The Seattle Mariners may be a very solid team in 2013. Granted, the word “solid” is not much of a reason for excitement, right? While there is a great deal of enthusiasm about the Seattle Seahawks and their prospects for next season, the Mariners are still a team that could be decent.
Needless to say, there is not exactly an overflow of hype surrounding this team.
Still, hope springs eternal, and this may be the year that the young Mariners turn the corner and start to be serious competitors in American League West.
With that in mind, here are five reasons for optimism heading into the 2013 season.
Admittedly, there are probably fans that were hoping for more of a “splash” in the offseason. Josh Hamilton would have been nice. The same goes for Justin Upton, who apparently likes the Atlanta Braves (via ESPN.com) more than the Mariners.
Despite missing out on those two sluggers, the Mariners added some quality bats in Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse. Sure, the Morse trade has been questioned (via U.S.S. Mariner) because it is seen by some as a lateral move that adds a bit of confusion to the lineup.
However, there is no denying that Morales and Morse will add some veteran swagger to a lineup that is still very young and lacking in historical effectiveness.
Felix Hernandez is still the ace of the Seattle Mariners, and as strange as it may seem to those outside of Seattle, he wants to be in the Emerald City. When King Felix is on the mound Seattle has a chance to win, even if they have not given him a lot of run support.
Seattle has Hernandez for two more years, and extension talk (via Bleacher Report) has already begun. Granted, one can expect that certain news outlets will soon write their usual articles which detail the wisdom of Seattle trading away their talented ace.
For now, the King is happy and productive in Seattle. In 2012, he finished 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 223 strikeouts.
Who knows? Maybe with a better offense Felix will finally win 20 games.
Hype about “hot young prospects” is nothing new. Every club has at least one of two players that generate a lot of enthusiasm and end up on various lists of future stars. However, in the case of the Mariners, some of the hype is arguably justified.
Start with the pitchers. Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen have caused plenty of buzz, as the Mariners may have a large portion of their future starting rotation waiting patiently in the minors. 2013 may be the year where one or more of these gems reach the big leagues and start making their mark.
Add in players like Mike Zunino and Nick Franklin, and there is reason to be excited about the future.
That future may be sooner than later, assuming that one or more of these prospects does not get traded away.
A hitter’s park?
For years, fans have called for the fences to be moved in. Yes, it is nice to have a so-called “pitcher’s park” since the assumption is that quality pitching is the key to winning. However, Safeco Field has developed a reputation as being the place where fly balls go to die.
Finally the fences are coming in, but fans should keep in mind that the stadium is not suddenly going to be a little league park. The dimensions (via MLB.com) are more friendly, but that friendliness will go two ways.
Still, the fan experience may be a bit better if more balls are flying out of the yard. More attendance may make turn Safeco into an actual home-field advantage, which would be another reason for optimism.
Signs of growth
Despite a league-worst .234 team average in 2012, there are signs of growth in the young lineup. Specifically, these hitters had solid seasons last year and may develop even further in 2013:
Jesus Montero (.260, 15 HRs, 62 RBIs, Age 23)
Kyle Seager (.259, 20 HRs, 86 RBIs, Age 25)
Michael Saunders (.247, 19 HRs, 57 RBIs, Age 26)
These are not overwhelming numbers, but they are signs of growth compared to 2011. Dustin Ackley had a tougher season in 2012 compared to the prior year, but he has the ability to bounce back. Overall, the Mariners have a solid young core of hitters.
The organization has been patient, and fans are hoping that 2013 is the year where the lineup really starts to come together.
Who knows what 2013 will bring, but there is certainly reason for more optimism about the Seattle Mariners. Maybe, just maybe, this team will actually be good.