The 2012 Seattle Mariners will be opening up their season in a very unusual fashion. Instead of traveling to Oakland for their annual Opening Day trip, they will head overseas to Tokyo, Japan to begin the season on April 6.
With pitchers and catchers reporting in a little less than a month, the season will be here before we know it.
The 2012 Mariners will feature a lot of developing young talent as well as the usual veterans like Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez.
Even if the Mariners aren't competing for the World Series in November, this still will be a fun team to watch all year.
Here's how the lineup card will likely look come Opening Day:
*Potential free-agent signings will not be listed (e.g., Prince Fielder).
There's been a lot of talk about Ichiro potentially moving down to the No. 3 hole to add more pop in the middle of the lineup. While this might make some sense, at this point, I don't see it happening.
For his 12th consecutive season, Ichiro will lead off ballgames for the Seattle Mariners.
Hopefully, he can revert back to his old form because if the Mariners are going to be even remotely competitive, Ichiro will have to have a breakout season.
"Guti" has shown flashes of power throughout his career, but not enough for him to be a serious threat in the middle of the lineup.
The frozen-rope-hitting center fielder will slide in perfectly in the No. 2 hole. And even if he has average production, it will be considered a major upgrade over Chone Figgins.
Average hitting with the occasional hot streak and All-Star fielding is what you're going to get out of Franklin Gutierrez, and that's just fine.
In my opinion, Dustin Ackley is much better in the No. 3 hole than the No. 2 hole.
The No. 3 hole is usually reserved for the best pure hitter on the team, and while he may not be there yet, over time, Ackley will be the best hitter on the Mariners.
He has such a smooth, compact swing that sprays line drives all over the ballpark and is a 25-home runs-a-year type of player.
He's no Prince Fielder, but the guy knows how to hit.
Putting Justin Smoak in the four-hole might be asking a lot of the kid, but he is more than capable.
Smoak has the potential to be a Mark Teixeira-type of guy. He has the same build, stroke and power to be just as good.
Obviously, it isn't ideal to put him in a situation where he's expected to hit 30 home runs. But, if you look up an down the Mariners' roster, he's the man for the job.
His catching ability is still under construction, but Jesus Montero is arguably the best-hitting prospect in all of baseball.
Usually, you reserve the DH role for a veteran slugger like Jim Thome or Pat Burrell, but the Mariners don't have that luxury.
This opens up the door for Montero to step in and DH. It's not ideal to have a young, capable 21-year-old DH, but any way you can get him on the field is the mindset you need to have with him.
We've seen Carp play a bit, but we still aren't sure that were going to get out of him in the future. He was brought in via trade with the New York Mets, and he was a highly touted prospect, but that's about all we know.
Carp hasn't gotten much playing time due to the crowded first-base situation the Mariners have had over the last few years, so he'll have to make plays in left field instead.
Casper Wells could see some playing time, too, but as of right now, I see Carp starting over him on opening day.
Miguel Olivo is the grizzly veteran in the Mariners' locker room that everybody loves.
He is one of the better defensive catchers in the game today—even in the twilight of his carrer. His hitting has always been streaky, but that's largely because he's had so much pressure on him to perform.
If the Mariners' young guns can start showing some pop, it'll allow Olivo to relax more at the plate, knowing he doesn't have to do everything.
This guy is really starting to get on my nerves.
Chone Figgins is probably one of the top-five worst players in the MLB today, and yet, the Mariners are still obliged to play him because he's costing them nearly $10 million a season.
It's a never-ending cycle, and the worst part is there's nothing we can do about it!
Kyle Seager could very well get a lot of action as well, but when Opening Day rolls around, Figgins will likely be penciled in the eight-hole—a lineup spot that's usually reserved for the worst hitter on the team.
Good ole Brendan Ryan. You know what you're getting with this guy. A hard-nosed, scrappy ballplayer that plays as hard as anybody on the team.
His hitting might be below-average, but his defense at shortstop is as good as anybody's in the game.
Occasionally, his hitting will enter hot streaks, but the No. 9 hole is where he will likely be for the majority of the season unless Guti gets injured (or sick) again. Then, he could see himself getting bumped back to the No. 2 hole.
Whenever you have "King Felix" taking the mound for your team on Opening Day, you know there's a good chance you'll start off the season on the right foot.
Hernandez has pretty much dominated the Athletics over the last three years, and there's no reason to think he won't do the same this year.
If the Mariners can get any type of hitting out of their lineup on Opening Day, then the team will more than likely be sitting pretty at 1-0.
Now holding that first-place spot over a 162-game season may sound impossible, but hey, 1-0 is a good place to start.