Saturday, March 5, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Seattle Mariners

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Seattle Mariners: Justin Smoak
On a team full of young talent, Smoak is the guy who needs to step up this season more than anyone else. He was the number 13 rated prospect by Baseball America before the 2010 season, and was called up midway through April to join the Texas Rangers.

He was expected to make a splash as a power hitter with a high average as well. But he couldn't live up to the expectations and finished his first season hitting just .218 with 13 home runs in 100 games. While that was a disappointment, I think it may be the reality that Smoak was highly overrated.

The Rangers drafted him 11th overall in 2008 at 21 years old. He's played in 170 minor league games over the course of 3 seasons, which includes last years two stints in AAA. His average was solid, .288, but he did not have the power you'd expect. He hit just 24 home runs in his time in the minors. Granted he is still very young, the power may never develop and he could become similar to Billy Butler, a solid average, but mediocre power first basemen.

The Mariners traded Cliff Lee for Smoak plus prospects last season, they were and are hoping he is able to become one of the better hitters in baseball. Scouts have so see something in him that points to some power in the future, but going into his 4th professional year, it has yet to be seen.

This season the Mariners don't look to be a contender, but after last seasons' offensive woes, they need someone to hit for power this year. Smoak appears the best option to do it for the M's, and he will need to for them to be any better than last season.

First base is the deepest position in baseball, the Mariners need to know what they have in Smoak. They would like him to be a .280+ hitter with 30 home runs, but will that ever happen? Who knows. What I do know is that he is the one Mariner youngster who has played some time at the Major League level and should be the most polished.

This is the year for him to break out and start the improvement of the Mariners. They may not be winning now, but if he can develop along with the others listed below, they could be competing in the next 2-5 years.

Others considered: Felic Hernandez: For a moment I thought it was the King, but he is going to be good, we know that, but this season isn't all that important for him to be the best...Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Adam Moore: Along with Smoak, these youngsters are the future of the Mariners lineup. This year is more of a developmental year, but they need these at bats in order to help them develop as they become the core of the Mariners...Michael Pineda: At just 22 years old, Pineda is looking to be in the Mariners rotation. He has dominated in the minor leagues, posting a 2.49 era over 404 innings. If he can develop into a second top tier starter behind Felix, the Mariners could be a force to be reckoned with down the road.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs  Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians  Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers  Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers New York Yankees Milwaukee Brewers Oakland Athletics


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