A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE MARINERS
This is my pick to win the division. The only weakness they really had last year was that righthanded bat, and they went out and got the best one available in Nelson Cruz.... Kyle Seager probably has the most rhythmic leg kick in the game right now. Never off beat, always on time, doesn't swing at a lot of bad pitches. When I first laid eyes on him, I'm like, Who's this little Weeble-bodied guy? But man, he's just strong.... I expect Robinson Cano's power numbers to go up because you could tell that there were teams that weren't gonna let him beat them. This year they can't do that because now they have to deal with Cruz as well.... Logan Morrison might be a weakness at first base, but he gives you a better at bat than Justin Smoak did.... Jesus Montero looks like he lost a person. It at least gives you the consideration that he might be able to play a little first base.... Their pitching is definitely going to be a strength. Seattle's bullpen can stack up with anybody's. They've got left-on-left guys, they've got power guys.... Felix Hernandez used to throw 95, 97. Now he pitches at 90 to 94. He cuts you, he sinks you, he carves you. He works fast. His ball is heavy. He is probably the best righthanded pitcher in the game.... Hisashi Iwakuma has a power sinker and gets so many ground balls. You can tell when he's pitching in Seattle just by looking in front of home plate and seeing how damp that dirt seems.
Austin Jackson has been serving as the Mariners' leadoff man in the Cactus League, which may not be the best thing for a team that hasn't had a league-average OBP since 2007. Jackson, 28, has a career .336 OBP, but just .322 the past two seasons, and he doesn't draw many walks. Like many righthanded hitters Seattle has acquired in recent years, Jackson didn't adapt well to life at Safeco, hitting just .229/.267/.260 after being traded to Seattle last July. The Mariners would be better off sliding Jackson down to sixth and letting newly acquired 32-year-old outfielder Seth Smith (.347 career OBP, .367 in 2014) lead off. They can then bat their best hitter, Robinson Cano, second, with Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager following. Giving Seattle's best hitters the most plate appearances is the first step toward building a good offense.
LEAGUE RANK 1
MANAGER LLOYD MCCLENDON 2ND SEASON WITH MARINERS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
STEPHEN BRASHEAR/AP (CANO)
G. FIUME/GETTY IMAGES (IWAKUMA)