In less than one month, the Seattle Mariners will play their first Spring Training game against the San Diego Padres, kicking off activities for a 2015 season that should be one of the most exciting the game has seen in quite some time. I don't really have anything to back that statement up, but you've got a month until we can actually start writing about games so bear with me. Instead, we are all acting like kids returning from our Halloween hijinks with a bag full of sugary teeth-rotting goodies, hoping that there is something left inside that will surprise us when we dump it all out on the kitchen table later in the evening. Another breakout season from a corner infield position? A June callup with a name you can't pronounce ready to set the majors on fire? Lloyd throwing his hat at an umpire again? Another beard hat night?
Nobody knows, really, except they kind of do, and that's half the fun. It feels safe to say that Mike Trout is going to hit a whole bunch of baseballs really far this year, but then again, he could chop off his hand in a freak cooking accident before the season even starts. Prince Fielder could return to form and Felix could win another Cy Young, but I guess it's entirely possible they both renounce their careers and join a UFO cult out in the desert in Nevada instead. I mean, it's unlikely, but you never know.
So in the spirit of prognostication, I thought I'd take a look at MLB.com's recent Outlook series to see what they are saying about the Seattle Mariners, and what kind of 2015 we have in store for us.
1. "Outlook: Cano should return to 20-homer mark in 2015"
Already elite at his position, Cano could be one of the most valuable players in the majors in 2015 with a revitalized power stroke.
Robinson Cano did tie his career-low for homers last season with only 14, and as we all remember, it almost took him until May to even get one on the board. Some of it was Safeco, for sure--but he also only hit five homers on the road last year. He's starting to get older, and with the exception of maybe that one person from San Fransisco, you don't get stronger as you age. Then again, we are talking about a difference of six home runs, which is entirely within the margin of statistical variance outside things like park factors and aging. Alas, though, we are missing the point. "Should" Robinson Cano return to his 20-homer mark in 2015? Yes, yes he should. I don't know if he will, but he should.
Of course, Robinson Cano isn't making a quarter of a billion dollars simply for home runs. He still put up a weighted on base percentage of .361 last year with an fWAR of 5.2, making him the 21st most valuable position player in all of baseball. So all he really has to do is be Robinson Cano, and then he'll be one of the most valuable players in the majors. You may think this was two wasted paragraphs, but realize there are only about 20 people in the world you can say this about.
2. "Outlook: King Felix poised for another dominant year."
...the 28-year old should be primed for a 2015 campaign with at least 15 wins, a sub-3 ERA, and 200-plus K's.
Felix has only won less than 12 games in a full season once. He owned a 3.47 ERA as recently as 2011, but that has been ticking downward in the years since. He has not thrown fewer than 200 strikeouts in a season since 2008. These are all pretty safe bets, and it's nice of them to add the word "poised," because there really isn't a less risky way to put it: of course Felix is poised to be dominant. Will he? That's the big question. The answer is yes.
3. "Outlook: Slugger Cruz moves to Safeco Field."
Cruz has always called a hitter-friendly park home, so his move to Safeco Field could have a negative impact on his home run total.
Will Slugger Cruz move to Safeco Field? Well I've got news for you, friend! The answer is YES! But oh, great, park factors. It's really terrifying when you think about it--a one-tool player who built a career out of Arlington's shallow fences, moving to a spacious ballpark where offense goes to die and oh wait
I suppose that one of these may have bounced off the fence right by Edgars' Cantina, and if we take the marine layer into account, then sure, maybe three or four of these 40 dingers would have turned into doubles. Then, the very unfortunate reality of a player on the Seattle Mariners possibly hitting 36 home runs in a single season would come to fruition, and nobody wants that.
Nelson Cruz is going to hit a bunch of dingers, so stop worrying about it. This is a person who hit baseballs 450 feet both before and after using PEDs, and he will end up playing half his games in other ballparks anyway. If I recall, that very excuse was used to defend Robinson Cano's predicted uptick a few videos earlier.
4. "Outlook: Seager is one of the majors' best at 3B."
Fresh of career highs in batting average with .268, home runs at 25, RBIs at 96, and OPS at .788, the durable third baseman will look to take his game to a higher echelon in 2015.
I mean, I'm all for Seager not being satisfied with his 2014 performance. I would love for him to show up in Peoria this season, challenge himself to raise his batting average above .300, raise his wOBA above .400, smash even more dingers. Will he? I don't know, but a "higher echelon" than what he already is would be quite the spectacle to behold. His 5.5 fWAR in 2014 was the 15th-best mark for position players in the game, in front of names like Miguel Cabrera, Adam Jones, and Jason Heyward. Which, like Cano, is kind of a crazy thing to think about: If Kyle Seager improves in 2015, he is going to be one of the best players in all of baseball. If Kyle Seager statistically flatlines from his 2014 season, he will be amongst the best players in baseball.
GRADE: B, in order to encourage reaching for a higher echelon
5. "Outlook: Jackson will have opportunity to make impact."
Poor Austin Jackson. Nobody bothers to give him any narration in his video, no statistical predictions, no eloquent lines of great praise. We all know that Jackson's tenure as a Mariner in 2014 was less than impressive, and he knows it too, I'm sure. But simply saying that "Jackson will have opportunity to make impact" is a little disingenuous. I mean, Stefen Romero has an opportunity to make an impact every day he sets foot on a baseball field, but let's be honest with ourselves.
Thankfully, Jackson has more than an "opportunity" available to him. He owns the starting centerfield role, and as Colin noted last week, he's always been statistically volatile while playing an entire season of baseball, and Lloyd probably knows it. But the outlook is simple. Austin Jackson is going to have an opportunity to make an impact on the 2015 Seattle Mariners because the alternative is probably James Jones.
Grade: C-, for effort.
6. "Outlook: Rodney must reduce walk rate in 2015."
The right-hander has always struggled with control, as he has posted a BB/9 rate of at least 3.5 in every big-league season outside of 2012.
Fernando Rodney blew three saves in 2014. One of them came after he walked everyone on the Night That Shall Not Be Named, and yes, we all worry about his command at times. If Fernando Rodney dropped his BB/9 back to 2012's 1.81, few would complain. And of course, it would be less likely for Rodney to run into game-changing trouble if the bases were empty when he gave up gap doubles, yes. But for better or worse, Rodney's command issues don't always translate into losses, especially off the walk. Statistics don't exist in a vacuum, as we learned from Chris Young last year, and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar:
Look at these names! Nobody is going to tell Aroldis Chapman he needs to walk fewer batters, because he averages over 100mph on his fastball. The Braves have a lot of impending roster questions ahead of them, but Kimbrel is by all accounts going to be wearing the letter A on his hat for a long time. And in the midst of all this Rodney led all of baseball in saves, and although saves might seem like a dumb thing to get worried about, they aren't when managers actively formulate rosters in order to fulfill that need on a daily basis.
Last year Fernando Rodney ended more baseball games than games ended him, and he did all that while walking a few people in the process. He's 38 years old, and that ball is going to end up wherever it wants to go. And at this point, I kind of think that's part of what makes him who he is.