It seems like every baseball writer in America has a different opinion as to who will win The Fall Classic. For this writer the choice is clear. The Seattle Mariners will win this year’s World Series and be the last team standing. In my mind, there are five keys to winning the World Series. They are solid starters, a close the door type bullpen, bats, good fielders, and prospects that will be MLB ready come August.
Seattles five starters will most likely be Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Taijuan Walker. Outside of Felix Hernandez the casual fan probably does not know these pitchers, so I’ll break it down. Last year Hisashi Iwakuma had a 3.52 ERA in 179.0 innings along with 154 strikeouts and only 21 walks. Last year was also his worst yet. Still, that is a solid season. James Paxton looks like he is going to be a stud. He is a hard throwing lefty who had a 3.04 ERA in 74.0 innings last year. J.A. Happ is a serviceable starter who is going to keep you in the game more times than not, and will give you 150 innings every year. Finally, Taijuan Walker has looked fantastic in limited time over the last two years. This year he will spend the whole season on the MLB team, so fans should look for him to really burst onto the scene.
The bullpen is anchored by the exciting, flame-throwing Fernando Rodney. This guy is pretty much automatic when it comes to nailing down games. Other than Rodney the Mariners have Danny Farquhar (2.66 ERA in 71 innings last year), Tom Wilhelmsen (2.27 ERA in 79.1 innings last year), Yoervis Medina (2.68 ERA in 57 innings last year) and Dominic Leone (2.17 ERA in 66.1 innings last year). Clearly, the Mariners have lots of fantastic arms in this bullpen, and we saw with the Royals last year how important the bullpen can be.
Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, Austin Jackson, and Dustin Ackley. Those are some fantastic bats. We all know Cano is going to hit right around .300 with 25ish home runs and 90-some RBI’s. Seager is probably going to hit 25 home runs a year, Cruz should mash at least 30. Austin Jackson has a lot of potential and just has a knack for getting on base (OBP of at least .330 in 3 out of 5 years), and Ackley has a great swing, is having a great spring, and is a clutch, contact hitter. Outside of those 5 guys the Mariners will also have Seth Smith (career .265 hitter in 8 years), and Mike Zunino (22 home runs last year). Those are 7 out of the 9 hitters in the Mariners order. Not bad.
Last year the MLB learned a lot about playoff baseball from the Royals, including that good defense wins. Well, the Mariners have the best defensive middlemen (shortstop and second baseman) in the MLB. The shortstop Brad Miller is an absolute magician in the field (look up YouTube videos of him, they are awesome) and we all know what Robinson Cano can do in the field. Outside of those two the Mariners also have Kyle Seager who made 8 errors on 422 chances last year, Austin Jackson (6 errors last year), and Dustin Ackley who had 2 errors in 251 chances last year. Not only are all these guys fantastic fielders but they also have ridiculous range, meaning the Mariners can get to almost any ball.
Having prospects that a team can call up in the summer is a huge positive. Look at what Buster Posey and Joe Panik have done for the Giants. The Giants do not win the 2010 World Series without Buster coming up in the summer, or the 2014 World Series without Panik coming up in August. Well much like those Giant teams, the Mariners have a prospect that they can call up later in the season that can really make a difference. His name is D.J. Peterson and he is an animal. While it is possible he starts the season on the big league team at first base, this is unlikely. Look for Peterson to come up in late June or early July and really make a huge impact. Last year, at AA Peterson, he hit .297 with 31 home runs and 111 RBI in only 123 games. That is a big-time bat to have that you can call up at any point to really provide a spark in your lineup.
All in all I really do not see any glaring holes in this Seattle Mariners team. They are solid in every facet of the game and have a superb manager in Lloyd McClendon. Additionally, they have a GM who is not afraid to make big moves to help the team win in the present. This is the first year in a long time where there is no clear favorite going into the MLB season. There are lots of teams that could definitely win it all, but my pick is the Seattle Mariners.