Seattle Mariners: Projecting the 2018 Starting Rotation

The Seattle Mariners missed out on the playoffs in 2017. At 78-84, they finished third in the AL West and ranked near the middle of the pack in nearly every category. They finished 15th and 14th in ERA and BAA, respectively. The Mariners were one of the top suitors to land two-way star Shohei Ohtani. He would have bolstered a rotation in need. Instead, they’re left with mostly the same rotation as last season.

1. Félix Hernandez

There’s no surprise as to who will take the mound on Opening Day. For the ninth straight season, King Félix will kick off the season for the Mariners. Hernandez dealt with injuries all throughout what was the worst season of his career. About a month into the season, Hernandez was diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation. The injury ended up sidelining him for two months. He totaled just 86 innings and posted a 4.36 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Despite the poor season, King Félix is still the go-to guy in Seattle and will take the mound on Opening Day.

2. James Paxton

While Hernandez was uncharacteristically unhealthy, James Paxton was the opposite. He threw 136 innings over 24 starts, both the most of his career. He also posted career-best numbers across the board. His 2.98 ERA and 1.10 WHIP ranked among the best in the American League. Paxton’s 2017 season was what Mariners fans have been waiting for the past four seasons. With Hernandez’s career possibly on the decline, Paxton could secure himself as the new go-to with another solid season in 2018.

3. Mike Leake

The Seattle Mariners acquired Leake from the Cardinals right before the start of September. He made five starts with the team and was 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 32 innings. The strong finish capped off a solid bounce-back season for Leake. After posting career-worst numbers across the board in 2016, Leake finished 2017 with a 10-13 record, 3.92 ERA, and 1.28 WHIP. He also struck out 130 batters and posted a career-best 8.4 percent swing-and-miss rate. Leake could prove to be one of the biggest pieces of the Mariners’ rotation in 2018.

4. Erasmo Ramirez

After two and a half seasons with the Rays, the Seattle Mariners reacquired their 2007 signee, Erasmo Ramirez. While he was predominately used as a reliever with the Rays, Ramirez finished the season starting games for Seattle. He re-joined Seattle around the All-Star break and went on to make 11 starts with the team. He proved he was capable of being a regular starter. Over 62 innings, Ramirez posted a 3.92 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a 54:15 K:BB ratio. It’s possible the Mariners could use Ramirez out of the bullpen but they’ve made it pretty clear that they view him as a starter.

5. Ariel Miranda

The fifth and final spot of the rotation will be a toss-up that likely won’t be decided until the end of spring training. The way I see it, the lefty Ariel Miranda will take the final spot. Miranda surprised the Mariners by not only cracking the Opening Day roster last year but going on to pitch 160 innings with the team. His 5.12 ERA isn’t pretty but Miranda had plenty to offer in his first full season. He struck out 137 batters and posted an impressive 10.8 percent swing-and-miss rate.

It’s possible the Seattle Mariners use a six-man rotation for parts of 2018. With guys like Miranda, Andrew Moore, and Marco Gonzales, a six-man rotation could be beneficial. It’s also possible that these three guys all spend time between Seattle and Tacoma.

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