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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
Brewers talking to reliever Neal Cotts
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:10 pm ET) The Brewers are talking to reliever Neal Cotts, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Cotts, 34, spent the last two seasons with the Rangers. After an exceptional comeback in 2013, Cotts regressed a bit in 2014, posting a 4.32 ERA. While the two sides have talked, it's unclear if a deal is close. If the Brewers were to reach a deal with Cotts, the team would have to remove a player from the 40-man roster. 


Phillies designate Cesar Jimenez for assignment on Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) The Phillies have designated pitcher Cesar Jimenez for assignment on Thursday, the team announced.

Philadelphia signed pitcher Chad Billingsley to a one-year deal, and needed to make room on the 40-man roster. In order to do so, Jimenez was designated for assignment. The 30-year-old Jimenez posted a 1.69 ERA over 16 innings with the major-league club last year.


Chad Billingsley signs with Phillies
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) The Phillies have signed pitcher Chad Billingsley, according to MLB.com.

Billingsley is set to make $1.5 million next year. He's eligible to make more based on whether he can reach certain performance bonuses in the contract. Billingsley has pitched just 12 innings in the majors since 2012 due to elbow issues. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013, but experienced more elbow issues while rehabbing after the surgery. He had season-ending surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in the same elbow, ending his 2014. The Dodgers opted to decline an option on Billingsley, making him a free-agent. 

The 30-year-old has compiled a 3.65 ERA over 1175 1/3 career innings. 


Red Sox add LaHair, Paulino and Quintero on minor-league deals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) The Red Sox have added Bryan LaHair , Felipe Paulino and Humberto Quintero on minor-league deals, according to the Boston Globe

All three players will receive invites to spring training. LaHair, 32, spent last season in the minors. He hit .223/.309/.318 over 453 at-bats. He was an All-Star with the Cubs back in 2012.

Paulino spent last season with the White Sox. After four starts in the majors, he was demoted. It was revealed Paulino was dealing with a shoulder injury. He missed most of the season recovering from the issue.

Quintero, 35, hit .290/.311/.425 in Triple-A last season. He received just two at-bats in the majors.


Braves sign pitcher Eric Stults to minor-league deal
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) The Braves announced Thursday they signed pitcher Eric Stults to a minor-league deal, per MLB.com. He also was invited to spring training.

The 35-year-old Stults went 8-17 with a 4.30 ERA in 32 starts last season for the Padres. He is 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four career outings (two starts) at Turner Field.


Red Sox's Daniel Nava agrees to $1.85M salary to avoid arbitration
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:43 pm ET) The Red Sox announced Thursday they agreed to terms with outfielder Daniel Nava, avoiding arbitration. Nava's 2015 salary will be $1.85 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Nava is in his first year of arbitration. He made $556,500 in 2014.


Rockies SP prospect Tyler Anderson will be limited at start of camp
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) The Rockies announced Thursday starting pitcher prospect Tyler Anderson will not be ready to pitch when spring camp opens Feb. 21, per The Denver Post.

"We are taking our time with this and we think it's best to take a conservative approach," trainer Keith Dugger said. "He will participate in camp, but he won't pitch. He'll take part in PFP (pitchers' fielding practice) and other activities. We think the prognosis is good for the long term."

Anderson had his season end in the Double-A playoffs last season due to elbow soreness. General manager Jeff Bridich said in December that Anderson's rehabilitation was going well and said it was "conceivable" he would be in the mix for a roster spot this spring. However, his slow recovery from the elbow injury could hinder his chances of making the opening day roster.

Anderson had a great year in 2014 before getting hurt. He went 7-4 with a 1.98 ERA in 23 starts for Double-A Tulsa. The 2011 first-round pick is 23-10 with a 2.39 ERA in 59 minor-league starts.

"We are going to do what's best for Tyler's long-term future with our club," Bridich said of having no specific timetable for Anderson.


Twins OF Torii Hunter plans to mentor Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) Twins veteran right fielder Torii Hunter said one of his goals this season will be to mentor outfielder Aaron Hicks and top outfield prospect Byron Buxton, per MLB.com.

"I know Hicks can play, but with Buxton -- I haven't seen video or seen him play, but every word I hear is good about him," Hunter said. "I definitely think when we get to spring training we'll sit down and I'll work out with them and evaluate what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong."

Hicks said he will lean on Hunter this spring, as he competes with Jordan Schafer for the starting job in center field.

"I'll be all in his ear the whole time," Hicks said. "He might get annoyed I'll be in his ear so much. He's definitely a guy I'm going to go to.

"I believe that I have the ability to play center field here for a long time. I've just got to go out there and show people that I can be the center fielder that everybody wants me to be and also that I want myself to be."


Latest MRI on Jurickson Profar's shoulder comes back clean
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:43 pm ET) The latest MRI on Rangers second baseman Jurickson Profar’s shoulder appears to show the shoulder is healing properly and Profar can increase his workload, reports FOXSports.com/southwest

Profar has been throwing from 60 feet, but will begin throwing from 75 feet starting next week. He'll also begin taking dry swings from the right side.


Free-agent pitcher Brandon Beachy delays contract decision
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:31 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher Brandon Beachy has decided to delay his decision on which team he'll pitch for in 2015, his agent told FOXSports.com.

The former Braves pitcher is recovery from Tommy John surgery and wants to wait until closer to spring training before making his decision. Beachy did not pitch in 2014 because of the injury.


 
 
 
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