Ranking Your 2011 Mariners

The big news today is basketball related, with Isaiah Thomas announcing, rather unexpectedly, that he will indeed forgo his senior season at UW. He’s off to the NBA, which sucks for Husky fans. Time will tell whether this is a wise decision by IT, but I’m happy for him. Next year’s expectations will be lower now, and it could very well be our last year watching Terrence Ross, but the team should still be good, and contend for the conference yet again.

With that news, I’m officially closing basketball talk on the blog, until at least the draft in June. Why? Because today is opening day! As Andrew noted, things have been dry on here lately, but nothing like some M’s baseball to stir conversation. In case you have not heard, the 25 man roster is official. Looking over the team last night, I started ranking guys in my mind, and that’s what this post is all about. In addition to ranking the 25 man roster, in terms of most valuable to the team in 2011, I’m also throwing 3 more guys into the conversation: Ackley, Gutierrez, and Aardsma. The latter two are on the DL, and Ackley will probably be up sometime in June, so they belong on this list too.

    Ranking the Roster (Most Valuable to Least Valuable)

1- Felix Hernandez—He is the King of Seattle, and the best pitcher on planet Earth. Yes, Felix is the Mariners’ most valuable player. Go away trade rumors!
2- Ichiro—The team’s best hitter and most valuable everyday player. Also, the coolest Mariner ever.
3- Justin Smoak—I want to fall in love with Justin Smoak, and so does this city, but he has a lot to prove. IMHO, this guy is the lynchpin to the M’s offense in 2011.
4- Franklin Gutierrez—I fear for Guti’s long-term health with every day that passes without an explanation, but assuming this mystery stomach ailment gets treated, Guti is the team’s best defender, and a top 5 hitter, a valuable asset indeed.
5- Milton Bradley—Depending on which Milton shows up, batting 3rd, Bradley could easily lead the team in production this year. But can he stay healthy AND out of trouble? I wouldn’t bet on it.
6- Erik Bedard—Hard to argue that a guy who did not pitch last year could hold much value, but IF healthy, Bedard provides huge value to this team. And IF his spring performance is an indicator of what’s to come, his worth is as high as a #2 starter.
7- Chone Figgins—This guy had better bounce back, and I expect he will now that he’s back at 3rd and settled into Seattle. The M’s should be annoying to play, and Figgy leads that annoyance.
8- Jason Vargas—I still don’t think of Jason Vargas as a #2 starter, but he earned this spot after last season. Can he provide an encore?
9- Jack Cust—Batting clean-up for your Seattle Mariners…Jack Cust. Really? You better believe it! He will strike out a ton, but I gotta think he is an upgrade at DH, and he is an awesome interview.
10- Miguel Olivo—The team’s main acquisition this winter, Miguel can’t be worse than our catchers last season, but he must improve on his first go around in Seattle if he is to win over the fans.
11- Brandon League—Brandon will start the year as the closer, and he is probably the team’s most valuable bullpen arm in 2011. Let’s hope he uses that nasty splitter more than last year.
12- David Aardsma—He is the team’s closer when healthy, but for how long? He is a prime candidate to be moved at the deadline.
13- Brendan Ryan—Your everyday shortstop was a quiet, but possibly terrific pick-up this off season. Ryan is an upgrade over Jack Wilson, and could be a Mariner for awhile.
14- Doug Fister—I fear that Fister may regress this year, especially now that he is the #3 starter.
15- Michael Pineda—Huge upside, and maybe top 5 on this list next year, but in 2011 he is a rookie and the team’s #5 starter.
16- Dustin Ackley—Similar to Pineda in that he is a cornerstone piece moving forward, and hopefully he is starting for 3-4 months at 2B this year.
17- Michael Saunders—Your starting CF tomorrow, Saunders is likely headed to Tacoma once Guti returns, and the truth is he needs every day at bats, especially to work on his new and improved hitting approach. Michael needs to have a solid season to have much of a future in Seattle.
18- Josh Lueke—Off the field controversy aside, Lueke is one of just a few legit power arms this team has, and if his control is good, his value is probably as the 3rd best arm in the pen.
19- Adam Moore—It’s a make or break year for Adam as far as his Seattle future is concerned. He is the back-up catcher for now, but a rocky start could spell the end of his Mariner days.
20- Jack Wilson—Will he be a Mariner in August? I doubt it, especially if Ackley and Ryan stay healthy. On the other hand, perhaps a slimmer Jack stays healthy and performs well.
21- Adam Kennedy—Kennedy won the utility job because of his patient approach and value as a veteran. He chews fat wads of tobacco too, so I tend to think his buzz will help him succeed.
22- Ryan Langerhans—The team’s best pinch hitter, and overall easy guy to root for. If Guti can’t get healthy, Langerhans becomes a much more important asset.
23- Chris Ray—Could get some save opportunities while Aardsma is out, though Ray likely fills a 7th inning role going forward this year. If he throws well, his pitching should be good. Profound aye?
24- Aaron Laffey—The lone southpaw in the pen will be called Laffey Taffy every time he is mentioned on the blog. But what flavor of Taffy is the question that must be answered. Time will tell.
25- Tom Wilhelmsen—Tom was the last pitcher to make the team, and he made it because of his upside, not his backside. He has some pretty sick stuff, but control and smarts on the mound will tell his fate.
26- Luis Rodriguez—Probably the most surprising addition, L-Rod (ya I said it) is an upgrade over Josh Wilson, but playing time could be tough to come by. I’ve heard he hit with some pop last year in the minors, let’s hope it translates to the majors.
27- David Pauley—Maybe I undervalue long relievers who have the ability to stop the bleeding, start when needed, and yield inherited runners.
28- Jamey Wright—Props to Jamey for a lights out spring ERA of 0.00, but the 36 year old journeyman will have to prove he has something left in the tank. He will probably pitch in mop up duty mostly.

-Dan

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