With two weeks left before Opening Day around the MLB, it is about time to dive into the depths of the starting rotation for the 2017 Seattle Mariners. With the addition of two new arms and the progression of young, talented arms, the Mariners look to have some decisions to tend to down the line during the season. However, the starting rotation for the start of the year seems set already with the allocation of starts throughout Spring Training, so let us take a look into what these five pitchers have in store for this upcoming year.
Felix Hernandez: (RHP)
2016 Stats: 25 Starts, 153.1 Innings, 11-8 record, 3.82 ERA
There is no doubt about it that Felix Hernandez had an off-year for the Seattle Mariners, and looks as if he is beginning his decline from an ace into a back of the rotation starter. Yet, the organization believes that with his work ethic and hopefully a bit of an offense this year, Hernandez will be able to bounce back close to his old form in 2014 when he had an ERA of 2.14. With his velocity continuing to decline, he has had to rely on mixing pitches and locations more than usual, which was the reason for his decline in effectiveness. However, not many other pitchers can bring the swagger and confidence that Hernandez brings to Safeco Field, and that is what the Mariners organization is relying on this year. With much to prove and potentially a make or break season for Hernandez, the Mariners give him the nod as their ace for the time-being.
James Paxton: (LHP)
2016 Stats: 20 Starts, 121 Innings, 6-7 Record, 3.43 ERA
For those of you who do not know James Paxton, he is a tall, lanky pitcher from Canada who is slated as the second starter for the Seattle Mariners this upcoming season. Oh, and did I mention that his average fastball velocity is around 97 MPH? As the game continues to progress with more and more athletic players coming into the league, it won’t be rare anymore to find such a hard-throwing starting pitcher. However, not too many teams are able to boast that they have a left-handed starting pitcher who can average upper 90’s on the radar gun throughout the game. Paxton is still an unproven talent for the Mariners this year simply because he has yet to stay healthy for an entire season. Each year, Paxton seems to find his groove and then ultimately miss a few starts because of a minor injury. If Paxton is able to stay healthy throughout an entire campaign, do not be surprised if he catches a few votes for the Cy Young Award at the end of the year.
Hisashi Iwakuma: (RHP)
2016 Stats: 33 Starts, 199 Innings, 16-12 Record, 4.12 ERA
After carrying some of the load once Hernandez went down with injuries, Iwakuma set or tied career highs in wins, games started, and unfortunately, ERA. Iwakuma’s ERA should more than likely hover around the 4.0 area, simply because of his inconsistency as a starter. On any given day, nobody knows what type of performance they are going to get from Iwakuma, and maybe he does not even know. Throughout the season, there will inexplicably be games where Iwakuma tosses a four-hit shutout through 8 innings, only to come out during his next start and not even make it to the fourth inning. With the repertoire that Iwakuma possesses, it is hard for him to face a lineup more than twice, which limits his ability to pitch deep into games without giving up a crooked number. Here in lies the problem with the Mariners, and if they are hoping to solve their pitching gripes, Iwakuma will have to improve.
Drew Smyly: (LHP)
2016 Stats (Tampa Bay): 30 Starts, 175.1 Innings, 7-12 Record, 4.88 ERA
To say that Drew Smyly had a down year in Tampa Bay last year would be an egregious understatement. He accumulated a career high in losses, ERA, and opposing home runs. The Rays were more than happy to deal him to the Mariners simply because they think he is washed up, but Jerry Dipoto did not see it that way. What he saw was a spot to fill at the back-end of the rotation, and someone who the Mariners could acquire for cheap. Most people believe that Smyly will bounce back after the numbers he produced last year, but those people also wonder “by how much?” Hopefully the Mariners will see a recreation of his 2015 season, but hopefully those numbers correlate to an entire season of play instead of just 12 starts. His start against teammate Felix Hernandez in the World Baseball Classic was more than welcoming to Mariner’s fans eyes, and they hope that it is a preview of what is to come for Smyly this upcoming year. Overall, the jury is still out on Smyly, and the only way to find out the true verdict on his abilities is to watch him the first month or so of the season.
Yovani Gallardo: (RHP)
2016 Stats (Baltimore): 23 Starts, 118 Innings, 6-8 Record, 5.42 ERA
Rounding out this ragtag group of starters is 31 year-old pitcher Yovani Gallardo. There is dispute that Ariel Miranda will be the fifth starter for the Seattle Mariners, but that will probably only happen if one of the five starting pitchers goes down with an injury during the season (which with Seattle, is decently likely to happen unfortunately). Gallardo also had one of his worst seasons last year, and expects to bounce back like so many others have done. Without pitching a full season, he was an easy grab for the Mariners with a buy-low option, hoping that he can maybe be a shell of his former self. If that works out, then he won’t have a problem as the fifth starter for this group, but don’t put all of your money on Gallardo to have an ERA under 3.75.