Projecting the 2014 Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation

Lots of youngsters

Fall continues to approach, as do the thoughts of better times for Seattle Mariners fans.  Last week I gave you my projected starting line up for the 2014 version of the Seattle Mariners.  Of course I wouldn’t let you down on the decisions that have to be made for the top of the hill too.

First off, I seriously doubt the Seattle Mariners are going to go with a 6 man rotation like they are right now. 

The only reason for that right now is the large number of players Seattle wants to look at before this year mercifully ends.

With that in mind, here is the first few guys who will be in the rotation come April 2014.

1.  Felix Hernandez
2.  Hisashi Iwakuma
3.  ????
4.  Taijuan Walker
5.  ????

Nobody is going to argue these 3 guys but by all means do if you think of three guys you like better to start with.  If you are wondering why I have not put Walker in the 3 spot it’s simply because all 3 of these guys are right handed and I think the M’s need to come up with at least 1 lefty in their starting 5.

This is where my quest for the remaining two starters begins.

The 3-Hole

The Mariners have lots of arms in their minor league system and since I tipped my hand already by saying at least one guy needed to be a lefty let’s just go to the best lefty starter in the M’s system, James Paxton.

Paxton was impressive in his first start against the Rays. (Ted Warren/AP Photo)

Paxton was impressive in his first start against the Rays. (Ted Warren/AP Photo)

This is only Paxton’s 3rd season as a professional baseball player at any level and he already has 375 strikeouts in just 352 innings.

Paxton is currently just a 3-pitch pitcher but two of them are already very scary.  His fastball blazes up to the plate at  95-97 MPH and he might have the best curve ball in the entire Mariners’ organization, although personally I’d describe it as more of a slurve than a curve ball since Paxton delivers it with an over the top release instead of 3/4.

His breaking pitch has the same action and rotation as a Randy Johnson slider that bears down and in to right handed batters but he doesn’t throw it has hard as Randy.  Paxton’s slurve is more of a low to mid 80s pitch in terms of speed.

The changeup is a pitch that still needs polish.  I watched him throw this pitch just a few times in his MLB debut last week and I thought he wasn’t selling the pitch very well.  His arm did not maintain the same speed as on his fastball and hitters were able to read it as an off-speed pitch too easily.  Note to Paxton:  give a call to butterfly master Jamie Moyer about your change.

A couple more starts in September this year and a strong spring camp and I think you easily can pencil Paxton into the 3 spot in the M’s rotation.

The 5-Hole

This is where I think the rotation choices get far more difficult and it will be very interesting to see what the final outcome is.  Inside the M’s organization you have a few choices, beginning with another lefty, Danny Hultzen.

Hultzen has spent most of the 2013 campaign in a training room somewhere with shoulder problems, having thrown only 35 innings all season.  The good news is that Danny did throw a simulated game just a couple of nights ago and is scheduled to take part in Arizona fall leagues.

With a strong fall league, Hultzen is going to get a real look in the spring by the Mariners.  When healthy he throws a low to mid 90s fastball, a 3/4 delivery slider, and a pretty decent changeup.  It would be a major boost for the club to have two strong lefties in the rotation.

Let’s not forget Brandon Maurer though.  This is a guy who pitched his way into a starting rotation during spring training this season.  Things did not work out for Brandon as he began to struggle with command and had some trouble getting lefties out.

Maurer has worked his way back to the big club as a long relief guy.  That role is probably not his destiny and I think the M’s will give him another shot to start in spring training.

Free Agent Starters available.

When the list starts with Phil Hughes, you know it’s not a banner year for free agent pitching.  Still, I think if you get Hughes out of Yankee stadium where he has been shelled by left handed bats, thanks in part to that short right field porch, I think you could have something.

Danny Hultzen, Seattle Mariners

Hultzen may still need to wait some time as Seattle looks towards free agency. (Photo Courtesy Jackson Generals)

Hughes, at 27, still has plenty left in the tank.  This is a guy I think has never been comfortable playing under the scrutiny that is the NY Yankees’ press corps.  It is worth a look for the M’s if they are willing to part with the cash he’s likely to demand.

Given they have so little dedicated to other players, it’s not a reach to think this is possible.

Matt Garza is the guy you could make an argument for in terms of best available starter this winter.  Injuries combined with price tag do worry me here though.  He crosses that 30 number in age this winter and he’s already been on the DL 4 times since 2008.

Despite the injuries Garza does eat innings which is good news for anyone willing to take that chance.

The last free agent name I’ll mention is Scott Feldman.  Currently with Baltimore, Feldman has never recorded 200 innings in a single season in his major league career.  Feldman, like Garza, is just turning 30 but is more of a pitch to contact type of pitcher.

Despite playing for most of his career in batter friendly parks (Baltimore and Texas), Feldman has found a way to keep guys from scoring and owns an ERA under 4 this year and career ERA just over 4.

One would think Scott would do well in pitching friendly Safeco Field.

In the end, if I get to make the call, I’d roll the dice on Phil Hughes.  Maurer needs to work things out and Hultzen needs to throw some innings in AAA to convince me he’s ready.

The M’s should go free agent with the 5th spot and I say Phil Hughes is my guy.


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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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  • The_Hitman

    Phil Hughes would be a safe bet but like Garza, it will take more than a M’s famous 3 year deal.

  • natcol

    It’s funny, but often true that when you look into starting rotation, you end up starting from the depth.

    Chien-Ming Wang pitched very well with league leading 2.86 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 3A this year. His 6 MLB outings are terrible in ERA, but actually average in xPIF (4.08). I would say that he’s not a bad choice as pitching depth.

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