As we are about to enter into February, and I’m previewing the season in my mind, I always circle back to the starting rotation.
What will the rotation look like behind Felix? Will it be good enough to win the AL West? Can it win a playoff series? Will it look the same in April as it will in September?
I am asking myself all of these questions, so I figured why not preview the rotation?
Obviously, there is only one King and barring any injury (knock on wood), we know what we are going to get from Felix, but behind him will be very intriguing to watch in the spring.
Hisashi Iwakuma should slot into the number two spot again, even though we saw a bit of a rise in ERA in 2014 and some struggles with injury as well. Even with the ERA jumping from 2.66 in 2013 to 3.52 in 2014, ‘Kuma still was able to deliver 15 wins.
In fact, I will take the same type of season from Iwakuma in 2015 that we saw last year, I’d be happy. He doesn’t walk anyone, just 21 in 179 innings pitched and will keep you in most ball games. I see ‘Kuma slotting in at number two to start the season, but he may not finish there.
James Paxton figures to be the number three guy in my opinion. If it weren’t for an early injury, we would have seem Paxton get a bigger workload in 2014. Coming into spring training healthy and ready to go, Paxton shouldn’t have any issue getting the ball every fifth.
Paxton was 6-4 in 13 starts in 2014 and totaled 79 innings. This is still a smaller sample size, but I do feel that Paxton has shown plenty to the M’s staff to give him every opportunity to come out of spring training in the top three.
Next, Taijuan Walker. Okay Mariner fans, I was in the minority in the off-season that was actually in favor of perhaps shipping Walker for a large bat and perhaps another complementary player the supplement the lineup. That didn’t happen and many of you are thankful for that.
All of that being said, I am actually a big fan of Walker. I never said that I didn’t think he’d pan out, but I wouldn’t have been heartbroken if he ended up somewhere else.
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The fact is, Walker hasn’t really shown us too much at the Major League level. I think Walker will have the opportunity to do so as the 2015 season gets underway. The Mariners have shown us that they believe in Walker as one of their top pitching prospects and refused to part ways with, so the time is now.
Walker has a total of just 53 innings pitched in a Mariner uniform, but does have a sub 3.00 ERA. I feel like the fourth spot in the rotation is perfect for Walker to open up the season. Not too much pressure on Walker and it will allow him to settle in and get comfortable.
For me with Walker, it is more of a 50/50 with what we will see from him. I don’t feel that way about Paxton which is why I slot James ahead of Taijuan.
The fifth spot is where it is going to be interesting. I think we will see some platooning going on in this spot with two lefties, Roenis Elias and J.A Haap. You may also see right-hander Erasmo Ramirez pop a start in as well as the Mariners have done in the past.
Elias, to me, exceeded expectations in 2014. I thought we might see 10-15 starts from him and we ended up seeing 29. Every time this kid took the mound I felt like the M’s had a chance to win. The fire, passion, and compete we saw from this kid was quite refreshing.
I recall a start with the Angels in which he was ahead in the count 0-2 on Albert Pujols and froze him fastball for strike three, no fear. That is what I loved about Elias and why I give him the edge of Haap in the fifth spot.
Haap is a guy who I truly believed the Mariners were going to package sometime this off-season in another trade, apparently not.
I think we will see Haap get some spot starts here and there but start the season coming out of the bullpen, adding another lefty arm.
So I see the following rotation:
Now, do I think this rotation will be the same in September? No
If the Mariners do what everyone seems to think they will do, win the AL West, I can see them adding some pitching somewhere along the way.
I am not going to speculate on who that may be at this moment in time, but as the trade deadline looms and teams fall out of contention, we always see players moving. The only difference in 2015 will be the Mariners in first place and looking to finish strong.
Adding another solid starter could be in the cards to help the M’s in the playoffs.
This is the way I think, mighty exciting!