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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Seattle Mariners

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It's been an upbeat offseason for the Mariners considering the turbulence they endured in 2013. The team turned in its fourth straight losing season, which was capped off with a split between general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge that led to the skipper's departure. Signing this offseason's most coveted free agent, Robinson Cano, was a good way to drown out the negative vibe.

The Mariners kept the momentum going by wasting little time in filling the designated hitter and outfield spots vacated by free agents Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez, as they traded for former Marlins first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison and signed ex-Brewers first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart. Cano, Morrison and Hart will complement an otherwise young roster that will try to pilot the Mariners to their first postseason bid since 2001.

2014 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

For the most part, new manager Lloyd McClendon won't have too many critical decisions to make coming out of spring training. Second-year catcher Mike Zunino is the clear starter, having been handed the job in midseason last year, and the infield is mostly set with Cano, Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager practically assured of starting roles. McClendon is likely to entrust Brad Miller with everyday shortstop duties, though Nick Franklin is still in the picture, at least for now. The rotation appears to be squared away with veterans Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma comprising a formidable one-two punch at the top, with up-and-coming Taijuan Walker, Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton filling out the remaining spots.

It's the outfield, designated hitter and closer spots that have yet to be ironed out. Though Hart and Morrison have played both the outfield and first base, both have been plagued by knee injuries. With Smoak penciled in at first base, at least one will have to roam the outfield. They will be in the mix along with Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and Franklin Gutierrez, each of whom could play either center field or a corner spot. Due to their history of health issues, either Morrison or Hart would be ideal for the DH spot, though any one of the outfield candidates could see time there as well. As for the closer's role, Danny Farquhar is the incumbent, but there are no guarantees that the Mariners won't seek to replace him before opening day.

For a team that hasn't had much recent success in the real baseball world, the Mariners offer several reliable Fantasy alternatives. Cano, Seager, Hernandez and Iwakuma should be close to universally owned, and Miller, Hart and Walker are all worth drafting in standard mixed leagues. They are part of a solid foundation upon which the Mariners can build a squad that can end their string of losing seasons, but the performance of unproven, high-upside types like Zunino, Ramirez, Paxton and Farquhar could make the difference not only for the M's, but for Fantasy owners as well.

Breakout ... Brad Miller, shortstop

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Brad Miller SS
2. Kyle Seager 3B
3. Robinson Cano 2B
4. Corey Hart DH
5. Justin Smoak 1B
6. Logan Morrison RF
7. Michael Saunders LF
8. Mike Zunino C
9. Dustin Ackley CF
Bench Willie Bloomquist 2B
Bench Abraham Almonte OF

Last season, Fantasy owners got just a small taste of the potential that Miller showed as a prospect. With a .265 batting average, he was nowhere close to the .334 mark he posted in three seasons in the minors, but Miller did a decent job of making contact and hitting for power. Given that his home run production ramped up over the final quarter of the season (he hit six of his eight home runs over his last 38 games, as opposed to two during his first 38 games) and that he was more of a flyball hitter in the minors, Miller could emerge as one of the majors' bigger home run threats. While Miller got into more of a power groove late in his rookie season, he seemed to forget how to draw a walk, but that had been a strength of his both in the minors and in his early weeks in the majors. If Miller can maintain the power gains he achieved while rediscovering a more patient approach, he could emerge as one of the top eight shortstops. As it is, Miller's a fairly safe bet to finish among the top 12.

Bust ... Mike Zunino, catcher

Zunino's debut was one of the more highly-anticipated ones in 2013, but his performance -- both in the majors and at Triple-A -- didn't match up with the loftier expectations held for him. Zunino's Class A and Double-A stats were tantalizing, but they were comprised of only 190 plate appearances. After 422 trips to the plate between the majors and minors last season, Zunino's contact and power skills look far less imposing, especially in light of the fact that he did not put up good power numbers in either homer-neutral Tacoma or homer-squelching Seattle. Maybe if Zunino can boost a flyball rate that sagged at 35 percent, he can prove to be a breakout rather than a bust, but he will also need to chip away at a 28 percent strikeout per at-bat ratio. He has his work cut out for him, and he could easily become waiver wire flotsam in two-catcher leagues.

Impact prospect ... Taijuan Walker, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Felix Hernandez RHP
2. Hisashi Iwakuma RHP
3. Taijuan Walker RHP
4. Erasmo Ramirez RHP
5. James Paxton LHP
ALT Brandon Maurer RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Danny Farquhar RHP
2. Tom Wilhelmsen RHP
3. Yoervis Medina RHP
4. Charlie Furbush LHP
5. Stephen Pryor RHP

Walker bounced back from a lackluster 2012 Double-A campaign, as he was far more dominant at both Double-A and Triple-A last year, earning a late August promotion to the Mariners. Though his 3.61 ERA and 1.41 WHIP at Tacoma don't look especially impressive, Walker did manage to get swinging strikes on 11 percent of his pitches (per StatCorner.com), racking up 64 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings. Most notably, he accomplished most of this before his 21st birthday. Walker generally hasn't had major control issues, so his 27 walks at Tacoma could wind up being an outlier. Though he may go through his share of rookie struggles, Walker could be a Fantasy asset for his Ks alone, and he's worth targeting in the later rounds of standard mixed league drafts.

