30 Clubs in 30 Days: The Seattle Mariners

The biggest news I have to report right now is Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence due to medical reasons. The immediate takes are that LeBron has some thing to do with this, however I’m going to genuinely believe Lue really does have a medical condition he needs to deal with at this point. We don’t need to deal with another Gary Kubiak situation where he suffers a mini stroke on the sideline so it’s better that he rest up. But add this on to the soap opera that is any team that Lebron is on. So with that, let’s get into the latest edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Seattle Mariners.

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2017 Results:

Record: 78-84, 23 games behind Houston Astros, 7 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: CF Dee Gordon, 1B Ryon Healy, RF Ichiro Suzuki, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Mike Morin, UTIL Andrew Romine

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Jarrod Dyson, 3B Danny Valencia, RP Shae Simmons, RP Ernesto Frieri, SP Yovani Gallardo, SP Drew Smyly, RP Evan Marshall, C Carlos Ruiz, 2B Gordon Beckham

Best Offensive Player: 2B Robinson Cano

Best Pitcher: James Paxton

Depth Chart:

C-Mike Zunino, Mike Majarma

1B-Dan Vogelbach, Ryon Healy

2B-Robinson Cano

3B-Kyle Seager, Andrew Romine

SS-Jean Segura, Taylor Motter

LF-Ben Gamel, Ichiro Suzuki

CF-Dee Gordon

RF-Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz (DH), Guillermo Heredia

SP-James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, Ariel Miranda, Marco Gonzales

Bullpen-Edwin Diaz (CP), Juan Nicasio, Nick Vincent, David Phelps, Mark Rzepczyinski, Dan Altavilla, James Pazos, Mike Morin

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Scott Servais (3rd season with Mariners)

Hitting Coach-Edgar Martinez

Pitching Coach-Mel Stottlemyre

1st Base Coach-Chris Prieto

3rd Base Coach-Scott Brosius

Bench Coach-Manny Acta

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The Mariners always seem to be on the brink of being really good but never quite reach those heights. I couldn’t tell you why that is, perhaps the 2001 team that won 116 games then got bounced in the ALCS cursed them, considering they haven’t made the postseason since that season. But this year I feel that they have the chance to be really good provided they can stay relatively healthy (no team can ever stay perfectly healthy). Here’s a look out how I’m projecting them to line up in 2018.

1. Dee Gordon-CF

2. Jean Segura-SS

3. Robinson Cano-2B

4. Nelson Cruz-DH

5. Kyle Seager-3B

6. Mitch Haniger-RF

7. Ben Gamel-LF

8. Mike Zunino-C

9. Dan Vogelbach/Ryon Healy-1B

That’s a strong lineup right there, especially the top half. Dee Gordon is arguably the fastest player in baseball and he’ll be moving from his usual second base to the outfield. I’m not sure how well that’s going to work out, considering he’s been a middle infielder his whole career, but from the small sample size I’ve seen he looks decent. Robinson Cano continues to make me look dumb for suggesting to a baseball panel that included ESPN’s Buster Olney, some Red Sox scouts, and Brewers reliever Oliver Drake that Cano’s tenure in Seattle would be a disaster. For context, my high school hosts a Hot Stove forum every year where noted alumni such as Olney and Drake come to talk baseball. I attended all four years I was at the school and after Cano signed his huge deal with the Mariners, I asked them if they thought that the signing would have a similar effect on Cano that it had on Adrian Beltre several years prior, where a great player’s career was nearly crushed by the Safeco Field confines. They felt that he would be fine, though a power decline could be in order since he’d be leaving Yankee Stadium, whose dimensions are “a joke,” as one scout put it. Last season Cano hit .280 with 23 home runs and 97 RBI and was All Star Game MVP after hitting a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 10th inning to win the game for the AL. The switch to Safeco seems to not be affecting Cano the way I expected. Surrounding Cano in that lineup is Nelson Cruz and Corey’s Brother, Kyle Seager. Cruz continues to mash, as he hit .288 last season with 39 home runs and 119 RBI. Seager had a down year in terms of average, as he only hit .249, however he did hit 27 home runs and drove in 88 RBI while playing a decent third base and being worth 3.5 WAR. But the big breakout hitter for the Mariners was catcher Mike Zunino last season. Zunino was a former top 5 pick in the MLB Draft who was absolutely abysmal as a hitter to start his career, as he consistently struggled to get over the Mendoza Line. He was always a quality defender, but his bat was holding him back. That changed last season, as he hit .251 with 25 home runs and 64 RBI while being the second most valuable hitter on the team after Cruz with a 3.6 WAR. If Zunino can continue that trajectory, the Mariners will have an absolutely DEADLY lineup.

