Originally posted on SeaTown Sports  |  Last updated 5/15/12

Have we seen the last of Chone Figgins?
Photo Credit: seattlebaseballtraininglessons.com

With all the early spring Mariners optimism now relatively gone, it’s about time we take a reality check and look at the true state of the 2012 Mariners. From Chone Figgins to Felix Hernandez, there’s a lot to talk about.

Chone Figgins is done as an everyday player in Seattle: In a last ditch effort to salvage Chone Figgins’ 4-year, $36 Million contract, manager Eric Wedge decided to start Figgy at leadoff in hopes that he might be able to regain his Anaheim form.

Well, that idea failed to say the least. After showing some flashes of a possible comeback in the first two weeks, Chone went downhill and is currently sitting on the bench with a .188 average. Unless Kyle Seager, Alex Liddi, Mike Carp, and Casper Wells all suddenly suffer career ending injuries, it looks like Chone Figgins’ starting days as a Mariner, or possibly anywhere else might be over.

Ichiro needs to be moved back to leadoff: Some might say that it’s too early to move the 12-year MLB veteran back to the position he’s most comfortable, but it’s time.

Granted, Ichiro has the second highest OBP (.329) and the third highest average (.285) on the team, but the key to winning baseball games is scoring runs. And Ichiro isn’t exactly driving in runs, only having 13 RBI to his name a fifth of the way into the season. Ichiro is most effective leading off games and stealing bases, not trying to hit thundering doubles into the outfield gaps. That’s just not him, and it’s time we stop pretending that it is.

Felix Hernandez can deal with a velocity drop: If you’ve watched any of the King’s starts this season, you may have noticed that his fastball doesn’t consistently top out at 95 or 96 MPH like it has during previous seasons; it’s currently hanging around the 90-93 MPH range. Does this matter? Apparently not.

Felix is currently sporting a 2.29 ERA, dished out 58 strikeouts, and has only walked 16 guys. My theory for the velocity drop is that Felix is beginning to pace himself instead of throwing 96 MPH every time and blowing out his arm.

Think about it. Do you honestly think the Mariners would send their franchise player out onto the mound if they knew he had even the tiniest of injuries? Of course not! 

Kyle Seager is the man: Talk about a breath of fresh air going from Chone Figgins to Kyle Seager at third base. The 25-year old Seager has basically come out of nowhere and currently leads the Mariners in RBI (20), Slugging % (.491), and Wins Above Replacement (1.4), which is basically a stat that determines how valuable a player is to his team.

Seager has been the most productive offensive player for the Mariners, and it’s looking like he could possibly be that in the years to come.

Justin Smoak is on the hot seat: Jack Zduriencik traded Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak thinking he was going to get a powerful switch-hitting first baseman that would be a fixture in the lineup for at least the next six years. Instead, Smoak has been pretty much the opposite of that.

The former Ranger is hitting .204 this season and Mariners fans are getting restless. The good news for Smoak is he does have time to improve with him only being 25 and as of right now there's no one on the bench that would be an improvent over Smoak at first. 

Really the tragedy here is if Smoak is traded to another team, the “Smoakamotive” Mariners giveaway won’t hold as much significance.

Kevin Millwood needs to go: You know what I’m sick of? Watching a washed up, 37-year old Kevin Millwood pitch for a non-contending team. If you’re the Mariners, you literally have nothing to gain from sending Millwood (5.09 ERA, 28 SO in 7 games) out onto the mound every five days just to get blown up for four innings and burn out the bullpen.

Millwood won’t be a Mariner in two years, but there are some pitchers who will be. Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton are three of the best prospects in baseball and by all accounts lighting up hitters in AA Tennessee, as they have a combined 2.44 ERA and 12.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. Those are incredible stats and I would much rather see Hultzen, the no. 2 overall pick in 2011 pitch for the Mariners than Kevin Millwood.

Mid-May might be a little early to bring up either of these pitchers (especially the 19-year old Walker), but don’t be surprised if we see Hultzen or Paxton in a Mariners uniform come late July when the Mariners are likely out of playoff contention. This way, we’ll get to see at least one of the prized jewels of the M’s farm system pitch and not be forced to watch Kevin Millwood give us a mediocre performance at best.


-- Nathan Parsons (@nathanparsons98) 

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