Projecting the 2013 Seattle Mariners Starting Lineup
So here we are, devastated in the wake of the Josh Hamilton signing.
But fear not, I still believe a successful team can, and will be found out of what we have available to us right now.
Ownership seems to believe that the fences coming in will be the big reason the offense improves; however, I see that as nothing but a pipe dream.
Will the offense improve with the fences in? Sure it will, just don't expect the Seattle Mariners to hit twice as many homers as they did last year.
Ownership has no choice but to make a move at this point, and I believe they will. After all, if Jason Bay is the only free agent we sign, you can expect that many of those seats behind the newly moved-in fence maybe empty come this April.
1. Michael Bourn: CF
Call me a dreamer, but in no way shape or form can I see this not happening.
Will super agent Scott Boras make the Mariners over spend? Probably.
But when it comes down to it, there is no way Michael Bourn doesn't make this lineup better from top to bottom.
With his presence, Dustin Ackley can move out of the leadoff role, and into a more comfortable spot further down in the lineup.
Bourn will offer his gold glove to help give Seattle the best defensive outfield in the game today.
Don't forget how important his speed will be too.
Fans shouldn't be comparing him to former free agent bust Chone Figgins, and they shouldn't be comparing him to former Mariner leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki either.
They should look at him as he is; an all-star with a 6.0 WAR.
2. Franklin Gutierrez: RF
Yes, Franklin Gutierrez will be batting second.
Yes, Franklin Gutierrez will be the starting right fielder.
And yes, we should be happy about that.
If everyone seems to forget, and I wouldn't be surprised if you did, but Guti was one of the building blocks GM Jack Zduriencik acquired in a 3-team, 12 player trade back in December 2008.
At first, the trade seemed brilliant; as Guti went on to post a stat line of .283/.339/.425 with 18 homers, 70 RBI, and a 6.2 WAR.
Unfortunately, a down year in 2010, and an injury plagued 2011 and 2012 have robbed Gutierrez of what could have been.
Fortunately, Guti has seemed to have found his way down in Venezuela, and continues to push to get his way back into the starting lineup.
I see Guti starting there, and I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope he's healthy enough to stay there.
3. Michael Saunders: LF
You heard right.
After Michael Saunders' "break-out" year, I see him progressing into the ballplayer Mariners fans have hoped for.
Okay, last year's stat line of .247/.306/.432 isn't what you look for from your 3-spot hitter; but it is a huge improvement from 2011 when he posted a .149/.207/.217 line.
With a full season under his belt, and a new found confidence, I see Saunders making another leap forward and taking advantage of the new shorter fences in Safeco Field.
Don't be surprised to see the 31 doubles he posted last season turn into a couple more long balls.
4. Kyle Seagar: 3B
Is Kyle Seager your prototypical cleanup hitter? No.
But the Mariners don't have your prototypical lineup either.
Seager was the best offensive weapon the Mariners had last year, and I don't expect that to change. Seager was one of the few 'kids' who took the big step forward with expanded playing time
Seager smacked 20 homers and 35 doubles, and will be another one of the players who will benefit from the fences coming in.
Expect his RBI totals to go up as well, especially with Michael Bourn terrorizing pitchers on the base paths.
5. Jesus Montero: C/DH
Again, no surprise here.
Some may be shocked by Montero being down at the 5 spot in the order, but I still don't think Montero is ready for the 3 spot quite yet.
Montero struggled at times last year; especially against righties.
His splits illustrate this pretty convincingly with a .322/.366/.463 line against lefties, and a .228/.262/.346 line against righties.
If Montero figures out righties over the offseason and shows an improvement in Spring Training, then we could see him further up in the lineup.
Until then, I see him sliding in nicely here.
6. Justin Smoak: 1B
There is nobody in the world who wants to see Justin Smoak succeed more than I do.
Smoak has at times had unfair pressure put on him; as he was the main piece in the Cliff Lee trade, but has yet to put up the numbers justified for being traded for one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Smoak showed signs of life in September with a .338/.414/.584 line including 5 homers and an .998 OPS.
If he shows those numbers in Spring Training, he very well could start the season in the clean-up role, moving Seager to a much more suitable spot in the lineup, but until he can prove those numbers weren't just a flash in the pan, this is where he'll stay.
7. John Jaso C/DH
I have John Jaso dropping for two reasons.
First of all, I believe that the players in front of him will show improvement, justifying dropping Jaso to a more comfortable spot in the lineup.
Secondly, I don't see John Jaso as an everyday player, and I don't think Manager Eric Wedge does either.
I just don't see it. I love John Jaso, and I love having him in the Mariners lineup; just not every day.
Expect to see Jason Bay, who may fare considerably better against lefties, rotating in and out of the lineup with Jaso when slotted in the DH role.
8. Dustin Ackley: 2B
A lot of people may be shocked seeing me place Dustin Ackley this low, but trust me; this could be the best for both parties.
Last year, Ackley suffered a huge setback, and almost seemed to regress as a hitter. His stats sure do indicate that across the board.
However, Dustin Ackley is far too talented of a hitter to be performing at those levels.
In my opinion, Dustin starting pressing at the plate, which is made evident by his lower walk rate and his 124 K's from last season.
Expect Ackley to have a nice little bounce back year; especially with him moved out of the top of the order.
The second spot in the lineup may be his for years to come; but for now he will fare much better lower in the lineup.
9. Brendan Ryan: SS
Okay, this is the easiest spot in the lineup to predict.
Brendan Ryan will be the starting shortstop for this team at the start of the season. Period.
Ryan has a DWAR of 3.6, which is almost a full win more than the next closest everyday shortstop, J.J Hardy.
Sure, he is a casualty at the plate, but his glove is far too valuable to leave out of the lineup.
Besides, until Nick Franklin or Brad Miller show that they are ready for the show, this is Brendan Ryan's territory, and probably will be until the end of the season, at least.
2. Jason Vargas
3. Hisashi Iwakuma
4. Erasmo Ramirez
5. Blake Beaven
I know everyone is going to go nuts over the fact that the Mariners won't add ANYONE to the starting rotation, but hear me out.
The top three spots in the rotation are all essentially locks. But after that, things get a little tricky.
Erasmo Ramirez showed when healthy, he is more than capable of holding down a spot in the rotation, which I fully expect him to for 2013.
When it comes to Blake Beaven, performance is the only thing that can help keep his spot in the rotation. I see him starting off as the number five starter but only because Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and Brandon Maurer won't be ready yet.
If Beaven gets off to a slow start and any of the above mentioned show promise in either Jackson or Tacoma, do not be surprised to see them take his spot.
This rotation isn't as bad as a lot of people seem to think. And the only pitcher who may truly suffer from the fences moving in is Jason Vargas; who I don't expect to be with the team post the trade deadline.
CL- Tom Wilhelmsen
SU - Carter Capps
RHP - Stephen Pryor
LHP - Lucas Luetge
RHP - Shawn Kelley
LHP - Oliver Perez
LHP - Charlie Furbush
The bullpen will stay untouched. If the Mariners truly have a depth in their system, it's here.
It may not be the lineup Mariners fans were expecting, and it may not be what Manager Eric Wedge was hoping for. But with the reluctance of free agents to come to Seattle, this is what he'll have to work with.
There is still hope in this lineup to produce a winner and a lot of people have given up on this group to ever find a way to hit, but I try to remain optimistic.
Trust me, if things don't click this year with this group; don't be surprised to see Seattle scrap it all over again, driving any fans they have left back to their homes.
But we can all hope that the kids can finally find their way and give the city of Seattle the winner it has been begging for since 2001.