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Pitching is kind of weird for the Mariners right now. For so long, Felix Hernandez was the be-all-end-all for that staff, however he’s been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now. Battling injuries in 2017, Hernandez went just 6-5 in 16 starts with a 4.36 ERA and let up 1.77 HR/9. In fact, since finishing as runner-up for AL Cy Young in 2014 with a 2.14 ERA, his ERA has gone up in every season. It’s hard to believe he’s only 31 years old because it feels like he’s been in the Majors forever (he debuted as a 20 year-old) and now it appears that he’s in the twilight of his career. Luckily for the Mariners, though, King Felix’s decline isn’t a sign of doomsday for the rotation. James Paxton appears ready to take over the mantle as team ace, as he had a very strong 2017 (when healthy). In 24 starts, Paxton went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings while keeping a microscopic HR/9 rate of 0.60, which would’ve been the best number in baseball had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Hernandez’s streak of 9 straight Opening Day starts could be in danger with the rise of Paxton. After those two guys, Mike Leake is an accomplished sinkerballer who had a decent 2017 between the Cardinals and Mariners, posting a 3.92 ERA overall but a 2.53 ERA in 5 starts with the Mariners. Safeco Field plays well to his strengths so I wonder if the 30 year-old could be in for a big season.

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The Mariners bullpen features one of the most electrifying relievers in the game in Edwin Diaz. Diaz’s fastball can touch 98 MPH and his breaking ball practically falls off the table. I think he’s the most talented reliever I’ve seen since Carlos Marmol (who I believe is the most talented pitcher of this past generation). However, like Marmol, Diaz has had control issues. Marmol threw gas with the Cubs and had a wicked breaking ball that was pretty much impossible to hit. As a result, he got a ton of strikeouts but also walked a ton of batters because it appeared he had no idea where any of his pitches were headed. Diaz is kind of in the same boat. He had a 3.27 ERA last season and struck out over 12 batters per 9 but also walked over 4 per 9. If he can somehow find a way to master his pitches, we could be looking at another Craig Kimbrel rather than Carlos Marmol, who flamed out with the Cubs. After Diaz, there really isn’t much of note in the Mariners’ ‘pen. Nick Vincent has a nice slider while Juan Nicasio was pretty reliable for the Pirates for a while. The success of this ‘pen is going to come down to Diaz, though. If he can realize his potential, the 9th inning will be on lockdown for this club.

Overall, I think the Mariners have a talented squad. I really do believe they can challenge for a Wild Card spot. There’s no shot at the division crown for them because, let’s face it, nobody in that division is unseating the Astros. It’ll be a really tight race between them and the Anaheim Angels, however if you’ve been keeping track of my projected records and finishes for each team, you’ll notice that I have the Angels winning that race. I’ve got the Mariners narrowly missing a postseason berth once again.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I preview the St. Louis Cardinals, who made a rare big splash in the offseason when they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. Let me know what you think of the Mariners’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Some NFL news to talk about before I get into the Tribe. The Lions are going to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which is a smart move as there aren’t a ton of pass rushers for Detroit to pursue and they’re already thin at the position as it is. It was also announced that the Vikings would not tag Case Keenum, which would suggest that they may be holding out hope that they can land Kirk Cousins. Jarvis Landry and DeMarcus Lawrence will be getting tagged if they aren’t signed by the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, so that’s two more names off the market. At some point after the deadline to franchise tag, I’ll post a Top 10 NFL free agents blog in addition to that day’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Also, in baseball news, Tim Lincecum will be signing with the Texas Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see if he even has anything left in the tank at this stage in his career. Let’s get into the Cleveland Indians.

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2017 Results:

Record: 102-60, Won AL Central by 17 games over Minnesota Twins, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Napoli, RP Matt Belisle, RP Adam Wilk, RP Evan Marshall

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Joe Smith, RP Craig Breslow, OF Austin Jackson, RP Boone Logan

Best Offensive Player: SS Francisco Lindor

Best Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Depth Chart:

C-Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes

1B-Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Mike Napoli

2B-Jason Kipnis, Michael Martinez

3B-Jose Ramirez, Giovanny Urshela

SS-Francisco Lindor

LF-Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis

CF-Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte

RF-Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer

SP-Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger

Bullpen-Cody Allen (CP), Andrew Miller, Matt Belisle, Adam Wilk, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Evan Marshall

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Terry Francona (6th season with Indians)

