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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
Astros GM seeking to bolster fifth spot in rotation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:19 pm ET) The surprising start of the Astros has general manager Jeff Luhnow considering moves he wouldn't have thought prudent otherwise.

"(The early success) makes it more likely that we're going to be making moves to have an immediate payback and potentially even moves that come at a cost long-term," he told the Houston Chronicle. "The more we feel like we've got a chance to be relevant all summer and potentially relevant in October, the more we can be focused on what we can do to bolster this team."

It certainly needs bolstering in the starting staff.

"Really, the only area that's obvious is in the rotation," Luhnow added. "We probably will explore rotation adds that make sense for our team, because we've had a lot of rotating doors so far in the fifth spot."

Among those that have tried to lock down that fifth spot are Brad Peacock (disabled list), Asher Wojciechowski (demoted) and Brett Oberholtzer (injured). Samuel Deduno is the current fifth starter. The veteran right-hander performed well in his lone start, though he was lifted after four innings.


Farrell: Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli 'taking some good swings'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:04 pm ET) Scuffling Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli has received encouragement from John Farrell, who claims those struggles are not a result of a poor approach at the plate.

"He's taking some good swings, just missing some pitches," Farrell told MLB Network Radio. "When he's in the mix our lineup takes a completely different look."

Napoli has just two hits in his last 22 at-bats. It appeared he might be coming out of his slump when he slugged a three-run homer Sunday, but he took the collar Monday.


McClendon on James Paxton: 'I feel good about where he is right now'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:57 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton heads into Tuesday's start against the Angels coming off a very promising start against the Astros.

Paxton had a few rough outings after a strong performance in his first start April 7 against the Angels, but manager Lloyd McClendon feels Paxton is on the right track after missing time during the spring due to a forearm injury.

"I feel like he's been building since the injury in spring training. I feel real good about where he is right now," McClendon said, per MLB Network Radio.

The lefty pitcher is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in five career starts against the Angels.


Marlins announce release of C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:36 pm ET) The Marlins have released veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. A trade that had been rumored never materialized.

Saltalamacchia, who turned 30 on Saturday, might not be out of a job long. Several teams are reportedly interested in him, including the Diamondbacks, Rays and Royals.

His slow start at the plate cost him his spot. Saltalamacchia, whose production dipped dramatically last year, owns a disturbing slash line of .069/.182/.207.


Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado no longer flying under the radar
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:26 pm ET) There's no question that Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has been developing into something truly special over his first two-plus seasons in the big leagues. He's already won two Gold Gloves and he's being mentioned in early MVP talks this season.

And, although he just turned 24 years old a couple of weeks ago, his name is also being mentioned along the likes of Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki in regards to Rockies' cornerstones. But to his credit, Arenado wants to make his own name for the Colorado franchise. 

"I'm a huge fan of Tulo. I would love to be like Tulo, or Todd (Helton)," Arenado said Monday, per the Denver Post. "I would love to play like them. But those are their roads. I want to build my own road."

Arenado's stellar defense is even getting the respect from the competition in his own divsion. 

"His defense is maybe the best in the league," Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "It stinks when you're hitting and you know if you hit anything even close to him, he's going to rob you of a hit. He's a stud. He's an unbelievable player. Has some power, good strike zone judgment. He's aggressive but can be patient too. He really does everything really well."

Arenado is seeing the ball well over his last 10 games, as he enters play Tuesday batting .317 with three home runs and seven RBI in that stretch.


Nationals' Zimmermann feels good despite reduced velocity
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:24 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann didn't see his average fastball velocity dip below 93.8 mph in any of his starts last season, but he's had to deal with a reduction in velocity this season, with his fastball averaging at least 93 mph just once in his six starts, per Brooks Baseball.

Despite the dip in velocity, Zimmermann doesn't seem concerned, the Washington Post reports.

