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February 11, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Bill James online website picks Mariners as ‘surprise’ AL team in 2013

The Bill James online website has picked the Mariners as their AL choice to go from loser to surprise playoff contender. Photo Credit: AP

This one comes as a bit of a surprise, but not really if you’ve followed some of the winter moves made by the Mariners. The Bill James online site published a free item over the weekend that picks a “surprise” team in each league for the 2013 season. So, that rules out all teams that are expected to improve big-time over what they did last year — like, say, the Toronto Blue Jays, now favored by many to win the AL East.

What they are looking for is a losing team that jumps into contention — like the Orioles last season.

Their choice for this year? Your Seattle Mariners.

What the website likes about the Mariners is the youth of their hitters, the highly-rated farm system and the fact that the team finished above .500 in the second half of last season.

As I’ve written up to now, I think this is a Mariners team that could and should finish .500 or better. I do think it is capable of winning 85 games now that the Houston Astros are playing in the AL West.

The offense now has some true mid-order hitters in Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales that they’ve truly lacked since I arrived here in 2006. Couple that with the fences coming in at Safeco Field and some young guys like Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero being primed for a jump in their development and yeah, this offense should be a quantum leap better than in past seasons.

I still worry about the lack of experience in the starting rotation and the fact that Joe Saunders and Hisashi Iwakuma are being counted on to the degree that they will be.

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