Sunday, March 31, 2013

Seattle Mariner's 2013 Season: Bold Predictions

by Jackson Safon

In a season where expectations are as high as they have been in years for the Mariners, it is important to temper these hopes. Chances are this Mariners team will not win the AL West and chances are there will not be a player on this roster to lead the MLB in home runs. But this team does have potential, and these predictions will be bold, but they will not be impossible. Enjoy.
1. Justin Smoak will lead the team in RBI
Before you send an angry email complaining about how this will never happen and how Smoak has underperformed in every sense of the word, let me explain. Smoak has underperformed, but I think this really could be his breakout year. In spring training Smoak was tied for the team lead in RBI and was only four back of Morse for the team lead in homeruns. When I suggest Smoak as the team leader in RBI most people would counter with Morales or Morse, and don’t get me wrong, I am unbelievably excited for those guys as well, but I really think this is Smoak’s year. All of the attention of opposing pitchers will be centered on Morales and Morse and I think this will allow Smoak some great opportunities to drive in a lot of runs.

2. Brandon Maurer will be the MVP of the pitching staff
Calm down. Just calm down. I am not saying he will pitch better than Felix this season. Let me repeat, I am NOT saying he will pitch better than Felix. I am simply saying he will be a very valuable back end of the rotation guy. Think Pippen to Felix’s Michael Jordan. This Mariners team is one that has far less pitching depth which means that guys like Brandon Maurer and Blake Beaven will be increasingly important. Maurer is a monster at 6’5’’, 215 pounds and can really bring the heat. During the spring he had 25 strikeouts in 24 innings and had a 1.50 ERA, which is a great and encouraging number. I think Maurer will have a fantastic season and will be as good as any fourth starter in the league. This success at the back end of the rotation will reflect directly in the win column. Hence, value in MVP.

Brandon Maurer is another gem the Mariners have raised in their rich farm system.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

3. The Mariners will not be last in the division
This is sort of a trick statement and not really that bold either because the Astros are in the AL West now, but I had to put it in here because they have been in the cellar four of the last five seasons. I say this more because I think this team will be better, than because the Astros have joined the division. I really think this team has the power to contend in the division and if they are lucky, a playoff spot.

4. Franklin Gutierrez will miss nine or less games this year
Over the past two seasons Gutierrez has missed a total of 192 games. That’s a lot. But in his first two years in Seattle he only missed 19 games combined. I think Guti is rearing for a bounce-back year to prove to the Seattle fans that he can live up to his potential. He is obviously a gold glove caliber center fielder defensively, but I think with a full season he could potentially be a 20 homerun and 20 steal guy, which would be great production to add to Morales, Morse, and Smoak. If this prediction comes true, the Mariners lineup could prove to be a deadly offense.

5. Felix Hernandez will set a career high in wins with 20
Felix has never hit this benchmark in his pro career with his highest being 19 in 2009, but besides that season he has never had more than 14. He has had unbelievable success so far in Seattle in all statistical categories except wins, which generally means his team has not been good enough and he has not received enough run support. I think this is the year that could really change because of the additions of Morales and Morse, along with the improvement of guys like Smoak and the health of Gutierrez. If Felix can get some run support, there is no doubt in my mind he could hit the magic number 20 and potentially win his second Cy Young award.

Felix Hernandez will be pitching with comfort this season after signing a massive contract extension in the offseason.

6. The Mariners will win get 90 wins and contend for a wild card spot
I told you they would be bold. I do think this could actually happen. If the back end of the rotation guys can pitch well and the bullpen lead by Wilhelmsen can stay strong, this team finally has the hitting to make some noise in the American League. The division they are in is obviously a tough one, but I think this team has a lot of potential and could make some noise. Last year it took 93 wins to get one of the two wild card spots, but the year before it would have only taken 91 to be the second wild card team. If everything goes right for this team, I really think that this is a possibility. 

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