Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mariners Pitching Rotation

At this time last year our starting rotation was pretty much set, we had an ace in Felix and three good, established starters in Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Erik Bedard.  By the time spring training rolled around it looked like rookie prospect Michael Pineda would close out our starting five.

Now two of those starters remain Felix and Vargas, so what will our rotation look like opening day?  Let's assume Felix and Vargas are guaranteed spots in the rotation, that leaves three spots available.  These are the candidates for those spots: Blake Beavan, Danny Hultzen, Anthony Vasquez, Charlie Furbush, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.  Of these seven options three have experience in the big leagues (Vasquez, Furbush and Beavan).

I'm expecting/hoping that we get a veteran free agent, hopefully someone along the lines of Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson.  If that doesn't happen I'd expect we trade for one, probably for a package including Miguel Olivo who is expendable with the Montero trade.  So now I'm going to assume those seven pitchers are fighting for two spots.

  • In seven starts as a Mariner Anthony Vasquez had a 8.90 ERA and did not impress with his stuff. 
  • In his time with the Mariners last year Charlie Furbush posted a 6.36 ERA, but did show the potential to strikeout major league hitters.  
  • In 15 major league starts Blake Beaven really impressed, posting a 4.27 ERA and proving he was big league ready.  

It's harder to get a grasp on the other guys because they have no major league experience, but I feel safe saying these guys have much more potential than the three listed before.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma is 30 years old and has established himself as a dominant starter in the Japanese league, Mariners fans can only hope his pitching is effective in Seattle.
  • Danny Hultzen was the #2 pick in the most recent MLB draft out of University of Virginia.  Many scouts believe this lefty is ready for the big leagues right now.
  • Taijuan Walker is the #1 prospect in the Mariners organization and projected to be an ace at the big league level, but at 19 probably is too young for the big leagues in 2012.
  • James Paxton has pitched two shortened minor league seasons, but the lefty looks major league ready and has impressive stuff.
Prediction: Iwakuma wins the fourth spot behind Felix, Vargas and a new pitcher.  Mariners go into spring training trying to decide between Beavan, Hultzen and Paxton.  With a strong spring Hultzen wins the job and if we don't pick up another starter I expect Paxton to win out over Beavan.

2012 opening day rotation
  1. King Felix
  2. Oswalt/EJax/etc
  3. Vargas
  4. Iwakuma
  5. Hultzen
This makes for a very solid rotation, barring any serious injuries.

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