Seattle Mariners: 5 Signs the Franchise Is Trending in the Right Direction
The Seattle Mariners have struggled through six losing seasons in the past eight years, and have finished no higher than third place in the American League West in all but one of those campaigns.
While 2010 and 2011 were seasons structured toward feeling out the roster, the M's have developed a nucleus of young talent that should improve the team for years to come while the players develop chemistry.
Here are five signs the franchise is trending in the right direction.
Youthful starters Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero are the future for Seattle, and because of the experience they're getting together now, in a few years they will likely be catalysts in the Mariners' success.
Felix Hernandez is already in his eighth big league season, but he's only 26. Combined with future MLB pitchers Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen, and established relievers Tom Wilhelmsen and Charlie Furbush, the Mariners' pitching staff of the future looks promising.
As long as the front office keeps most of these guys together for a few years, expect Seattle to be this year's Washington Nationals.
The past two years, the Mariners completed two of the most meager offensive seasons in MLB history, scoring just 556 runs last year, and 513 in 2010.
Through 76 games this season, the Mariners have tallied 310 runs, on pace to score over 100 more runs than last year.
The team average is also up to .237, and while that's still not good, the M's only hit .233 the season prior.
Average player age also decreased from over 29 to 27 following the departures of veterans Adam Kennedy and Jack Wilson.
Excellent Farm System
The Mariners have the sixth-most talented farm system, according to Baseball America. Highlighted by prospects Walker, Hultzen, Paxton, Nick Franklin, Carlos Triunfel and Erasmo Ramirez, the organization is loaded with young talent and potential future All-Stars.
The Houston Astros
Coming off a 106-loss season, the Houston Astros will present themselves as a new division foe next season.
The Astros have been mediocre at best since their World Series run in 2005, and Seattle will welcome any less-than-stellar teams to play against several times per season, as Houston will officially become a member of the AL West in 2013.
The future is in limbo for the Astros as well, though, as they've been in the rebuilding process for a few years.
As I mentioned earlier, the time these young players have to play together right now is ever so valuable, as they are more easily able to build team chemistry and develop a rapport with one another.
The biggest challenge will be keeping them together.
Trades happen, free agency happens. Not all of them will be here in five years, or even next season. The players need to possess the ability to constantly adjust to new teammates and quickly develop a relationship with one another.
If the Mariners can do this, they'll be scary soon enough.