Brian Helberg – @BrianHelberg
The Seattle Mariners were a colossal disappointment in 2015. A year after missing the playoffs by just a single game, the M’s were a train wreck in every possible way last season. There is a new regime in Seattle and plenty of fresh faces, but I’m not ready to buy into the new plan just yet.
M’s fans have seen a lot of well respected players come to Seattle in the past and fail to replicate their previous success. The Mariners are hoping for big things from Adam Lind and Nori Aoki, and hopefully they both prove to be as good as advertised.
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Fernando Rodney is gone, and I think we will see big improvement in the bullpen this season. However, Steve Cishek is fresh off the worst season of his career and he was signed this winter to serve as the M’s closer in 2016. I like Cishek, and I hope he has put his struggles behind him.
Taijuan Walker should continue to progress this season, and he could even be a surprise All-Star. Wade Miley will give Seattle 200 innings and should be a perfect number three pitcher in the rotation. I like Nate Karns, and having a pitcher of James Paxton’s caliber pitching in Tacoma is a luxury.
The two players I’m most concerned about are Robinson Cano and Hisashi Iwakuma. Cano mashed in the second half of last season, but his awful first half essentially killed the M’s season. His homer yesterday is encouraging, but he needs to keep it up if Seattle hopes to contend in 2016. Kuma pitched a no-hitter last August, but he has registered a 4.40 ERA across his last 27 outings. He has also had issues staying healthy, and he failed his physical with the Los Angeles Dodgers this winter before resigning with Seattle.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the Mariners this season, but I’m not ready to anoint them the new champs of the AL West. I believe Seattle will tally 87 wins this season while losing 75 contests. That should be good enough for second place behind the Houston Astros. Hopefully 87 wins is enough to secure one of the wildcard spots in the American League.
Texas should finish third, but I could see them leapfrogging Seattle for second place if their pitching can hold up. The Angels feature the best player in the sport and can never be taken lightly. However, I expect Mike Trout and the Halos to finish fourth this year. Oakland is the obvious choice to finish last in the AL West, so they will probably win 97 games and the division.