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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Seattle Mariners

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Coming out of the Fourth of July weekend, it looked like the Mariners would be one of the major leagues' surprise teams in 2011. Boasting a .500 record less than a week before the All-Star break, the overachieving M's proceeded to embark on a 17-game losing binge that instantly turned 2011 into another lost season.

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The Mariners made some moves last season to expedite the rebuilding process, such as trading Doug Fister and Erik Bedard in deals that brought back several prospects and replacing Chone Figgins at third base with Kyle Seager. However, the biggest change came this offseason, when Seattle dealt emerging star SP Michael Pineda and pitching prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees for C/DH Jesus Montero and SP Hector Noesi. The move signaled that the Mariners are getting serious about upgrading their offense, and it also acknowledged that some of their prized pitching prospects are close to major-league ready, which made Pineda expendable.

For now, Montero is the sole addition to a Mariners lineup that scored the fewest runs in the majors last season. However, Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager and Mike Carp are all pre-peak players who could take a step forward. Not only will the Mariners count on their younger players to improve the team's offensive output, but they will also look for a bounce-back season from Ichiro Suzuki, who is coming off the worst year of his major league career. Two straight years of decreases in his ground ball batting average suggest that a comeback may be no minor feat for the 38-year-old Suzuki.

Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas and offseason signee Hisashi Iwakuma will anchor the rotation, but the final two spots will be up for grabs. Danny Hultzen, the second overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, will have a chance to start his career at the major league level, but he will have to contend with a large slate of competitors, including Noesi, Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Kevin Millwood and fellow prospects James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez. Brandon League will return to pitch the ninth inning, though the bullpen lacks depth in the set-up and middle relief roles.

The Mariners should be able to reload their rotation in the very near future, but if they are going to contend in the American League West, they will have a lot more work to do to upgrade their lineup. With the Rangers, Angels and A's all making major moves this offseason, the Mariners appear to be a long-shot to avoid their third straight last-place finish.

Sleeper ... Kyle Seager, 3B

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Seager wasn't very high on most propsect lists going into last season, in part due to his defensive limitations, but he hit well enough in the upper minors to get a 53-game look with the Mariners last season. After a cold start, Seager proceeded to scorch opposing pitchers for line-drive doubles, just as he had done in the minors. Seager isn't much of a home-run threat, and playing home games at Safeco Field won't help matters, but his gap power and keen batting eye could help him to an average in the .290 to .300 range, if not higher. Owners may look at last season's .258 mark, his lack of prospect hype and his place in a less-than-imposing Mariners lineup and discount him. However, Seager's ability to get on base and rack up doubles makes him worth a late-round flier in mixed league formats.

Head-to-Head hero ... Dustin Ackley, 2B

There is no question that, after putting together a productive rookie campaign, Ackley has shown himself to be a solid option for standard mixed league owners. However, there may be a temptation to immediately insert him among the top 10 second basemen in all formats -- that may not be appropriate for Rotisserie leagues. Ackley has already proven his ability to hit doubles and triples, even at the major league level, but his home run power has been lacking. It may take time for him to develop that aspect of his game, and meanwhile, Ackley could also have trouble exceeding last year's .273 batting average. Ackley's in-the-park extra-base hits will make him one of the seven or eight best second basemen in Head-to-Head, but the potential for mediocre homer and run production makes him a later-round option for mixed league Roto owners.

Impact 2012 prospect ... Danny Hultzen, SP

Jesus Montero will probably make the biggest impact of Seattle's prospects this season, but he is hardly a well-kept secret. Hultzen has yet to throw his first minor-league pitch -- his only professional experience came in the 2011 Arizona Fall League -- but he could still be a significant force in Fantasy as soon as this year. With Michael Pineda gone, Hultzen has a better opportunity to fill a hole in the rotation, and general manager Jack Zduriencik has indicated that he will be among the many pitchers competing for a rotation spot this spring. While it is likely that Hultzen will begin the year in the minors, it shouldn't be long before he makes his Seattle debut, and he could wind up being one of this year's top rookie pitchers.

