While 2012 was a frustrating year for the Seattle Mariners, it was also necessary. Jack Zduriencik and Eric Wedge are committed to this young Mariners team and they believe that championship level success is right around the corner. The playoffs may be hard to attain this year, but here are 5 reasons why this club will be much more formidable this year.
1. Offseason acquisitions that provide power in the middle of the lineup
At the start of the offseason, Jack Zduriencik made acquiring more offense a priority. Although the offseason isn’t over, Jack has already made significant moves to bolster the starving Seattle Mariners offense. Kendrys Morales proved in 2012 that he is completely healthy again, by slugging 22 home runs and driving in 73 runs. While those aren’t jaw dropping numbers, the man has proven that he can hit and will be a solid, dependable bat in the middle of this Mariners lineup. The other big splash that Jack Z has made is bringing in the former Mariner, Michael Morse.
For those who remember Morse’s first stint with the M’s, fear not, Michael is a completely different player these days. His last two years in Washington, Morse solidified himself as an extremely formidable bat, posting averages of 24.5 home runs and 78.5 RBI. Keep in mind; these two trades were pulled off without the Mariners having to part with a single prospect in their system, which was ranked the number two farm system in all of baseball according to CBS Sports.
2. Development of rising stars
For the past 4 seasons, the Mariners have been starving for offense. That has been obvious; anyone who reads box scores knows that. By the numbers, 2012 was not much different, however, you need to dig deeper to understand why this will not happen again. There is a difference between being bad offensively, as opposed to simply being young. At one point last year, Manager Eric Wedge had 7 rookies in the starting lineup. It is crucial that these players gain real major league experience if they are going to compete at a high level. Wedge realizes this and he does not shy away from the fact that the Mariners are young, in fact he boasts about it.
Dustin Ackley is coming off a disappointing 2012 season, hitting a pedestrian .226, however Mariners fans should not be overly worried. Dustin had hit at every level he has been at, which is why he was selected number two overall of the 2009 draft. It is not uncommon for talented players to go through sophomore slumps (i.e. Jason Heyward). The guy has incredible bat speed, along with solid pop and an impeccable eye for the strike zone.
Kyle Seager will be the nucleus that holds this young core together. Despite the Mariners struggles at the plate in 2012, Kyle continued to produce time and time again in the clutch. He led the Mariners in home runs and RBI, while playing excellent defense at the hot corner. Keep in mind that 2012 was the first full season for Kyle, meaning he has just scraped the surface in terms of his potential.
Jesus Montero finished his rookie campaign with fifteen home runs and sixty two RBI. Those are solid numbers for any rookie, let alone a rookie catcher. Whether Jesus is the Mariners catcher of the future remains to be seen, however he proved that he can at least hold the position until the young prospect, Mike Zunino, makes it to the major leagues. Montero has tremendous hand eye coordination and can drive the ball to the opposite field extremely well. Look for him to be a solid bat in the middle of the order for years to come.
3. Experience and leadership go a long way
In today’s world of sports, statistics reign supreme, and for good reason. Stats help quantify performance and ability. Baseball is no different; in fact stats are even more prevalent in baseball than in other sports. But for all the stats and all of the saber metrics, there is something that cannot be quantified or explained through numbers: Experience.
With the Mariners having so many youngsters, it is important that they gained some type of veteran presence this offseason. Along with the addition of Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales, Jack Z went out and acquired Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez. It’s true, they are shells of their former selves’ performance wise, but what they lack in production, they make up for in unparalleled leadership. To be a championship level club, it is important that there are people who have been there before. While the addition of these two veterans seems subtle, it could pay major dividends to this group core of young players.
4. Moving the fences in at Safeco
Some might look at this and think that it is not significant, they would be wrong. Along with AT&T Park and Petco Park, Safeco field has been statistically one of the worst ballparks to hit in since its opening in the middle of the 1999 season. Despite the park being beautiful and new, hitters have shown time and time again throughout free agency that they do not want to come to Seattle. The depth of the ballpark is the main reason for that. Let me clarify, the changes that are being made are fairly small, mainly the fences in the gap will be moved in. Small as this may seem, baseball is a mental game. It does hitters wonders just to know that some balls hit, that were previously warning track outs, could be game winning home runs. Whether it will make a major difference remains to be seen, but for a team that has struggled offensively for a long time, it could provide copious amounts of confidence to these young hitters.
5. The Houston Astros
Last year the American League West could have been argued as the most formidable division in baseball. Three of the four teams finished above .500 and said teams all battled for playoff spots right down to the wire. The young Seattle Mariners had the privilege of playing these three teams more than anyone else in the league. Luckily for the Mariners and the rest of the American League West, the Houston Astros will be coming to town … a lot. I’m not here to rag on the Astros; I am simply spelling out facts. Houston lost over 100 games in a very average National League central division. The Astros are in a state of rebuilding, one similar to what the Mariners were in three years ago. It is safe to say the Mariners are extremely happy about this division realignment. Their presence in this division and in the Mariners schedule will make a very large difference. In theory, it should add a surplus of wins to the Mariners record, along with subtracting the amount of times they must play the dangerous Rangers, Angels, and Athletics.
Ever since Jack Z and Eric Wedge joined the club, they have stated that they will make this team into a championship level team. It is much closer than most people think. The Mariners continue to fly under the radar to most of the national media. There is a storm brewing in Seattle, a perfect storm. Things are hard to predict and saying that the Mariners will make the playoffs this year is tough to sell, but don’t be surprised to hear noise coming out of the Emerald City. Pieces are in place for something very special to happen in the next few years.