COMMENTARY | With 12 straight seasons without an appearance in the playoffs, the Seattle Mariners have had a number of frustrating players in recent times.
From big-name free-agent signings failing to live up to expectations to highly touted prospects not panning out, Seattle fans have been disappointed with several Mariners, including some on the current roster.
Here's a look at the five most frustrating Mariners heading into the 2014 season:
Just by using the eye test, Saunders is one of those players who simply looks he should be better than he actually is. A tremendous athlete at 6 feet 4 inches, Saunders has shown brief flashes of brilliance every season he has been in the major leagues. If Saunders played up to his ability, he could potentially be a 5-tool star.
Unfortunately, Saunders has gone through some extensive cold spells and suffered injuries at inopportune times. He has never finished with more than 2.1 WAR or an OPS higher than .738. At age 27, Saunders may be running out of time to put a complete season together.
The Mariners were one loss away from taking Stephen Strasburg with the first pick of the 2009 MLB draft. Instead, they took Ackley with the second pick, which most experts and fans figured wasn't a bad consolation prize.
When Ackley debuted in June 2011, he became one of the most exciting rookies in the league. He hit the ball all over the field, flew around the bases and showed some sneaky power. But Ackley struggled in 2012 and for the majority of 2013, as his production suffered a significant decline.
The Mariners sent Ackley down to AAA for 25 games last season and he tore the cover off the ball, but frustratingly couldn't replicate that success at the major league level. He did show some signs of life in August and September last year, something the Mariners will need him to continue to do in 2014.
Smoak came over to Seattle in 2010 as the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade and was supposed to add a legitimate power hitter to the middle of Seattle's lineup. Much like Saunders, he often has month-long stretches of excellence followed by an inevitable prolonged slump.
Back in 2012, Smoak said "that's all I've got" following a warning track fly out that died in the Safeco Field air, showing how frustratingly close he is to being a great hitter. Fortunately, Smoak changed his approach and looked much improved over the last half of 2013.
When Wilhelmsen is on, his arsenal allows him to be a dominant closer. A fastball that routinely hits 97 and a wicked 12-to-6 curve ball baffled hitters in 2012 and the first half of last season. But in early July, Wilhelmsen completely lost his command and his closer role and was even sent down to AAA for a month.
Danny Farquhar is the right choice for closer right now, but, hopefully, Wilhelmsen can regain his confidence and provide value somewhere in the Mariners' bullpen next season.
It's a bit unfair to be frustrated with a player that hasn't thrown a pitch in the major leagues, but the fault isn't with Hultzen's performance. The second overall pick in the 2011 draft, Hultzen had all the peripherals of a solid major league pitcher.
But in early 2013, he hurt his shoulder. It was supposed to be a minor injury, but Hultzen kept having setbacks whenever he tried to return. Fast forward to last October, and Hultzen was having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and injured labrum. He will likely miss most of the 2014 season. It's way too early to give up on Hultzen, but it doesn't look good.
Nathaniel Reeves is a lifelong Seattle sports follower who is studying journalism at the University of Washington. He currently covers sports for The UW Daily and Sports Out West.
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