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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
Chris Owings to undergo shoulder surgery Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings will undergo surgery on his left shoulder Thursday, the team announced.

Owings missed the last few games of the season with the shoulder issue, finishing the year with a .261/.300/.406 line along with six home runs, 26 RBI and eight stolen bases in 310 at-bats. He is expected to be ready for the beginning of spring training.


C.J. Cron to DH in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) Angels first baseman C.J. Cron will serve as the designated hitter in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, MLB.com reports.

After a sold start to his season in May and June, Cron has slowed down considerably in the second half, hitting just .209/.261/.395 with two home runs in 43 at-bats in September. He wrapped up his first major-league season with a .256/.289/.450 line along with 11 home runs and 37 RBI in 242 at-bats.


Josh Hamilton to start in left field in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will bat seventh and play left field in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, the Orange County Register reports.

Hamilton has been out of action for two weeks with a shoulder injury, and he's played just one game since Sept. 4. He hit .263/.331/.414 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in 338 at-bats during the regular season.


Angels to call upon Matt Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson in ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) The Angels announced the team's rotation plans for the American League Division Series Wednesday, with Matt Shoemaker drawing the start in Friday's Game 2 and C.J. Wilson taking the mound for Game 3 Sunday.

Shoemaker hasn't made an appearance since Sept. 15 while recovering from an oblique injury. He went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 124:24 K:BB ratio in 136 innings. Wilson finished the regular season with a 4.51 ERA and 151:85 K:BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.


Nick Punto's club option vests
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:09 pm ET) Athletics infielder Nick Punto said Wednesday that his club option, which was dependent on non-DL days on the active roster, vested, putting him back with the team in 2015, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Punto will make $2.75 million in 2015 according to the terms of the contract he signed last offseason. He hit .207/.296/.293 with two home runs, 14 RBI and three stolen bases in 198 at-bats while spending most of his playing time at second base and shortstop.


White Sox outright Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) The White Sox outrighted pitcher Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Wednesday.

De Los Santos spent most of his time at Charlotte this season, posting a 5.75 ERA and 17:17 K:BB ratio in 36 innings. The move opens up a 40-man roster spot for the White Sox.


Michael Morse expected to return if Giants advance
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:03 pm ET) Giants outfielder Michael Morse, who is inactive for Wednesday's wild-card game against the Pirates, will be activated at some point if the Giants advance, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Morse hasn't played since Sept. 20 due to an oblique injury.

Jed Lowrie open to returning to A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) Upcoming free-agent shortstop Jed Lowrie is willing to listen to the Athletics regarding a potential return next season but admitted that money will be a factor in his decision, MLB.com reports.

After two years of hitting at least 15 home runs, Lowrie saw his power fall in 2014, hitting .249/.321/.355 with just six home runs and 50 RBI in 502 at-bats. He enters free agency with a career .261/.330/.411 line along with 56 home runs and 284 RBI in 2,253 career at-bats.


Rajai Davis runs, plays catch Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis ran and played catch at Camden Yards Wednesday and seemed upbeat, MLB.com reports.

Davis dealt with a strained groin over the last weekend of the regular season. His availability for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles won't be known until Thursday.


Lyle Overbay expected to retire
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:43 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay said Wednesday that he's "99.9 percent sure" he'll retire this offseason, MLB Network Radio reports.

Overbay wrapped up his 2014 season with a .233/.328/.333 line along with four home runs and 35 RBI in 258 at-bats while playing with the Brewers for the first time since 2005. If this is the end, he'll finish his career with a .266/.347/.429 line along with 151 home runs, 675 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 5,102 at-bats over 14 years with six different teams.


 
 
 
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