2012 Seattle Mariners Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Ichiro Suzuki RF 1 Felix Hernandez RH
2 Dustin Ackley 2B 2 Jason Vargas LH
3 Justin Smoak 1B 3 Hisashi Iwakuma RH
4 Mike Carp LF 4 Blake Beavan RH
5 Jesus Montero DH 5 Hector Noesi RH
6 Miguel Olivo C Alt Charlie Furbush LH
7 Franklin Gutierrez CF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Kyle Seager 3B CL Brandon League RH
9 Brendan Ryan SS SU Shawn Kelley RH
Top bench options RP Chance Ruffin RH
R Casper Wells OF RP Tom Wilhelmsen RH
R Chone Figgins IF RP George Sherrill LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Jesus Montero 22 C Majors Majors
Montero provided a glimpse of what he can do in his callup to New York last fall, hitting for power and average. He will log some time behind the plate, but will mainly be a DH for Seattle this season.
2 Danny Hultzen 22 SP DNP Double-A
Hultzen looked sharp in the Arizona Fall League and could move quickly through the minors. The Michael Pineda trade should speed his advancement, and he will likely debut this year.
3 James Paxton 23 SP Double-A Double-A
Paxton was dominant in his first year in the minors, and like Hultzen, he appears to be on the fast track for a big-league promotion.
4 Taijuan Walker 19 SP Class A Class A
Walker is arguably the best long-term prospect out of an impressive minor league pitching corps. Likely to be highly coveted in keeper leagues.
5 Nick Franklin 21 SS Double-A Double-A
His California League numbers were slightly disappointing, but Franklin still possesses a tantalizing power-speed combination. Could be a late-season call-up.
Best of the rest: Chance Ruffin, RP; Francisco Martinez, 3B; Alex Liddi, 3B; Vincent Catricala, 3B; Forrest Snow, SP; Carlos Triunfel, SS; Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF; Phillips Castillo, OF; Brad Miller, SS; Guillermo Pimentel, OF; Erasmo Ramirez, SP; Stephen Pryor, RP; Martin Peguero, SS; Tyler Marlette, C; Stefen Romero, 2B; Carter Capps, SP; Jabari Blash, OF.

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Player News
Giants' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

Scherzer is the biggest name on the pitching market and could be seeking a deal north of the $155-million pact signed by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. His price tag may not be feasible for the Giants' budget. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252:63 K:BB ratio in 220 1/3 innings with the Tigers in 2014.


Report: Nick Hundley has two-year offer, unlikely to rejoin Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

The Orioles declined a $5-million option on Hundley for the 2015 season but had interest in bringing him back into the fold at a lesser salary. He hit .243/.273/.358 with six home runs and 22 RBI in 218 at-bats between Baltimore and San Diego in 2014.


Report: Phillies could join Asdrubal Cabrera market
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

The Phillies traded their longtime starter at shortstop to the Dodgers this offseason and will be looking to fill that hole in the infield. However, the team will have to shed some additional payroll in order to make a run at the infielder, according to the report. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 553 at-bats between Cleveland and Washington in 2014.


Rangers release Ben Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

Minicozzi, 31, hit .298/.400/.470 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 315 at-bats with Triple-A San Jose in 2014. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game in the majors.


Indians sign pitcher Scott Downs to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Indians announced they signed pitcher Scott Downs to a minor-league contract Saturday.

Downs also received a non-roster invite to MLB camp.


Red Sox, Padres complete Hanigan-for-Middlebrooks trade
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Red Sox and Padres completed a trade Friday, with catcher Ryan Hanigan heading to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox announced.

Hanigan, 34, is signed for two more seasons with a team option for 2017. He hit .218/.318/.324 with five home runs and 34 RBI in 225 at-bats in 2014.

Middlebrooks, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2015 season. He hit .191/.256/.265 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 215 at-bats in 2014.


Giants get Class A hurlers for Marlins 3B McGehee
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Giants are trading minor league right-handers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo for Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee.

Both pitched at a Class A level last season and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.


Dodgers dump RHP Brian Wilson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Three days after designating reliever Brian Wilson for assignment, the Dodgers have released him.

Wilson struggled in 2014 after a strong stint upon his arrival with Los Angeles in 2013. He finished the year with a 4.66 ERA and 29 walks in 48 1/3 innings.


Report: LHP Craig Breslow staying with Red Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Left-hander reliever Craig Breslow is set to sign a one-year deal with the Red Sox for $2 million, per WEEI.com.

Breslow pitched for Boston the last two years, but collapsed in 2014 after compiling a 1.81 ERA the previous year. He finished with a 5.93 ERA and 73 hits in 54 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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