Hitting Coach-Ty Van Burkleo

Pitching Coach-Carl Willis

1st Base Coach-Sandy Alomar Jr

3rd Base Coach-Mike Sarbaugh

Bench Coach-Brad Mills

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I really thought for sure that last season was the Indians’ year. They won 102 games, including an American League (and debatably Major League) record 22 in a row. I say debatably for Major League record because the actual record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants included a tie due to darkness, since this was before any stadiums had any lights installed. But the Indians entered the postseason as arguably the hottest team in baseball and they even got out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 ALDS against the Yankees. However, they blew that lead much like they blew their 3-1 World Series lead against the Cubs in 2016 and had to watch the Astros win their first ever World Series from their couches. But the Indians are in prime position to make another run this year as a loaded roster combined with a weak division (I believe the 3 worst teams in the American League all hail from the AL Central) should point to an easy path to another division crown. Let’s take a look at how the Indians could stack up.

1. Jason Kipnis-2B

2. Jose Ramirez-3B

3. Francisco Lindor-SS

4. Edwin Encarnacion-DH

5. Michael Brantley-LF

6. Yonder Alonso-1B

7. Lonnie Chisenhall-RF

8. Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes-C

9. Bradley Zimmer-CF

That’s a pretty dangerous lineup. While Kipnis had a down year in 2017, I fully expect him to return to form because when he’s on, he’s one of the best second basemen in the game. And I expect he’s going to get more opportunities to do so because following him in the lineup is some pretty dangerous company. Jose Ramirez was a beast last season as he hit .318 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, slugged .583, and was worth 6.6 WAR en route to finishing third in AL MVP voting. After him is Francisco Lindor, whom many would argue is the best shortstop in all of baseball. Last season Lindor hit .273, clubbed 33 home runs, drove in 89 RBI and was worth 5.9 WAR while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Then there’s Edwin Encarnacion, who may be the biggest right-handed power threat in the game outside of New York. Encarnacion has slugged at least .500 in every season since his breakout 2012 campaign and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up that trend. And if Michael Brantley can finally get healthy and return to form, look out. The only position that’s not really set here is centerfield but they’ve been testing out their young talent. Bradley Zimmer has the most potential between him and Tyler Naquin and it helps that he has blazing speed to go along with some pretty good pop. If he ends up breaking out this year, the Indians could be challenging the 2001 Mariners’ 116 wins.

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One could argue that the Indians’ pitching is just as good, if not better, than their hitting. They ranked #1 in all of Major League Baseball in team ERA and were the only pitching staff to collectively strike out 10 batters per 9 innings all season. They’re spearheaded by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was once again dominant in 2017 as he pitched to a record of 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11.71 batters per 9 innings. His sinker and breaking ball are two of the filthiest pitches in the Majors and will likely make him one of the favorites to win the Cy Young once again. Behind him is Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and while Salazar is injured and likely to miss the start of the season, there’s still Carrasco, a guy who would likely be the ace of most staffs. Last season, Carrasco went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are two other guys who could be big contributors to this rotation. Bauer went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and struck out 10 batters per 9 innings but his skill is so much greater than that when he’s not slicing his finger open on drones. If he can realize his potential, there’s a 4-headed monster in Cleveland’s rotation.

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The Indians also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Cody Allen has been one of the better closers in in the game for the last three years, as he has had at least 30 saves, struck out 11 batters per 9 innings, and a sub-3 ERA in all three seasons. However despite being the closer, he’s not even the best reliever in their ‘pen. That distinction belongs to the left-handed Andrew Miller. Manager Terry Francona and his staff have carved out a unique role for Miller in today’s game. Miller will often set up Allen for at least 2 innings at a time and is probably the only reliever in the game who typically pitches more than one inning in any given outing. It hasn’t hurt his numbers either. Last season he had a 1.44 ERA while striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Absolute dominance. They did lose a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, but there is still plenty of depth in the Indians bullpen that ought to make Francona comfortable with a lead late in games.

Overall I would say that the Indians are the favorites to win the American League, maybe even the World Series. It will likely be a dogfight in the American League this season as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros all look like dangerous threats to the Tribe’s title hopes. The Yankees added the biggest slugger in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox added a guy who rivals Stanton’s power in JD Martinez, and the Astros lost nothing from a team that won the 2017 World Series. In fact, they added another ace to their already stellar rotation in Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a tough road to the top for the Indians but they are more than well-equipped to try and win their first World Series since 1948.

Projected Record: 99-63, Win AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Colorado Rockies, who look to build on their breakthrough 2017 season, which was a surprise to everyone except me (as you may have known, I had the Rockies as my darkhorse team last season in a paper I wrote for a column-writing class). Let me know what you think of the Indians’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.