.... free article at BJOL anointing the M's as their choice to pull a 2012 A's or 2009 Rockies.
The last five teams they picked were the:
- 2009 Rockies, who went from 74 wins to 92 wins,
- 2011 Indians, who went from 69 wins to 80,
- 2012 A's, who went from 74 wins to 94,
- 2012 Royals, from 71 to 72, and
- 2012 Padres, from 71 to 76
The average loser had been 70-92, and had posted a season over .500 the following season. Not shabby.
=== Thusly ===
The Mariners, Astros, and Pirates score much higher Cinderella Surprise factors than the rest of the pack in 2013. The scale is from 0-100, and these teams top surprise candidates with scores in the 50's. A few other teams are in the 30's; others are in the teens or 20's.
This objective, points-for-checkpoints system likes the Mariners because of:
- the #2 farm system in baseball
- a Winning record in the 2nd half of 2012
- the 3rd-youngest hitters in baseball
- a couple of other things
Dr. D's kibitzing follows on. No doubt you can do better than him:
=== 3rd-Youngest Hitters in Baseball ===
The M's score 13 "points" for the youth of their hitters. The point here, if you haven't had your morning coffee, is that the Mariners' lineup has its best years in front of it. Obviously Dustin Ackley is going to hit better in the future than he has in the past. That's not a Seattle perspective; that's axiomatic, as is the fact that Ackley is 24 rather than 34 years old.
Fleming's system does not load in points for having top-10 draft picks. The Mariners get points for Ackley being young; they don't get points for his being the first amateur hitter selected in his draft. They'd have gotten as many points from this simple, objective system if Ackley had been Carlos Peguero rather than a hitter who is going to be good.
The same is true of Montero, who was one of the three or four most-coveted hitters in baseball when he debuted last year; the M's got as many points for him as they'd have gotten for Adam Moore.*
For Saunders, the system if fine as is - Saunders is as likely to have "better" years as any other young player of that sort. How about Seager? Is he more likely to improve on 110 OPS+ than some other 25-year-old is on his 110? Probably not. Seager's high end is questionable.
Justin Smoak? Sure, Justin Smoak has much more expectation for improvement than most 25-year-olds with an 87 OPS+.
So the Mariners get 13 points for young hitting, but in view of the elite pedigrees for Ackley, Montero, and Smoak (and Smoak's vast room for improvement!), they should probably get something like 26 points.
=== 2nd Half Performance ===
The M's didn't really have a "winning" second half. They were a sturdy average-solid club.
The Mariners in the second half HAD Felix, Iwakuma, Vargas/Saunders, and Erasmo in the rotation, so it's not like they're going to be able to just waltz past their 2H 2012 pitching performance.
Well, Erasmo started 8 games, and Hultzen/Paxton might replace Beavan, but a quantum leap in pitching isn't so easy.
A quantum leap in hitting, that is not only easy, but on paper, already accomplished with the new #3-4 hitters. You're not going to even need the young players to bust out for that.
=== #2 Farm System ===
James was the first one, back in the 1980's, to notice that "Cinderella" teams do in fact tend to have strong minors systems the year before. In real time, ballclubs actually do need to dip into the minors to fix weaknesses -- an Alex Liddi for an injured Kyle Seager, a Carlos Triunfel for an injured Brendan Ryan.
And star-power rookies do affect pennant races.
The M's get 19 points for this category, but it's better than that for M's fans. Those 19 points would be the same, even if the M's had an elite system with their players at lower levels. The M's system is front-loaded with elite minor league talent that is at AA/AAA -- Hultzen, Paxton, Zunino, Nick Franklin, etc. The Mariners have a pretty good shot at a ROY type performance, at least in the second half. For that matter, they could have three ROY performances in the second half.
In fact BaseballHQ puts Taijuan Walker among its 50 minor leaguers most likely to have an MLB roto impact this coming season .... let's run an article on that. Where the roto guys see our ML-ready prospects as ready to produce in 2013.