The Mariners believe they solved their issues on offense, but it won’t matter if Felix Hernandez doesn’t bounce back in 2018.
Seattle is feeling good about their chances this year, despite missing on Shohei Ohtani after being regarded as the potential favorites initially. But the Mariners have more to gain from a bounce-back season of Felix Hernandez, who had his first season with an ERA above 4 since 2006. Getting King Felix back at the level of play we’ve been used to seeing could be enough to push the Mariners back into the postseason picture. Factor in James Paxton gunning for 200+ innings this year, Seattle has an impressive team.
Robinson Cano has been one of the most consistent players in baseball, he and Nelson Cruz have seemed to find the fountain of youth in the Pacific Northwest, proving age is just a number. Kyle Seager and Jean Segura help form one of the most dynamic infields in baseball, that’s why it was a bit of head-scratching move when the Mariners traded for former Marlins 2B Dee Gordon – until it was announced the speedster would be moving to CF. And they’ve finally filled the 1B hole with Ryon Healy, the former A’s 1B that profiles as a 25+ home run bat, but he will start the season on the DL.
The bullpen is solid, featuring closer Edwin Diaz who has nasty stuff but suspect control. Add in pieces like Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Vincent, James Pazos, and Dan Altavilla, the Mariners bullpen has firepower. But if Diaz can get a better grasp of his pitches, he could turn into an elite closer.
Best Case Scenario
The Mariners will go as far as their pitching, and if Hernandez is officially back, then they have a chance at a Wild Card spot. They need a strong year from King Felix as well as James Paxton for this club to show they’re more than an average ballclub.
Their lineup is loaded with power and speed but is somehow still isn’t regarded as a ton lineup in baseball. And while they may not be considered elite, they have consistent players all over the lineup. Players like Cano, Cruz, Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, and Ryon Healy when he returns from the DL all have at least 20+ home run potential, but they all also get on-base at a healthy clip. If the Mariners can out-slug teams on a consistent basis, there’s no reason the Mariners can’t nab a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case Scenario
Pitching will be the key for the Mariners, with the club’s offensive power they should be in most games, but if their pitching can’t perform consistently Seattle likely finishes close to .500. They need to hope for new-comers Mike Leake and Marco Gonzalez can eat innings this year in an effective manner. They’ll start the season without Erasmo Ramirez and they have Ariel Miranda stowed away in Triple-A at the moment, but this rotation could have solid depth later in the season.
However, I’m not totally sold on Hernandez and Paxton as the aces of this staff and thing the pitching won’t be able to compete with either the Angels or Astros rotations in this division. Unless the Mariners have an incredible offensive season, I don’t see the Mariners being able to make a postseason push without excellent starting pitching from somewhere in their rotation.
Kyle Seager – 3B
The brother of talented young Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, Kyle should have no problem solidifying himself as one of the top players in baseball in 2018. The lineup has a ton of power following him, as well as great on-base players with excellent speed in Segura and Dee Gordon, which looks like the perfect opportunity for Seager to rake in this Mariners lineup. Expect 30+ home runs from Seager as well as a career-high in runs scored in Seattle this season.
The Mariners need their starting pitching to be competitive this year, meaning Felix Hernandez needs to be the All-Star pitcher has been for the better part of his career. If King Felix is back, the Mariners could be a scary good team to face in a play-in Wild Card game. But, I don’t trust the rest of this staff to hold it together. Mariners likely follow suit with the last few seasons and continue to play average baseball in 2018.