Seattle Mariners: 2nd-Half Predictions for Every Player
It's not even July and already we've seen some prominent players sent down in the Seattle Mariners system. A season that was supposed be one of contention and progress has, thus far, been yet another year of rebuilding and disappointment.
The Mariners are currently 35-45, 12 games back in the American League West. Barring a drastic turnaround, they'll be sellers at the trade deadline, allowing for some young prospects to get a taste of major league action, a process all too familiar among the club and its fans by now.
We're halfway through the marathon that is an MLB season, and here are predictions for every Mariners player for the second half.
All statistics via ESPN.com and MLB.com.
Felix Hernandez Will Finish with 15 Wins
If he had better run support, this total could easily be 20, but at 8-4 on the year, 15 wins is a realistic total for Felix Hernandez. He's recorded two straight no-decisions, one of which should have ended as a win when Hernandez surrendered two earned runs over seven innings, fanning 11 and walking just two.
As much as the Mariners may be sellers at the trade deadline, King Felix isn't going anywhere and will continue to lead an inconsistent pitching staff.
Hisashi Iwakuma Won't Be Traded
Hisashi Iwakuma's name has been mentioned as one that could be on the move come late July, if Seattle indeed unloads and picks up more prospects.
Although he's 32, Iwakuma has been one of baseball's best pitchers this season and provides staying power. The Mariners would be foolish to let him go to a contending team, given his performance over the past season and a half.
If the right offer comes across, they could be tempted, but I'll bet 'Kuma is still sporting teal and silver at season's end.
Joe Saunders Will Lead the Team in Losses
At 4-8, veteran left-hander Joe Saunders is on pace for almost 20 losses this year. While that isn't likely and I doubt it'll happen, 15 or 16 is well within the realm of possibility.
I don't see him being a highly sought-after arm at the trade deadline given his inconsistency this season, so they might as well keep him around since he's a free agent upon season's end.
His ERA isn't great but not terrible either (4.98), but given his lack of run support, 15 losses seems right on target.
Jeremy Bonderman's Performance Will Earn Him a Spot on a '14 MLB Roster
Jeremy Bonderman got off to a horrific start as a Mariner but has pitched exponentially better in each of his subsequent four starts.
If Bonderman can finish the year strong, he'll catch the eye of many a general manager and surely receive a 2014 spring training invite with a good chance to make an Opening Day roster under the right circumstances.
The Kennewick, Wash. native has allowed a total of four runs his past four starts after relinquishing seven in his 2013 debut against the Minnesota Twins.
If he falters, he'll likely end up playing in the spring and getting out-righted to the minors.
Aaron Harang Will End Season on the DL
He's stayed healthy this far, but veteran Aaron Harang's arm has a lot of innings on it, and even a minor injury could end his season or result in designation for assignment.
He's another guy with little trade value and an option for next season, one the Mariners likely won't pick up. Eventually he'll be another veteran clogging the roster and in the way of future pitchers seeing playing time.
Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse Will Be Traded
Kendrys Morales has been a top-three hitter for the M's this season, and Michael Morse has been valuable when healthy. Both are free agents after this year and will have high asking prices, which won't correspond to Seattle's plans of continuing to rebuild.
Both players will have significant trade value, especially Morales. Morse's will depend on his health status near the trade deadline.
Morales would be a huge addition for a contending team, probably worth a top-20 organizational prospect or major leaguer on the rise.
Mike Zunino Will Stay Full-Time Catcher
Rookie Mike Zunino is still finding his sea legs at the big league level, but for how little time he spent in the minor leagues, he's adjusted especially quickly, and that speaks volumes in terms of the type of player he is.
Jesus Montero is injured and has accumulated just 28 at-bats at Triple-A Tacoma and wasn't necessarily tearing it up. With no threat of Montero returning any time soon, Zunino can comfortably share the position with Henry Blanco for now and eventually become the full-time starter.
Justin Smoak Will Continue to Be a Mystery
Right when we're about to give up on Justin Smoak, he shows spots of greatness for just long enough to leave Mariners fans and coaches with hope.
He's played a little better each month this season, inching his batting average up to .244. His power has come to life as of late; Smoak's hit two dingers his last seven games after totaling three through May 20.
Smoak is running out of time to develop into the top-tier hitter he was once predicted to be, but he's hit just well enough to stick with, and maybe he'll come around. He plays good defense and has shown much better patience at the plate this season.
Nick Franklin, Yoervis Medina Will Finish in Top 5 ROY Voting
There are no Mike Trouts or Bryce Harpers in this season's rookie class, so the Rookie of the Year race in the American League should be much more exciting.
Nick Franklin is the most deserving rookie hitter other than perhaps Boston's Jose Iglesias, whose slash line is off the charts, but Franklin's numbers are more well rounded. He has a great shot to be the first Mariner since Ichiro to win the award.
On the pitching side, a rookie starter hasn't emerged as a leading candidate other than Texas' Justin Grimm with seven wins. But his ERA is above five. A group of relief pitchers sit atop the rookie pitching ranks for now, and Seattle's Yoervis Medina is certainly in the mix.
He's one of four A.L. rookies to record a save this year and has the fourth-best ERA among qualified rookies at 2.86.
For how nervous I get watching Medina pitch, he generally succeeds and has been a solid bullpen option for Eric Wedge.
Kyle Seager, Brendan Ryan Will Win Gold Gloves
Shortstop Brendan Ryan got robbed of a Gold Glove last year, and it may have been his best chance to win one. His defensive numbers aren't as great this season, but the degree of difficulty of the plays he makes is through the roof.
