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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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Player News
Jay Bruce homers twice, drives in three
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/21/2014) Reds outfielder Jay Bruce sandwiched two solo homers around an RBI single in a 7-2 win Sunday over the Cardinals. Bruce, hitting .217, is up to 18 homers and 65 RBI.

Lance Lynn fans nine in defeat
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/21/2014) Cardinals starter Lance Lynn struck out nine over six innings Sunday, but took the loss in a 7-2 defeat to the Reds. Lynn allowed three runs on four hits, including two homers to Jay Bruce, while walking a pair.

Now 15-10 with a 2.73 ERA, Lynn is scheduled to face Arizona on Saturday.


Alfredo Simon registers 15th win
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/21/2014) Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon improved to 15-10 Sunday with six strong innings in a 7-2 win over the Cardinals. Simon allowed two runs on seven hits, striking out three and walking two, and lowered his ERA to 3.34.

Simon had gone seven innings in four of his previous five starts, and he owned a 17-inning scoreless stretch before the Cards scored in the fifth. He'll take on the Pirates at home Saturday.


Royals done sitting Billy Butler
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Though Billy Butler looked like he may have lost his DH job to Josh Willingham for the first couple weeks after Eric Hosmer returned from a hand injury, Royals manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star Sunday that the longtime Royal will play every day the rest of the way.

Butler went 2 for 4 with an RBI Sunday against the Tigers. It was just his sixth start in the team's last 15 games.


Jed Lowrie exits after getting hit in foot
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
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"He's all right," manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com. "Just got it pretty good on the foot. As a shortstop you have to have your range, and on the ball in the hole he was having a little trouble getting over there."

Lowrie is day to day.


Xander Bogaerts should be back Tuesday
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who left Sunday's game with a stiff neck, should be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Rays, according to the Providence Journal. The injury was the aftereffect of him getting hit by a ricocheted ball in batting practice.

Though Bogaerts is having a so-so rookie season, he has been terrific in September, batting .312 (24 for 77) with four home runs and an .840 OPS.


Pedro Alvarez could return for postseason
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Though Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who hasn't played since Sept. 5, has been ruled out for the rest of the regular season, he could potentially return for the NLDS if the Pirates advance that far, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune. The Pirates are currently tied with the Giants for the top wild card spot.

Alvarez had lost his starting third base job to Josh Harrison even before the injury, but he had begun transitioning to first base, making five starts there.


Jason Heyward has swelling in the thumb
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who was out of the lineup for a third straight game Sunday against the Mets because of a thumb injury, hasn't been able to grip a bat yet because of swelling in the thumb, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He remains day to day.

Chaz Roe designated for assignment
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) The Yankees designated right-hander Chaz Roe for assignment Sunday. Roe made three appearances for them in September, allowing two earned runs on three hits and three walks in two innings.

Astros relievers have hurt obliques
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/21/2014) According to the Houston Chronicle, Astros relievers Darin Downs and Josh Fields are both nursing oblique injuries. Because Downs aggravated a previous injury, he could possibly miss the rest of the season.

Downs last pitched in a game Friday. Fields, who was beginning to earn some save opportunities, hasn't pitched since Sept. 9.


 
 
 
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