2014 record: 87-75, third place in the American League West
Manager: No. 21 Lloyd McClendon (second season in Seattle; seventh overall as a manager)
The skinny: Any unit that starts with Hernandez has a chance to be good. Now add a proven All-Star in Iwakuma, promising talents in Paxton and Walker along with a steady veteran like Happ. This could be, if everyone stays healthy, among the best rotations in either league. That’s a big “if,” though. Only Hernandez avoided time last year on the disabled list. The Mariners also have to count the innings on Paxton and Walker. That makes it likely that lefty Roenis Elias, who will open the season at Triple-A Tacoma, could be a frequent recall addition.
|34||Felix Hernandez||R-R||6-3||225||28||9.06 yrs|
The skinny: The bullpen exceeded all expectations last year after Rodney arrived. The cocked-cap faux archer often turns the ninth inning into a thrill ride, but he led the majors in saves and permitted everyone else to slot smoothly into other roles. Wilhelmsen was magnificent last year in shifting from closer to long reliever. Medina, Farquhar and Leone will cycle through various setup roles. Furbush is the situational lefty, while Olson won a job by producing a dynamic spring. It should be a strong unit again.
The skinny: Zunino showed strong signs a year ago, in his first full season, of developing into a strong defensive receiver who possesses real muscle at the plate. His development priority this season is to add greater plate discipline in order to enhance his production. Sucre is a strong catch-and-throw receiver who fits the as an occasional backup.
The skinny: Cano should remain a premier player for at least a few more years. Seager is a blossoming talent who combines pop and Gold Glove defense. Miller won the shortstop job by default in spring and must now prove he deserves it. The biggest question might be Morrison. Can he stay healthy and productive? Bloomquist, healthy again, backs up everyone.
The skinny: It is here where the Mariners improved the most from a year ago by adding Cruz, the home-run champ who will serve primarily as the designated hitter, and three veterans in Smith, Ruggiano and Weeks. The latter three, along with Ackley, are ticketed for left-right platoon duty. Jackson returns in center and could be the key to the entire season. He was a disaster last season after arriving in a July 31 trade. What the Mariners need is for him to return to his Detroit form. If that happens, it likely sets a tone for the entire lineup.