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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
McClendon: Paxton to long toss from 120 feet Mon., throw off mound Tues.
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:26 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said the tentative plan for starting pitcher James Paxton (forearm) is to long toss from 120 feet Monday and throw off a mound Tuesday.

Orioles' Janish not likely to make spring debut until late March
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) Orioles infielder Paul Janish, who underwent surgery in February to remove bone chips from his right elbow, will field grounders Tuesday for the first time since surgery and throw this weekend, per MASNsports.com.

Janish is aming to play in his first spring game either March 20 or March 21.

"Relatively speaking, it feels about as well as it can up to this point. Probably a little bit ahead of schedule, which is a difficult thing to kind of expedite on the training room side of it," Janish said. "I'm getting a little restless, but they are allowing me to start taking ground balls tomorrow. I don't start throwing until probably this weekend, so from then on it will be 10 days to two weeks of a throwing program, which will be abbreviated for me, not being a pitcher or anything of that nature. It's a completely different kind of program.

"Fortunately, I haven't had any problems at all. Everything up to this point has been really smooth, not having any residual soreness or pain or anything of that nature. It's all individual. Some people just don't react the same. Fortunately for me, it's been good up to this point, so hopefully we continue going down the right path."


Padres' Shields being held back following deep postseason run
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Since Padres starting pitcher James Shields pitched deep into the postseason last year with the Royals, the coaching staff has him slightly behind the other starters in camp, per U-T San Diego.

"Fortunately, we don't have to start him until a little bit further -- he's not starting in the first three (spring-training) games -- but he'll be fine," pitching coach Darren Balsley said. "It's no big deal."


Nationals' Cole earns high praise from manager following BP session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) The Nationals held their first live batting practice session of the spring Sunday, and starting pitcher prospect A.J. Cole earned high marks from manager Matt Williams, per MLB.com.

“He had a great live session today,” Williams said. “For me, he is growing into body. He is a young player. He is tall. He has great leverage and is getting stronger certainly by the year. This year he came into spring training looking great. Of course, we know about his fastball and curveball. Depending on the day, he can touch mid-to-high 90s with his fastball. He is a very promising prospects for us and still very young.  … I know he wants to pitch and loves taking the ball that for sure.”

Cole is considered the Nationals' second-best prospect by MLB.com.


Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia sent home Monday due to illness
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:57 am ET) Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia was sent home Monday due to an illness, per the Pioneer Press. Arcia said he began to feel lightheaded Sunday near the end of workouts.

Cardinals OF Randal Grichuk (back) cleared to resume workouts
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:52 am ET) Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk got the green light to resume workouts Monday after being sidelined a few days with a back injury, per St. Louis Baseball Weekly.

Tigers RP Joel Hanrahan (arm) to visit specialist Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:50 am ET) Tigers reliever Joel Hanrahan, who has not thrown since Feb. 22 due to arm soreness, will visit a specialist in Texas on Tuesday, manager Brad Ausmus announced Monday.

Hanrahan described the soreness as some days it feels like the bones are rubbing together and other days it feels like someone is pinching his bicep, per the Detroit Free Press. Hanrahan has not pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013.

“I’m past the frustration part. It’s been long enough. I’m just looking for answers," Hanrahan said.


Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe (illness) gets back to work Monday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:43 am ET) Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe returned to workouts Monday after missing two days due to an illness, according to the Pioneer Press.

Nationals OF Michael Taylor OK despite neck injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:40 am ET) Nationals manager Matt Williams said Monday outfielder Michael Taylor is dealing with a twinge in his neck, per MLB.com. However, Taylor did participate in workouts Sunday.

“Anytime that happens, especially early in the spring, we make sure that we take it easy on him. He is full go. He is ready to play,” Williams said.

Taylor is expected to see plenty of playing time this spring with right fielder Jayson Werth sidelined due to a shoulder injury. Taylor is considered the Nationals' third-best prospect by MLB.com.


Cardinals' Wainwright could throw bullpen, if cleared by doctors
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:34 am ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is meeting with trainers Monday to get the go ahead to continue in his rehab from an abdominal strain, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The team's ace is scheduled to throw a bullpen Monday.

 
 
 
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