"Don’t really care about velocity," Zimmermann said Monday. "As long as I make my pitch. You can throw 85 and make your pitch and get guys out up here, as long as you execute and mix it up. I’m sure it’ll come back later in the season. It’s just down a little bit right now."

The reduced velocity has led to more contact by hitters this season. However, Zimmermann feels that he's been improved in recent starts, and he expressed confidence in all three of his secondary pitches Monday night for the first time this season.

"I feel good," he said. "It was hit or miss early in the season, but I feel good now. Fastball command is there and breaking pitches are there, so I feel good."

Zimmermann saw his fastball velocity leap to its normal level against Atlanta on April 29, but it was back down Monday, when he worked seven innings of one-run ball. He's 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA and 22:6 K:BB ratio in 34 2/3 innings. He's striking out 5.7 batters per nine innings after posting an 8.2 K/9 rate in 2014.


Nationals' Fister on reduced velocity: I'm 'dialing in the mechanics'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Doug Fister has seen his average fastball velocity dip to 87.03 mph this season after his fastball sat at about 89 to 91 mph over the last four seasons, per Brooks Baseball. Fister indicated that he needs to become more consistent with his mechanics, the Washington Post reports.

"I’m really just dialing in the mechanics," Fister said. "There’s a flash or two of where I normally am during the game, but not consistently, and that’s what I’ve gotta get to. It’s a work in progress."

Fister, who has also had some issues with his sinker, was able to pitch 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his last start.

"I was staying back a little bit better, and that was a focus. Before, I was really getting out in front and my legs weren’t coming, I was just using all arm," Fister said. "That’s been a struggle all year long, and I’ve really tried to focus on, for a week or so, trying to take care of it."

Though Fister was able to avoid walking a batter for the first time this season, he didn't see an increase in velocity in the quality performance.

"(Velocity) is something I keep in the back of my head, just to gauge where I’m at, what I’m doing, but when I’m throwing my typical 86-88 sinker anyway, it’s all about location as opposed to velocity anyway," Fister said. "Yes, I’d love to make it better, but at this point I’ve got to deal with what I’ve got and it’s something I’m still trying to continue to get stronger for the year."

Fister is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 14:9 K:BB ratio in 31 innings.


Report: Rays lefty Jake McGee set to rehab at Durham
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:12 pm ET) Southpaw reliever Jake McGee, who is coming off elbow surgery, will join Triple-A Durham Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Times has reported. He has made two appearances in Class A and is expected to make three or four more before rejoining the Rays.

McGee, who hasn't pitched at the big league level since September, was lights-out in 2014 and considered a possible closer coming into this year. He recorded a 1.89 ERA with 90 strikeouts and just 48 hits allowed in 71 1/3 innings.


Black: C Austin Hedges will 'get playing time' for Padres
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Bud Black confirmed Tuesday that newcomer Austin Hedges will receive a significant opporunity to play behind the plate for the Padres.

"I think he makes our roster better," Black told MLB Network Radio. "Derek Norris is our catcher but Austin is going to get playing time."

Norris has certainly not done anything at the plate to warrant a decrease in work. He owns a slash line of .323/.343/.500 with two home runs and 16 RBI. Hedges has been equally impressive in Triple-A with a .343 mark and two homers in 67 at-bats.

Black offered that Norris could be moved on occasion to first base when Hedges catches.


Angels 1B/DH C.J. Cron continues to struggle in loss on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:39 am ET) After having the previous two games off, Angels slugger C.J. Cron was back in the lineup on Monday against the Mariners. He went 0 for 3 in the 3-2 loss as the team's first baseman. Cron, who broke out in 2014 with 11 home runs, has left the yard just once this season. 

Cron's struggles, which includes an underwhelming .229 batting average, has caused him to lose playing time. He has appeared in just 19 of the team's 26 games thus far, and with several other DH options at manager Mike Scioscia's disposal, Cron could be in danger of seeing even less time if he doesn't improve at the plate.


 
 
 
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