Off season acquisition (DH) Jack Cust looks to help the Mariners offense bounce back after a historically inept 2010 season
The Seattle Mariner's chronically underachieve, and last year was certianly no different.
However, when you look at back at their lineup on Opening Day and see Casey Kotchman, Jack Wilson, Rob Johnson and Jose Lopez pencilied in, you can realize why this team failed in historic fashion. The 2010 Mariners scored the fewest runs in the American League since the designated hitter was introduced.
I cannot recall how many times I wish the M's had just batted the pitcher ninth so that we could just assume there would be an out, rather than hope the likes of Milton Bradley, Ken Griffey Jr. or Mike Sweeney would get a hit, and promptly strike out.
The projected Opening Day Starters:
* Denotes new acquisition, all stats are from 2010
(C) Miguel Olivo* .269/.315/.449, 14 HR, 58 RBI
(1B) Justin Smoak .218/.307/.371, 13 HR, 48 RB
(2B) Jack Wilson .249/.282/.316, 0 HR,14 RBI (61 games)
(SS) Brendan Ryan* .223/.279/.294, 2 HR, 36 RBI
Where in the AL West will the Mariners finish in 2011?
(3B) Chone Figgins .259/.340/.306, 1 HR, 35 RBI, 42 SB
(RF) Ichiro Suzuki .315/.359/.394, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 42 SB
(CF) Franklin Gutierrez .245/.303/.363, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 25 SB
(LF) Michael Saunders .211/.295/.367, 10 HR, 33 RBI
(DH) Jack Cust* .272/.395/.438, 13 HR, 52 RBI
New Acquisition's Miguel Olivio and Jack Cust will bring some much needed pop to the offense. M's fans will try to forget Olivo's former stint with the M's in which the Catcher hit a paltry .151 in 54 games played with Seattle in 2005. Olivo's splits were pretty drastic, as is to be expected with most players while playing in Colorado. At Home: .318/.349/.556 while on the Road: .211/.276/.322. Olivo has hit 12 or more HR's in five straight season, including a career high 23 in 2009 as a member of the Kansas City Royals.
Cust's HR totals were down after years of 26, 33 & 25 HRs:Cust hit only 13 HR's in 2010 with the Oakland Athletics. Cust's average jumped nearly 30 points from his career average, yet he continues to struggle against left-handed pitching, hitting only .222 last year vs. southpaws while hitting .285 against righties. Cust will be the everyday DH, and I would be surprised to see him in the field at all for the Mariners. It's likely that he even showed up to spring training without a glove.
Justin Smoak is the player the M's are counting on the most to help their anemic offense as he provides a middle of the order bat and can hit from both sides of the plate. Smoak rose steadily up the Rangers minor league system and has had only 625 AB's in the minors all together. Upon being traded to the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal, Smoak struggled mightily and was sent down to AAA Tacoma to work out some small mechanical issues with this swing. Upon returning in September, Smoak mashed with five HRs and a .340 average in the team's last 14 games.
Jack Wilson returns after an injury-plagued season and moves over to second base as newcomer Brendan Ryan takes over at shortstop. Ryan's bat will do nothing to help the Mariners offense, but the defense up the middle for the Mariners may be the best in baseball if Wilson stays healthy.
Chone Figgins returns to his natural position of third base and hopes to put last year behind him. Figgins hit a career worst .259 for the M's as he fought to hit above the Mendoza line until early June. Despite his inability to hit, Figgins still managed to cause some trouble on the basepaths as he swiped 42 bases.
As always, the reliable Ichiro once again had over 200 hits for the 10th straight season and continues to dazzle in the outfield. Franklin Gutierrez won his first career Gold Glove last year despite his defense not being as dominant statistically as it was the year before. Gutierrez also struggled at the plate (which was the theme for all Mariners in 2010) after getting off to a torrid start in April. "Guti" battled some digestion system issues and was thought to have put them in the past with a new diet and exercise but the issues have flared up again during spring training. It is unknown as of now if Guti will start the season on the DL or if his ailments will subside.
In left field, Michael Saunders will get the nod to start and play as a regular with the options of Milton Bradley playing LF once or twice a week if needed. Bradley doesn't seem to have the legs to play the field on a regular basis anymore, and the M's seem more interested in seeing if young Saunders is their LF of the future, over seeing how much they can get out of Bradley before another angry tirade.
While the Mariners offense shall most likely remain in the bottom third of the American League, there is room for hope as 2B prospect Dustin Ackley will likely make his major league debut in June. Ackley hits for an above average with a ceiling of probably 20-25 HR's. Ackley, the former No. 2 overall pick, hits the ball hard to all areas of the field and should improve the Mariners offensive outlook in the years to come. SS Nick Franklin may make a September call-up, but Franklin, after only playing A ball last year, will likely remain in the minors throughout most of the year and possibly until June/July 2012.
Due to their lack of offensive production, look for the Mariners to once again battle for the right to get out of the cellar of the AL West. Despite the Angels trading Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells, which MLB The Show 10 wouldn't even let me do, the Mariners will likely remain the doormat of the division and finish in last place for a second straight year. However, as spring begins along with a new season, Mariner's fans have room to believe there is hope towards the future, as opposed to last years historic ineptitude on offense.