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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
Mets P Jerry Blevins excited about chance with the team
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Mets pitcher Jerry Blevins is excited about his opportunity with the team, report ESPN.

"I see a huge opportunity with this organization," said Blevins, who is eligible for free agency next winter. "They've got a lot of talent and high expectations. I'm here to do my part. ... We have a chance to shock some people in the East. We've got such high talent. I'd put this rotation against anybody's, and this experience."

In eight innings pitched this spring, Blevins has an ERA of 9.00 with 11 strikeouts and two walks. He has given up eight earned runs and four home runs.


Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka doesn't impress scouts
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA this spring. More importantly, he remained healthy, despite the partially torn ligament in his elbow.

But scouts contacted by the Daily News weren't impressed with Tanaka's stuff. 

"I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt based on what he did last year," one Major League scout said. "But would I be worried based on what I’ve seen lately? Yeah, I’d have to be a little worried. ... He’s either saving himself for the season or he’s protecting that elbow a little bit, because his fastball has been around 89-90 (mph), with no life on it today. Two-seamer or four-seamer, it was flat and hittable."


Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt goes yard in win over Angels
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt homered in the team's 8-7 victory over the Angels on Tuesday, reports Rotoworld.

Goldschmidt, 27, also hit two singles, going 3 for 5 on the day. His performance raised his batting average to .255 this spring. The right-hander also has two home runs and five RBI this offseason.


Clint Barmes shaking off slow spring start
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Padres infielder Clint Barmes is heating up as spring training closes. 

After getting just four hits in his first 23 at bats, Barmes is four for his last 10. Barmes had no extra base hits in his first 23 at bats, he has a double and a solo homer in the last 10. 

"It's just continuing to work on timing and get my legs underneath me, especially early on in the spring," Barmes said, per U-T San Diego. "Once I felt like, a couple weeks in, I started to get my legs underneath me, then it's just been a process of getting the timing down, defensively as much as offensively."


Braves A.J. Pierzynski catches all nine innings, drives in two runs
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski caught all nine innings on Tuesday for the club, reports MLB.com.

Pierzynski went 2 for 5 from the plate, adding two RBI. For the spring, the 38-year-old is batting .344 on 11 hits with one double and one strikeout.


Rays pitchers Colome, McGee, Moore throw bullpen sessions
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Rays pitchers Alex Colome (illness), Jake McGee (elbow surgery) and Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) were each able to throw bullpen sessions Tuesday as a part of their rehab, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"(Colome) looks like he feels really good," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's exciting to see."

The trio has yet to see any action this spring as they recover from elbow injuries.


Report: Nationals will pay Rich Hill retention bonus
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) The Nationals will pay pitcher Rich Hill a $100,000 retention bonus if he doesn't make the team, according to a report by the Washington Post, citing a source. As part of the collective bargaining agreement, Hill will receive a June 1 opt-out date, if he isn't called up to the Nationals by that date. 

Report: Kelly Johnson will make Braves' Opening Day roster
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Kelly Johnson will make the Braves Opening Day roster, according to a report by Yahoo's Jeff Passan.

Johnson's versatility helped earn him the spot--he can play three infield positions as well as the outfield. The decision to keep Johnson could be a bad sign for Joey Terdoslavich, who was believed to be competing with him for a bench role. 


Mariners trade Erasmo Ramierez to Rays for Mike Montgomery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) The Mariners have traded pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to the Rays in exchange for pitcher Mike Montgomery, the teams announced.

Ramirez posted a 1-2 record with a 6.23 ERA and seven strikeouts in five spring training appearances while Montgomery posted a 2.38 ERA with nine strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings pitched.


Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman fine after 'miscommunication'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman was believed to have suffered a slight hamstring injury in Tuesday's game against the Brewers, but manager Bryan Price may have misunderstood the pitcher, reports MLB.com.

"We went out there to check on him and the hamstring came up, and just with that history we were extra cautious," Price said. "And by the sounds of it, it may be a non-issue completely."

Chapman was visibly upset with Price when he decided to remove him from the game after facing just one batter.

"By the time the smoke cleared, Chappy was back in the dugout and Brayan got back in the dugout after the half-inning, I just think there might've been a misunderstanding," Price said. "So it's fine. It's frustrating for Chappy but in the big picture, nothing critical."


 
 
 
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