Prospects Report

Walker isn't the only prospect likely to break camp in the Mariners' rotation, as lefty James Paxton could be the team's No. 5 starter. Another potential contributor to the strikeout category, Paxton is worth taking in deeper mixed leagues ... Danny Hultzen is still worth hanging onto in dynasty formats, but he is likely to miss all of 2014 while recovering from rotator cuff surgery ... Starting pitchers Victor Sanchez, Tyler Pike and Edwin Diaz could all be two or more years away from the big leagues, but all are bona fide dynasty league farm options ... So is southpaw Luiz Gohara, even though he won't turn 18 until July ... Third baseman D.J. Peterson, shortstop Chris Taylor and outfielder Stefen Romero stand out among the Mariners' hitting prospects, but even though Taylor and Romero could get called up this season, they are strictly deep AL-only options. Peterson is a longer-term investment, but he is a worthy pickup for dynasty league owners.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs .

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- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

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Player News
Twins' Kris Johnson heading to Japan next season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) The Twins have sold pitcher Kris Johnson to the Hiroshima Carp, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press

The club received "mid six figures" in the deal. Johnson received just 13 1/3 innings last season, posting a 4.73 ERA. 


Phillies sign John Hester to a minor-league deal
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(9:24 pm ET) The Phillies have signed catcher John Hester to a minor-league deal.

Hester will receive an invite to spring training, where he'll attempt to make the 25-man roster. He spent most of last season in Triple-A. 


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) The Indians are expected to exercise their $3.5 million option on versatile veteran Mike Aviles, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Aviles played outfield and all infield positions aside from first base last season in earning 344 at-bats. He finished the year with a stat line of .247/.273/.343 and tied a career-best with 14 stolen bases.

He was part of a lopsided deal before the 2013 season for Esmil Rogers in which the Indians also received emerging standout catcher Yan Gomes.


Bochy: Illness kept Tim Lincecum out of pregame ceremony
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:15 pm ET) Giants reliever Tim Lincecum declined to elaborate about his absence from pregame introductions Tuesday night, claiming he was in a back room and that he preferred not to run out in the middle of the ceremony.

Bruce Bochy, however, came up with another explanation. He said Lincecum was busy throwing up. "That's the honest truth," Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News. Lincecum, who told trainer Dave Groeschner that he was feeling ill, made it out to the bullpen after the first inning.

"He said he was good to go," Bochy said. "Timmy was available."


Pirates giving prospect Josh Bell shot at first base in AFL
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) The Pirates are determined to find out if premier prospect Josh Bell can fill their longstanding hole at first base. That's why he's playing that position in the Arizona Fall League.

Bell split the first 10 games at designated hitter and first base, where he has already committed four fielding errors. His unfamiliarity with the position has proven problematic.

"Getting to feel overall comfortable has been the biggest challenge," Bell told MLB.com. "I'm sure that will come with reps. When I get more playing time, I'll be able to just run with it, react. It's definitely something different. You're a lot more active. It keeps you more in the game, always on your toes."

Bell is coming off another strong year offensively, batting .325 with nine home runs, 60 RBI and nine stolen bases at the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels combined.


C Jackson Williams hooks up with Angels
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:27 pm ET) The Angels have signed catcher and former top prospect Jackson Williams. The 28-year-old Williams finally reached the majors in late August and earned 13 at-bats with Colorado before undergoing right knee surgery.

Williams was a first-round pick of San Francisco in 2007.


Dodgers still waiting for SP Dan Haren to act on option
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) The Dodgers have confirmed that veteran right-hander Dan Haren has yet to exercise his $10 million option for 2015.

Haren certainly had other concerns Wednesday, when he underwent arthrocopic surgery on his non-throwing shoulder.

The 34 year old, who did not pitch in the playoffs, finished strong in the regular season. He yielded just 10 earned runs in his last 43 innings and concluded the year at 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA and just 36 walks in 186 innings.


Twins allow reliever Jared Burton to leave for free agency
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:08 pm ET) The Twins have declined their option on veteran right-hander reliever Jared Burton, making him a free agent.

The 33-year-old Burton, who finished the year as the closer after Glen Perkins was shut down, compiled an ERA of 4.36, his worst since 2009. His control has weakened in each of his last three seasons and his strikeouts were well down in 2014.


Orioles facing dilemma in regard to future of 1B Chris Davis
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) The Orioles have a difficult decision to make regarding Jekyll-Hyde first baseman Chris Davis, who followed a stunningly productive 2013 with a stunningly horrible 2014.

Davis batted .196 with 26 home runs and 72 RBI before losing the last 17 games to suspension for PED use. The team might not want to risk taking him to arbitration, however, CSNBaltimore.com has speculated. Davis earned $10.35 million this season, a raise of more than $7 million from the previous year.

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Tigers OF Torii Hunter believes he proved his worth in 2014
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(2:34 pm ET) Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter appears to be leaning toward a return in 2015. That will allow to play into his 40s - he turns 40 in July.

Hunter maintained his consistency and productivity in 2014 by batting .286 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI while batting mostly second in the lineup. But his team was knocked out without winning a game in the postseason.

"Playing for a contender is very important to me," he told MLive.com. "But taking a lesser role will be hard for me when my core numbers are pretty good, not just for a guy that's 39 years old but also for a 22-year-old player. The last three or four months of the season, I played pretty good defense as well.

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