He's shown exceptional range and an improved arm this season and is dependable as any shortstop in the major leagues.
Kyle Seager's biggest competition at third base is blossoming superstar Manny Machado. He edges Seager in just about every defensive stat provided by MLB.com, and the two are tied for the lead in American League fielding percentage for third basemen.
With Miguel Cabrera lacking the defensive prowess he displays at the plate and Adrian Beltre nearing the twilight of his career, a Machado/Seager third base rivalry could be upon us for the next 10 years.
Raul Ibanez Will Hit 30 Homers, Play in '14
The 2013 Raul Ibanez has been reminiscent of the Raul of old. The 41-year-old veteran is having his best season in five years, leading the Mariners offensively in most run-producing categories, even triples.
He's gone deep 18 times in 218 at-bats, so 30 is easily reachable as long as he can stay healthy. If he wasn't hitting like he is, retirement at the end of the season would be a likely scenario, but he still has plenty of value, especially for contending teams. We all saw what he did for the New York Yankees last year in the playoffs.
Michael Saunders Will Not Join 20/30 Club
Prior to the start of this season, I boldly predicted that Michael Saunders would hit 20 home runs and steal 30 bases.
Halfway through the year I'm sorry to say he's well on his way to neither of those achievements.
It's been a frustrating year for the Mariners, and an especially disappointing season for Saunders. He showed promise last season, hitting a career best .247/.306/.432 with 19 home runs and 21 stolen bases. He's regressed significantly his year, though, and is looking like the Michael Saunders of a few years ago.
He does have 10 stolen bases to lead the club, but you can only steal if you reach base, something Saunders hasn't done all that frequently.
Don't write this off as the end for Saunders. He's 26 and has the tools to be a productive everyday starter.
Or maybe I'm a hopelessly optimistic Mariners fan.
Dustin Ackley Will.....
What can anyone predict about Dustin Ackley? He'll re-earn a starting spot as an outfielder? He'll be a bench utility player? He'll turn things around? He won't?
Ackley's season has been painfully unproductive and a giant step backward, but you have to root for him. He was the second overall pick and absolutely raked in college, then had a good rookie season and has spiraled downward ever since, hitting rock bottom by being demoted to Triple-A.
Ackley's success is not only wished for by Mariners fans, coaches and front office, it's vital to the future of the organization.
He can either be the guy the mariners built around, leading them to the playoffs and beyond, or he can be the guy known as simply "the guy drafted after Stephen Strasburg."
As long as Franklin continues to impress at second base and Morse and Franklin Gutierrez stay injured, Ackley will likely get his licks in the outfield, where maybe a change of scenery will help him bounce back.
Jason Bay Will Continue to Only Hit Solo Home Runs
Believe it or not, Jason Bay might get himself into the record books this season.
Amazingly, each of Bay's nine homers this season have been solo shots, drawing comparisons to Ken Singleton who hit 15 home runs, all solo, in 1975.
Bay has hit leadoff or second for most of the season, contributing to his solo success. But he's still had 71 at-bats with runners on, giving him plenty of opportunities to hit multi-run home runs.
I can't help but root for Bay to hit all solo homers this year. Easy to do? No. Cool stat to have? Absolutely.
Endy Chavez Will Be Endy Chavez
Endy Chavez has been an unexpectedly solid player for the Mariners this year. He signed on with the club late in spring training and has mostly been a starter due to injuries.
He doesn't hit for power, or for a great average, but he's the closest thing Seattle has to a true leadoff hitter, and his glove has been more than dependable in the outfield.
Chavez is good for a hit a game, and though he doesn't command the same respect on the basepaths that he used to, he still has some speed.
Now all he needs is a quirk or cool handshake so we can start using "Endy being Endy."
Henry Blanco Will Remain Backup Catcher
Weak prediction, I know. But given the Mariners' track record with catchers this season you never know when the next one's on his way out.
Montero was demoted. Kelly Shoppach was released. Brandon Bantz played one game. Jesus Sucre is injured. Finding a consistent starting catcher, let alone a backup, has been a chore over the past few years for the Mariners, but veteran journeyman Henry Blanco should be able to hold down the reserve role for the remainder of 2013.
Tom Wilhelmsen Will Get Closer Role Back
For reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, it's been a roller-coaster season. He went from being one of the best closers in baseball to a middle-innings reliever in a matter of days.
Wilhelmsen's struggles are synonymous with the Mariners' season. His first blown save came against the Cleveland Indians, the first of eight consecutive losses which may have served as a death sentence for Seattle's season.
Wilhelmsen should be his old regular self after a few more solid bullpen outings, and I fully expect him to finish the season as the Mariners closer.
Oliver Perez Will Finish with Sub-1.50 ERA
Reliever and recently promoted closer Oliver Perez has been one of the best this season. He has a 0.94 ERA and has recorded 41 strikeouts in 28.2 innings pitched. While a 1.50 ERA for an entire season is extremely difficult to attain, Perez has the stuff to do it, especially against left-handed hitters.
Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Carter Capps, Danny Farquhar Will All Win 4 Games
Mariners games have been decided late and in extra innings frequently this season, giving relief pitchers many opportunities to win (or lose) games.
Blake Beavan will start a few games and get some wins in long relief, Charlie Furbush already has one win under his belt.
Carter Capps pitches every other day and already has two wins, and Wedge is using Danny Farquhar more comfortably, so he'll rack up some wins as well.
The bullpen has been one of the main reasons for Seattle's poor record, so an improvement in relief pitching would be a nice sign for things going forward.