laughed at by Jack Z.
Worst Case- His drop in velocity signals some arm issue, similar to one that is ailing Michael Pineda right now, and he spends some time on the DL and can’t bounce back to his previous dominant self.
Most Likely- He is King Felix; he will be fine and spoil us with the beauty of his pitching.
2. Jason Vargas: Call me stubborn (You would not be the hundredth person to do that), but I was not as impressed with Jason Vargas in Japan as some of you were. What I saw was typical Jason Vargas against a crappy lineup. He threw strikes, kept the hitters off balance and was very successful. I was not very surprised that he did an excellent job. He has that talent; he just needs to keep that same level of execution throughout the year. He is the M’s crown jewel for dealing around the trade deadline and hopefully he can bring in some bats.
Best Case- He keeps up the level of performance he showed in Japan and is one of the most attractive starting pitchers at the deadline and he is moved for some quality prospects.
Worst Case- He goes back to being super inconsistent and hovers around a .500 winning percentage. He stays with the M’s all year and doesn’t turn into prospects.
Most Likely- More towards the worst-case scenario, as I still feel like he is way too inconsistent to be an attractive option for a team at the deadline.
3. Hector Noesi: This is the biggest question coming into this season: can Noesi become a quality starter or will he be relegated to the bullpen? I feel like he has the potential to compete for a rotation spot once the Big Three get here. He struggled out of the 'pen last year for the Yankees, but hopefully with a helpful dose of SafeCo Field and the confidence Wedge has in him will allow him to settle down and show his talent.
Best Case- Noesi is able to turn his talent into results and becomes a reliable option after Vargas and Felix. He then becomes a fixture in the back end of the rotation, pushing out Erasmo Ramirez.
Worst Case- He struggles out of the gate and loses any confidence he had. He then either gets pushed back into the bullpen or back to Tacoma to figure out his issues.
Most Likely- Coming from New York with the media and Jetstream in right field, he should be able to keep the ball in the park and should become a solid 3rd starter.
Blake Beavan: What is there to say about Blake Beavan? He is so meh. He throws a large number of strikes and doesn’t have great stuff. There is nothing interesting or sexy about him. What I want to see out of him is more ground balls. When you pitch to contact like Beavan, you need your defense to play well behind you. Ground balls turn into outs much more than fly balls, which have the potential to be home runs. If he can fill up the zone and keep the ball on the ground, I will call this year a success. Iwakuma and Furbush are always lurking in the bullpen to take his spot though.
Best case- Beavan is able to miss more bats and keep the ball on the ground, resulting in a very successful year and making him an attractive candidate for a third year in the rotation before the Big Three get here.
Worst Case- Beavan stays his meh self, gets hit hard consistently and is moved to the bullpen for Iwakuma and sits there all year.
Most Likely- A compromise! I think he will stay his meh self, but will pitch well enough to hold down this spot all year but will be forced elsewhere with the arrival of Paxton and Hultzen.
Kevin Millwood: Honestly, I don’t really care about what happens to Kevin Millwood. No offense to him, but his time in Seattle is going to be less than a year almost no matter what. If he pitches well, he could be shipped somewhere for prospects. If he doesn’t pitch well he can be cut and the M’s lose a little bit of money. Oh well. But he is an old veteran who can hopefully make an impression on some of the kids before he leaves.
Best Case- He continues his absurd success from Spring Training and is one of the M’s more consistent starters who then gets moved at the deadline and brings in some young bats.
Worst Case- He sucks, like Jeff Weaver sucks or his arm explodes and the M’s eat his salary while he goes and coaches somewhere.
Most Likely- If he splits these two roads and is mediocre, like I think he will be, he will be the first one to be cut to make room for a Hultzen or Paxton. Go M's.