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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
Astros send OF Domingo Santana and three others to Brewers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:59 pm ET) Astros outfielder Domingo Santana was included in a package of prospects that were traded to the Brewers on Thursday. Santana appeared in 20 games for Houston over the past two seasons, hitting .256 with two home runs in 42 at-bats this season.

Santana joins fellow outfielder Brett Phillips, and pitchers Josh Hader and Adrian Houser as the return for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers, who were sent to the Astros on Thursday.


Home run by Justin Upton wins it for the Padres on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:54 pm ET) Padres left fielder Justin Upton came through with the biggest hit of the game in the 8-7 win over the Mets on Thursday. Upton, who went 1 for 5 in the game, crushed a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning, to give the Padres their one-run lead.

Upton came to bat in the ninth after a two men reached following a 45-minute rain delay. He promptly sent a Jeurys Familia pitch over the right-center field wall for the go-ahead, three-run bomb. 

It was Upton's 18th home run of the season and the third in his last four games, including each of the last two against the Mets. 


Dodgers RP Chin-Hui Tsao designated for assignment
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:47 pm ET) Dodgers reliever Chin-Hui Tsao was designated for assignment on Thursday. Tsao made a less-than valiant return to the big leagues in 2015, after last pitching in 2007 for the Dodgers.

This year, Tsao allowed eight earned runs over seven innings of relief, resulting in an ugly 10.29 ERA.


Dodgers OF Chris Heisey designated for assignment
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:43 pm ET) Dodgers outfielder Chris Heisey has been designated for assignment on Thursday. Spending most of the season in the minor leagues, Heisey went 4 for 26 in 34 games with the Dodgers in 2015. 

The move comes a few hours after a blockbuster three-team deal that netted the Dodgers five big-league players. 


Astros acquire Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers from Brewers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:37 pm ET) The Astros and the Brewers have struck a deal that would send center fielder Carlos Gomez and starter Mike Fiers to Houston, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reports. The Brewers are expected to get several prospects back in the deal, Heyman adds.

Gomez was nearly dealt to the Mets on Wednesday, but the trade fell through after the Mets backed out due to medical concerns. Gomez's addition to the Astros will give Houston a very solid outfield and lineup down the stretch. 

Fiers has been solid for the Brewers this year, posting a 3.89 ERA in 21 starts. He will solidify an already deep rotation for the Astros.

The Brewers officially announced the deal, and they will receive outfielders Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips, along with pitchers Josh Hader and Adrian Houser.


Dodgers' Brandon Beachy designated for assignment Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:32 pm ET) Dodgers right-hander Brandon Beachy was designated for assignment on Thursday. The Dodgers made a handful of roster moves following the mega three-team deal that transpired earlier in the day. 

Beachy made two starts with the Dodgers after returning from Tommy John surgery. He went 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA before being optioned to Triple-A on July 21.


After trade, Dodgers designate Michael Morse for assignment
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:29 pm ET) Michael Morse's tenure with the Dodgers lasted all of about three hours. Morse was designated for assignment by the Dodgers, who just acquired him from the Marlins earlier on Thursday.

Morse has been struggling all season, batting just .214 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 52 games with Miami. 

This move, along with a handful of others, was done to clear room on the roster for the rest of the players the Dodgers acquired Thursday afternoon.


Padres' Derek Norris crushes grand slam in win on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:23 pm ET) Derek Norris had a fantastic day at the plate for the Padres on Thursday. Norris, who was the starting first baseman on Thursday, went 5 for 5, including a seventh-inning grand slam.

Norris' slam cut the Mets' lead to 7-5, and the Padres would go on to win 8-7. It was the third grand slam of Norris' career, and his second this year. 

Norris, who now has 12 homers on the year, had been struggling at the plate coming into Thursday's game. Over his previous 10 games, he was batting just .111 (4 for 36) with no home runs and zero RBI.


Mets RF Curtis Granderson belts three-run home run in loss
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:17 pm ET) Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson had nice day at the plate on Thursday, but the Mets lost the game 8-7 to the Padres. Granderson went 2 for 4 with a double and a three-run home run.

Granderson's fifth-inning blast gave the Mets a 4-1 advantage at the time, but the bullpen was unable to hold the lead. Granderson, who also made a couple of terrific defensive plays, is batting .300 with two dingers and five RBI over his last 10 games.


Mets RP Jeurys Familia coughs up two-run lead in loss Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:14 pm ET) Mets closer Jeurys Familia blew his third of three save opportunities since the All-Star break in Thursday's 8-7 loss to the Padres. 

Familia (2-1) entered the ninth inning with the Mets leading by two runs. He was able to retire the first two batters in order, but then the rains came, causing a 45-minute delay. Familia returned to the mound after the rain stopped, with a 1-2 count on Derek Norris, who promptly singled.

Matt Kemp followed with another basehit before Justin Upton took Familia over the right-center field fence for a go-ahead, game-winning three-run home run. 

Familia has had a rough go of it lately, as he owns a 5.42 ERA over his last eight appearances. Mets manager Terry Collins did say Familia is still the team's closer for now, but his leash might be getting shorter due to the recent struggles.


 
 
 
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