2018 Team Preview: Seattle Mariners

This piece is part of the Replacement Level 2018 Team Preview Series. An introduction to the series, as well as a brief explanation of the projections used, can be found here.

2017 Review

Actual Record

Pythag Record

BaseRuns Record

Runs Scored

Runs Against

78-84 79-83 80-82 750

772

Following a feverish offseason by Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners were projected to compete for a wild-card spot in 2017. Instead, in fashion all too familiar to Mariners fans, the pitching staff imploded, running through a record-setting number of pitchers in 2017. Trade acquisition Drew Smyly made one World Baseball Classic appearance before experiencing a season-ending injury. This was quickly preceded by a plethora of injuries, eventually reaching almost every pitcher on the roster. The offense continued to be one of the best in the league, finishing the year with a 102 wRC+, tied for fifth best in the MLB. The depleted pitching staff finished the year with a 4.64 xFIP, contributing to the disappointing record.

Offseason in Review:

Key Additions – Dee Gordon, Juan Nicasio, Ryon Healy

While Dipoto exhibited his usual propensity of making five times as many moves as the rest of the league, major additions to the team were limited this offseason. Dee Gordon should be an integral part of Mariners 2018 season, as could newcomers Ryon Healy and Juan Nicasio. However, a lot of the more meaningful additions to the 2018 squad were made at last year’s trade deadline, with the Mariners picking up three-fifths of their rotation and a key RP in Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, Marco Gonzales, and David Phelps. An abundance of minor trades and waiver moves should improve team depth, highlighted by Cam Perkins, Mike Ford (Rule 5 selection), and Nick Rumbelow.

Key Losses – Nick Neidert, Drew Smyly, Yonder Alonso, Jarrod Dyson, Emilio Pagan

Seattle lost a few key contributors this off-season via trade, free agency, and non-tender decisions. Top prospects (for the Mariners’ #30 ranked system) Nick Neidert, JP Sears, and Thyago Vieira joined the cast of prospects dealt away during the Dipoto era. The largest loss for the Mariners, however, was a player they failed to acquire. The front office courted phenom Shohei Ohtani all off-season, trading a number of players for international slot money in hopes of swaying him to Seattle. None of the players lost should hamstring the roster in 2018, though the continued exodus of interesting prospects is certainly an unsettling sight for fans.

2018 Projections

ZiPS

Steamer

Pecota

83-79

81-81

83-79

The projection systems see another mediocre finish for the Mariners. Steamer projects almost no contribution from starters Ryon Healy (0.1 WAR) and Ben Gamel (0.7 WAR), as well as a pessimistic outlook on key acquisition Dee Gordon (1.7 WAR). While the Mariners’ bullpen projects very well behind the likes of Edwin Diaz, Nicasio, Phelps, and Nick Vincent, the rotation is expected to be a weakness again. Dipoto has stated he thinks the team has many players that are hard for projection systems to evaluate, including Gordon’s move to CF and continued return of strength for SP Marco Gonzales following 2016 Tommy John surgery. Any shot at contention hinges on Dipoto and company being correct in this assumption, as the team has expressed no interest in adding to the roster.

Key Players:

Dee Gordon is being asked to learn a new position, yet again, moving to CF in 2018. A quick transition, combined with continued league-average offense and elite baserunning, could help the Mariners beat their projections in CF by upwards of a win. Has Mike Zunino finally put his troubled past behind him? With little insurance at catcher, the Mariners hope the answer is a resounding yes. If Zunino can continue exhibiting improved patience, his power should allow him to be one of the best catchers in the league following a 3.6 WAR campaign in 2017. Mitch Haniger, a key pickup last off-season, flashed his tremendous potential to start the 2017 season. Showing good range in the outfield, coupled with a wRC+ of 186 in April, Haniger made good on his narrative of a changed swing. An injury derailed his season, however, as his offensive performance did not stack up after his return.

Key Minor League 2018 Impacts:

The Mariners’ barren farm system is especially thin at the high levels following graduations of Gamel, Haniger, and Gonzales last year. A number of interesting depth pieces hang around AAA, including flamethrower Dan Altavilla and control artist Andrew Moore, but the Mariners don’t have any major prospects on the horizon looking to improve the 2018 team. A big return and healthy season from top prospect Kyle Lewis could provide a nice trade chip should the Mariners find themselves in contention, but the overall lack of depth in the system also hurts any potential package for an elite talent.

Future Outlook:

To the angst of many Mariners fans, Jerry Dipoto created another Mariners roster projected to win around 82 games. While he has acquired cost-controlled players like Healy, Haniger, Gordon, and Gonzales, the future of the Mariners comes down to their ability to develop these young players. With the core of Felix, Cruz, and Cano getting older and less effective, the team will have to get more than expected out of this younger contingent. If not, the Mariners will continue to hold the infamous position of having the longest playoff drought in American sports.

2 thoughts on “2018 Team Preview: Seattle Mariners

  1. I like the page and your straight forward analysis of the coming year. I am looking forward to your Red Sox entry.
    I would also appreciate any fantasy nuggets you could throw my way.

    Like

    • Thanks, I appreciate that! We’re definitely planning on getting some fantasy related content up in the next few weeks. Hopefully a few podcasts and posts!

      Like

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