It could have been easy to forget about the Seattle Mariners last season. After going 87-75, Seattle finished just one game out of a playoff spot. The lineup has been improved in the offseason and with a starting rotation that looks dominating; the Mariners appear ready to take the next step in 2015. Here are the three biggest questions going into the spring.
1. Will Nelson Cruz hit anywhere like he did last year? A big force in Baltimore with 40 homers in 2014, Cruz now takes over the cleanup spot for the Mariners in between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the lineup. It is the right-handed hitting force that Seattle needed last season. He may not hit another 40 homers but 25-30 should be a solid number especially in a ballpark like Safeco Field that doesn’t give up a ton of home runs.
2. How will James Paxton and Taijuan Walker perform? These are two of the great young pitchers that the Mariners have brought up recently. Paxton is dealing with a forearm issue that may sideline him some to begin spring training but Walker looks primed to take his game to the next level in 2015. Both pitchers are going to win over ten games and have their ERAs under 3.85 behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the rotation.
3. What will Fernando Rodney do? There is always some kind of excitement with Rodney but he is always effective along the way. He saved 48 games last season for the Mariners and if Seattle is truly going to make a run in the American League West, Rodney needs to have another big season. Age is catching up to him quickly but he probably has one more huge season in him. Expect 40-45 saves again in 2015.
This is a very dangerous team that no one is going to want to play. Hernandez is a Cy Young candidate every season and could be in line to win 15-20 games without as much pressure to be perfect every time out. The division is going to be tough with the Angels being as good as they are but Seattle is on their way to another season with 86-90 wins. That should be enough to get the Mariners back into the postseason as well.