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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
Ryan Zimmerman dealing with 'pretty substantial' strain
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:45 pm ET) Nationals manager Matt Williams said Wednesday that the hamstring strain suffered by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was "pretty substantial," masnsports.com reports.

Zimmerman is set to be re-evaluated after a couple weeks, and he'll almost assuredly be on the disabled list for longer than the 15-day minimum. He has hit .282/.345/.456 with five home runs and 36 RBI in 195 at-bats.


Cliff Lee not a sure thing
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:39 pm ET) Before I say anything else, I want to point out that I currently rank Cliff Lee 23rd among starting pitchers, which means I would trade anyone ranked 24th or higher straight-up for him, including Jeff Samardzija, Anibal Sanchez, Alex Cobb and Jered Weaver. So when I say he's not a sure thing, understand I'm not saying he's washed up and doesn't deserve a spot on your roster. I'm simply noting that those who stuck with him throughout his two-month DL stint hoping he'd be an ace when he returned have reason to be concerned now.

On Tuesday's Fantasy Baseball Today, Al Melchior picked Lee as one of the starting pitchers who worry him in the second half, and though I didn't do the same, I certainly could have. I'm just not totally confident in the condition of his elbow.

It's probably an overreaction. You might even say a bad start after an extended layoff is to be expected, and if Lee dominates over eight innings next time out, all the hand-wringing we're doing now will seem like wasted energy. But for now, the doubts linger. Because the injury was a strain and not a sprain, Tommy John surgery should be off the table, but how do we know nothing else is going on in there? Can we be sure the injury had enough time to heal completely, or, as Al suggested, might the Phillies have rushed him back to market him at the trade deadline?

It all remains to be seen, but whether you own Cliff Lee or are looking to trade for him, you shouldn't be counting on him to save your season. 


C.J. Cron coming back up Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:37 pm ET) Angels infielder C.J. Cron has been recalled Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cron will replace Grant Green on the active roster. Green was placed on the disabled list Wednesday. Cron has received 175 at-bats in the majors this season. He's hitting .269/.297/.480.


Grant Green winds up on disabled list
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:34 pm ET) The Angels have placed infielder Grant Green on the disabled list Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times

Green is dealing with a lumbar strain. He was called up by the club just 10 days ago. Green is hitting .313 over 80 at-bats. 


Jorge De La Rosa strikes out 11 in win vs. Nationals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:33 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa earned a win Wednesday, giving up two runs (one earned) on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings while striking out 11 and walking none in his team's 6-4 victory over the Nationals.

De La Rosa (11-6) came into the game with three straight quality starts, but he had managed to strike out a total of just eight batters during that stretch. His last time recording double-digit strikeouts was in September 2010, and his last time reaching 11 strikeouts was August 2009. De La Rosa owns a 4.19 ERA and 86:46 K:BB ratio in 116 innings. He's slated to take on the Cubs Tuesday.


Stephen Strasburg surrenders four runs in loss Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg was stuck with a loss Wednesday, giving up four earned runs on nine hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings while striking out five in his team's 6-4 defeat against the Rockies.

Strasburg (7-8) was touched up for three runs in the first inning but held things in check until the sixth, when he was removed with one out and two runners on base, one of which would come around to score. He owns a 3.67 ERA and 163:30 K:BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings. Strasburg is scheduled to face the Marlins Tuesday.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:31 pm ET) The Rockies have sent pitcher Jair Jurrjens outright to Triple-A Colorado Springs, MiLB.com reports.

Jurrjens was designated for assignment Monday after going 0-1 with a 10.61 ERA and 9:3 K:BB ratio in 9 1/3 innings with the Rockies over two starts. He is 2-4 with a 4.02 ERA over 40 1/3 minor-league innings.


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(6:30 pm ET) Orioles infielder Manny Machado was not in the team's starting lineup Wednesday against the Angels.

Machado is dealing with a back issue, and was also held out of Tuesday's game. Over 258 at-bats, he's hitting .267/.317/.422.


Cubs recall Tsuyoshi Wada from Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) The Cubs recalled pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada from Triple-A Iowa before his scheduled start Wednesday against the Padres.

Wada has made one appearance with the Cubs, pitching five scoreless innings on July 8. He is 10-6 with a 2.77 ERA in 113 2/3 innings with Iowa this season.


Brandon Belt set for more tests
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:12 pm ET) The Giants are growing more concerned with first baseman Brandon Belt, who wasn't feeling much better Wednesday and had to be sent back to the hotel, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reports.

Belt is scheduled to undergo further tests in San Franicsco as he continues to deal with a concussion. He has ben sidelined since Saturday.


 
 
 
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