Best Mariner

Felix Hernandez

As long as he's wearing the Compass Rose, Felix Hernandez will be this team's best player. For most of the first two-plus months of the season, his mechanics weren't quite right, his velocity was a little off, his control no longer pinpoint. But something clicked in mid-June, and the King unleashed three consecutive dominant starts—capped by a 13-strikeout, 1-0 masterpiece against Boston at Safeco Field on June 28—in which he struck out 30 batters and walked only three. That's the Felix two years removed from winning the Cy Young Award, the fourth-youngest pitcher in history to record 1,000 strikeouts, the overpowering right-hander with the wicked high-90s fastball who makes the Yankees and Red Sox salivate and consider blowing up their farm systems to acquire him. Locked in for two and a half more years, the Mariners nonetheless will have to make a decision about his future well before then. Trading the cornerstone of the franchise would result in a fan insurrection, even with a King's ransom in return; better to sign him to a deal that keeps him in a Seattle uniform into his 30s, when he can lead a deep rotation that includes the Mariners' trio of elite pitching prospects, righty Taijuan Walker and left-handers Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. MICHAEL MAHONEY

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow