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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 22, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Baseball America, Forbes and FOX’s Ken Rosenthal rank the Mariners, while Jon Heyman of CBS disses Ichiro

felixcy.jpg

(Is Felix Hernandez headed toward another Cy Young award? One national writer thinks so. Photo by Associated Press).

Baseball America came out with its annual organization talent rankings today, and it contains good news for the Mariners. They have jumped from 18th a year ago to sixth this season among the 30 MLB teams.

The top five: Texas, Kansas City, San Diego, Arizona and Toronto — with Oakland coming in right behind Seattle at No. 7. The Astros, who join the AL West next season, are at No. 18, just ahead of the Angels at 19.

In the subscriber-only comment section, Baseball America makes note of the acquisition of Jesus Montero, as well as the front-line pitching depth, highlighted by Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton.

The rankings, determined by Baseball America’s editors, “evaluate the overall value of each system’s prospect-eligible players (no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings or 30 relief appearances in the major leagues, without regard to service time).”

Meanwhile, Forbes yesterday released its annual MLB franchise valuations, and the Mariners were ranked as the 12th most valuable franchise with an estimated current value of $585 million. Last year, they ranked 15th at $449 million. In fact, the Mariners’ one-year value change of 30 percent was the second-biggest increase of any team. They were behind only the Dodgers (up 75 percent), who are currently in an intense ownership bidding war. Geoff weighed in last October on why franchise value matters.

Keep in mind that Forbes doesn’t have access to MLB’s books, or those of individual teams, and baseball officials have disputed their numbers for years. But it’s still an interesting perspective. Forbes has the Mariners with a $2.2 million profit, while the ballclub itself reported a $7.3-million loss.

FOX’s Ken Rosenthal came out with his award predictions today, and he has a lot of love for the Mariners. Rosenthal predicts that Jesus Montero will win the American League Rookie of the Year, and Felix Hernandez will walk away with his second Cy Young award.

In his comment about Montero, Rosenthal notes that he chose him over Mike Trout and Matt Moore, both of whom are obviously great prospects. But it should be remembered that Yu Darvish, signed out of Japan by the Rangers, is eligible for Rookie of the Year consideration despite pitching several years with the Nippon Ham Fighters. A lot of people don’t like the rule making Japanese veterans eligible for the award, but it doesn’t matter. He’s eligible, like it or not. Ichiro won Rookie of the Year, and so did Kaz Sasaki and Hideo Nomo. If Darvish is as good as a lot of people think he’ll be, he could be Montero’s stiffest competition for the award.

Finally, Jon Heyman of CBS Sportsline put forth this venomous piece, which argues that 2012 should be Ichiro’s last year in Seattle. Using “a former Mariners person” as a source, he brings up a lot of familiar complaints about Ichiro having “an entitled air about him” and Ichiro supposedly having too much influence with owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, causing friction in the clubhouse.

There’s no doubt Ichiro caused some clubhouse friction in the past, particularly during the miserable 101-loss season of 2008. But I honestly believe those days are gone. Ichiro seems to get along well with the current group of players, and has given up his leadoff job without complaint. Certainly, there’s a case to be made for not bringing back Ichiro, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the owner or the clubhouse. It should be based on his playing skills and whether he still has the ability to help the team at a level commensurate with his salary.

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