S17 was a magical year for the Picards as they won the world championship in dramatic fashion. However, the team returned to earth last season. While they still won 100 games, they lost the division to hated rival Anaheim and then got bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Much of the same group returns for another try in S19.
Expectations are high. Anything less than winning the division and a return trip to the World Series will be deemed a disappointment. And for this group of players, it might be their last chance to win another championship in Seattle. Big changes loom on the horizon. Several veterans’ contracts expire and/or club options are up next season.
C - Long-time catching duo Julio Concepcion and Blade O'Donnell are back for at least one more season. Concepcion (.305 avg) brings a solid bat and .obp, while O'Donnell provides solid catching behind the plate and excellent game calling skills.
1B – Hayes Corino may have gotten a late start in his ML career, but he’s making up for lost time. The S16 top rookie and S17 MVP won the silver slugger in S18 en route to another big campaign (.292, 48 HR, 131 RBI). The combination of prestigious power and excellent plate discipline make him a perfect clean-up hitter.
2B – Long time lead-off hitter Jim Heathcott (.362 obp) is finally starting to show signs of aging as his range and durability start to decline. With the team holding his option next season and prospect Virgil Canseco waiting at AAA, this is almost certainly Heathcott’s last season with the club. George Casian and his excellent glove will fill in when Heathcott needs a day off.
SS – After splitting time between 3B and SS while struggling a bit at the plate in his rookie season last year, young William Ueharra (.254, 18 HR, 66 RBI) settles into what management hopes will be a long run as the club’s starting SS. Rule 5 pick Jolbert Olivo provides some defensive support off the bench.
3B – Willy O'Connor will always be remembered as a hero in Seattle. His heart stopping S17 WS game 7, 9th inning, 2 out, 3 run HR forced the game into extra innings that the Picards eventually won in the 10th. Less well known is his steady performance as Seattle’s underrated SS for the past seven years. However, Oconnor’s coming off his worst season since his rookie year (.235 avg, 28 errors). With two years still remaining on his large contract, management is hoping he finds new life at 3B. Meanwhile, Aramis Granados waits impatiently at AAA for his shot at the big leagues.
LF – After cranking out 49 dingers for the last two consecutive seasons, fan favorite and S18 silver slugger Raul Costilla (.290 avg, 137 RBI) will be in the heart of the Seattle lineup once again.
CF – Yorvit Gutierrez (.311 avg, .369 obp) gives the Picards another dangerous bat to place at the top of the lineup. However, with a spiraling payroll budget and a mutual option for S20, this may be Guti’s last year with the club. Ismael Gonzalez gives the team a solid backup.
RF – 3 time all-star and former RoY Cesar Pulido had an off year at the plate last year despite hitting 47 HR (.237 avg). Just about to enter the prime of his career, the Picards are hoping for some big numbers from him in S19.
SP – The rotation may lack a true ace, but David Armas (1.08 WHIP, 2.63 ERA), Junior Funaki (20-6)and Denny Martin (16-7) give Seattle a tough 1-2-3 punch that can hold their own. Franchise career wins leader Enos Garciaparra (12-12), D'Angelo Rojas (11-4) and newcomer Che Hasegawa give the club plenty of solid options at SP4 and SP5. Prospects Alex Lopez and Carlos Diaz continue to develop down on the farm.
RP – Seattle struck out on landing FA George Beckwith, but was able to sign long-time Cleveland closer Slash Clay (211 career saves) and bring back Paul Dong (119 relief innings). Add in righties Rolando Diaz (23 saves) and Brian Cox (2.60 ERA) and Seattle has plenty of late inning options.