Finally, Opening Day graces Seattle and expectations exist!

It’s Go Time!

Not since Cliff Lee was a Mariner have there been any expectations, but Seattle should have high goals in 2013.

Lineup projections, hot stove reports, winter meetings, player rumors, trade rumors, departed folk heros with long beards and at least one new player who looks like a pirate have all made the Seattle Mariners’ offseason nothing short of interesting.

Finally, the season is here. Easter is great and Christmas has it’s place, but there is nothing quite like the feel of opening day.

*All the of the picks below are for the Mariners, not the entire AL.

Predicted Record: 91-71, 2nd Wild Card

Call me a sucker if you want—it doesn’t matter much to me. This team has done nothing but disappoint me since I was 12 years old, but this is the first offense I trust this decade.

Manager Eric Wedge will have good decisions to make instead of playing the best of a bad situation. For example, sitting Raul Ibanez despite his hot hitting in favor of a breakout candidate in Michael Saunders and a healthy Franklin Gutierrez. This team will benefit from depth and quality; not to mention timely hitting behind quality pitching.

Michael Saunders, Seattle Mariners

Raise your hand if you believe Michael Saunders is a breakout candidate!

I see this team being one game better than the Oakland A’s, and getting the last wild card spot in a healthy American League. The M’s will receive a nice boost from playing the lowly Houston Astros. The Angels win the AL West, and the Rangers fall apart in the second half.

The Toronto Blue Jays will host Seattle in October as the home wild card team.

Offensive MVP: Michael Saunders

We know this guy can get hot. Last year’s 19-and-21 season was great, but his average and OBP depleted his value a little.

This season, M’s fans will see a .270 average and a 25/25 season. That is within reach for the young Canadian.

Pitching MVP (not named Felix): SP Erasmo Ramirez

Yes, I know he is in AAA, and yes, he is a short, right-handed pitcher, but the fight and movement we saw from him last year was motivating. Motivation enough for me to project Ramirez to get the call up in May, and riding a hot streak that catapults the M’s into October baseball.

Rookie of the year: IF Brad Miller:

If Brandon Maurer surprises Mariners fans after the spring he had, than Miller will too. SS Nick Franklin was supposed to be the next infield call-up, but Miller’s success in Spring Training—and what he will do in Tacoma—will inspire a mid-season call to the majors and his utility work will prove invaluable for the team with his speed, hitting and defense.

Trade in July

Don’t burn the article with the bath water, this is just an idea. The Mariners’ two new acquisitions, Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales, have one year left on their contracts and will be free agents next winter. Michael Morse seems to be a great fit in Seattle, and he wants to be here. Expect him, with production, to be re-signed, but Morales might not be.

The Tampa Bay Rays (my WS pick over the Cardinals) have James Loney at 1B right now. The Mariners hope that Jesus Montero can catch all season.

The tipping point? Mike Zunino will need playing time in the big leagues when the minor leagues become boring for the young catcher.

Morales will be shipped to Tampa for one of its 85 amazing pitchers (MLB ready or prospects), and Zunino will split the C/DH role with Montero for the remainder of the year. This is a good problem to have.

Go M’s!


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About Jeff Budke

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