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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Seattle Mariners

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With a 75-87 record in 2012, the Mariners secured their third straight last place finish in the American League West and their seventh visit to the cellar over a nine-year span. Still, there were some positives to come out of this latest disappointing performance. Most notably, the team was within striking distance of .500 heading into September and even after a bleak final month, they finished with the third-fewest runs allowed in the American League.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

The organization was clearly not content with resting on these meager laurels, and this offseason's overhaul was foreshadowed by last July's trade of Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees. The Mariners bolstered their long-dormant lineup by acquiring outfielder Michael Morse and first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales through trades. They also improved their outfield depth by signing Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay as free agents. In getting some much-needed bats, the Mariners didn't have to sacrifice much, as they were able to deal from their areas of surplus, giving up catcher John Jaso to get Morse and starting pitcher Jason Vargas to get Morales. Surrendering Jaso allowed them to give Jesus Montero an opportunity to be a regular catcher, while Vargas will eventually be replaced by one of the Mariners' bevy of pitching prospects. For the time being, free agent signee Joe Saunders will hold down the rotation spot vacated by Vargas.

The opening day lineup will feature more clout than it has had in quite a while, as Morse, Morales, Montero, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders all have a legitimate chance to hit at least 20 homers, especially since the fences at Safeco Field will be coming in. Even with the lefty Saunders, the rotation lacks a true No. 3 starter, as the dropoff from top starters Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma to the back-of-the rotation arms, which may also include Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi, could be considerable. Out of these lesser options, only Ramirez has appeal for owners in mixed leagues and he could emerge as a streaming option in standard mixed leagues. With Tom Wilhelmsen closing out games and young Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps looming as setup options, the bullpen should continue to be a strength.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Dustin Ackley 2B
2. Franklin Gutierrez CF
3. Kyle Seager 3B
4. Michael Morse LF
5. Kendrys Morales DH
6. Jesus Montero C
7. Justin Smoak 1B
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Brendan Ryan SS
Bench Raul Ibanez OF
Bench Robert Andino 2B

The Astros should keep the Mariners out of the AL West basement, but the Mariners may not have made enough moves to keep up with the Athletics, Rangers and Angels. From a Fantasy perspective, though, there is a lot more to like in Seattle now than there has been for at least a few years.

Sleeper ... Michael Saunders, outfielder

Saunders had failed to impress in his previous trips to the majors, but last season he quietly fell a homer short of a 20-20 season. He could surge well beyond 20 homers, given that he was able to hit 19 last year despite an unusually high ground ball rate. Should Saunders get back to hitting flyballs, he could launch 25 to 30 home runs, especially if the new dimensions of Safeco Field can provide an assist. He also gets a better lineup in which to hit, so Saunders should experience an increase in RBI. Some may overlook Saunders in standard mixed leagues, but he is worth a late-round pick or a bid of a few dollars.

Bust ... Kendrys Morales, first baseman/designated hitter

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Felix Hernandez RHP
2. Hisashi Iwakuma RHP
3. Joe Saunders LHP
4. Erasmo Ramirez RHP
5. Blake Beavan RHP
ALT Hector Noesi RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Tom Wilhelmsen RHP
2. Stephen Pryor RHP
3. Charlie Furbush LHP
4. Carter Capps RHP
5. Josh Kinney RHP

After missing the better part of two years due to a pair of leg surgeries, Morales had a disappointing return with the Angels in 2012. He hit only 22 home runs with 73 RBI, as compared to 34 homers and 108 RBI in 2009 -- his last full season. Morales hit grounders at a much higher rate than in 2009 and it's a trend that started in 2010, even before he broke his leg. The rate rose after the All-Star break, so Morales' loss of power doesn't seem to be the result of rust at the beginning of the season. At age 30, it's not too late for Morales to reclaim his thunder at the plate, but signs of a recovery have been difficult to find. Don't reach for him prior to the late rounds in standard mixed league drafts.

Impact prospect ... Danny Hultzen, starting pitcher

Hultzen's express train to the majors hit some delays after his promotion from Double-A to Triple-A last June. He suddenly struggled to find the strike zone and his walk rate soared while his ground ball rate plummeted. It's unlikely Hultzen will start the season in the Mariners' rotation, but if he can go back to Triple-A and dominate there like he did at Double-A, it won't be long before he gets the call. Beavan and Noesi shouldn't present major roadblocks to Hultzen's promotion, so if the young lefty rights himself he could have a major impact in Fantasy. There are worse ways to use a late-round pick in standard mixed leagues.

Prospects Report

Hultzen is just one of the Mariners' top-flight pitching prospects. While he could be close to making his major league debut, fellow lefty James Paxton is right there with him. Taijuan Walker is more of a long shot to get recalled this season, but he may have the highest ceiling of any of the M's prospects. Brandon Maurer emerged healthier and more durable last season, and with a solid performance at Double-A Jackson he gives the Mariners a fourth top pitching prospect. ... Mike Zunino, a first-rounder in the 2012 draft, is the team's best position player prospect and he could be major-league ready this season. However, with Montero installed as the regular catcher, Zunino may not have an opportunity to make a Fantasy impact in 2013. ... Shortstop Nick Franklin may also not be far from a big-league callup, but he may need a trade to get regular playing time. If the Mariners have a near-term successor to Brendan Ryan at shortstop, it is more likely to be Brad Miller, who will probably start this season at Double-A. ... Owners in deeper leagues need to keep Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps on their radar. Should Wilhelmsen falter, either could be in line for saves this season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:33 pm ET) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


Yankees' Sabathia confident he can return to being 200-inning pitcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia continues to deliver positive updates coming off July knee surgery.

"The knee, I have no complaints," Sabathia told YES Network. "I’m able to do all of my workouts. … I’m changing a few things. Not as much pounding and running. I’m in the pool a lot, on different machines to get cardio, (on the) bike. Just adding a few different things to get some cardio in."

Despite coming off surgery and being limited to eight starts (46 innings) in 2014, Sabathia feels he can get back to being a 30-start, 200-inning pitcher in 2015.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I can. If you asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ but the way I’m feeling now and being able to work out, definitely."


Report: Indians expressing interest in Kendrys Morales
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:05 pm ET) The Indians have expressed inerest in DH/first baseman Kendrys Morales

Morales, who split time between the Twins and Mariners last season, hit .218 with 42 RBI.


Brewers' Ryan Braun 'cautiously optimistic' coming off thumb surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:54 am ET) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is optimistic coming off October thumb surgery. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a nerve.

"It definitely worked," Braun said Wednesday, per MLB.com. "It makes a huge difference."

Braun swung a bat 10 days after the procedure and was happy the pain in his thumb was gone.

"Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years," he said. "I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited."

While Braun is definitely optimistic, he is also a bit cautious because he isn't in the grind of playing baseball every day. He has received full clearance, however, for all offseason activities.

"I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into spring training and see how it responds," Braun said. "But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time."


Red Sox GM: Cespedes 'in our plans for next year'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:13 am ET) Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said in a radio interview Wednesday that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is in the team's plans for next year. 

“We acquired him at the deadline in the [Jon] Lester trade because we felt that was the best deal at the time, we still feel that way. He’s in our plans for next year and his versatility and skill in the outfield and gives us the flexibility, could play any of the three positions," Cherington said. "We’ll just see what the rest of the offseason brings. We have a long way to go, and as we get to January, closer to spring training, we’ll know more about who’s here and how it all adds up.”

Cespedes hit .260 with 100 RBI last season between Oakland and Boston. 


Mets SP Matt Harvey eager for the start of spring training
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey, who missed the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, said "spring training can't come quick enough" during a radio interview Tuesday with WFAN.

"My whole goal is to be able to face hitters in February as soon as I get down to Florida," Harvey said, per NJ.com. "I haven't faced any hitters. I haven't done any batting practice."

Harvey, who was an All-Star in 2013, is 12-10 with a 2.39 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 36 career starts. He is also striking out 9.9 batters per nine innings.


Report: Mets could wait to see if Red Sox put Bogaerts on trading block
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:50 am ET) Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts could be a new name that pops up on the Mets' radar as they search for a new starting shortstop.

While it appears Bogaerts will remain with Boston with newly signed Hanley Ramirez moving to left field, a Mets source told the New York Post the team will be watching the Red Sox's situation.

"It’s not like we’re knocking down their door to see if [Bogaerts] is available," the source said. "But we’ll wait and see how things shake out."


Yankees planning to offer three years for Headley
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:29 am ET) The Yankees are planning to offer third baseman Chase Headley a three-year contract, but he is likely to look for a bigger offer, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Among those teams, the Giants and Blue Jays appear to be the most likely candidates for Headley.

Headley hit .249 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI between San Diego and New York last season. 


Report: Marlins showing interest in Evan Gattis, Chris Davis
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:13 am ET) The Marlins have expressed interest in acquiring Braves catcher Evan Gattis and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, according to the Miami Herald.

Gattis has been mentioned in trade rumors this offseason. It has also been spectulated he could move from catcher to left field.

Gattis, 28, hit .263 with 22 homers and 52 RBI last season while Davis, 28, hit .196 with 26 homers and 72 RBI. Davis was also third in the MVP race in 2013, hitting .286, 53 homers, 138 RBI.


Brewers outright pitcher Ariel Pena to Triple-A
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11/25/2014) The Brewers announced pitcher Ariel Pena has been outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

The move opens up a spot on the 40-man roster. Pena has yet to appear in a MLB game.


 
 
 
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