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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
Cardinals SP Carlos Martinez on Monday's start: 'I was anxious'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:18 am ET) Monday's game against the Cubs was no certainly picnic for Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez. The young right-hander, making his fifth start of the season, surrendered seven runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. After the game, Martinez admitted to not being at his best from the start of the evening.

"In the beginning, I was anxious," Martinez said, speaking through a translator, per MLB.com. "Then the second, third inning, I tried to slow down a little bit and felt better. I need to be better the next time I pitch."

As it would turn out, Martinez gave up five runs in the top of the first inning and never looked to be comfortable on the mound.

"He was a little too amped up for the game," catcher Tony Cruz said. "He didn't get a couple calls [from home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck] that he thought [he should have]. But it happens. He's a young guy. He really wanted to go out there and show what he has."

Martinez will look to rebound in his next scheduled start, Saturday against the Pirates. 


Triple-A coach: Jesus Montero has 'new lease on life in baseball'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Mariners first baseman Jesus Montero is off to a pretty decent start this season for Triple-A Tacoma. The former top-10 prospect is batting .309 with three home runs, five doubles and 16 RBI through 23 games.

It's not only his offense that is impressing. The former catcher has also made great strides learning how to play first base.

“I mean, he’s a good first baseman now,’’ Tacoma hitting coach Cory Snyder said, per The Seattle Times. “He could play first base in the big leagues right now. It wouldn’t even bother me.”

Montero's success on the field is supported by a turnaround with his attitude. He showed up to camp this year down from 275 pounds to 230 pounds. He has also put behind him a 2013 suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and an incident last year when he threw ice cream at a scout.

“It’s kind of a new lease on life in baseball,’’ Snyder said. “He got everything in order he needed to off the field. With his life, with his family, with kind of everything."


Mariners' Morrison goes on hot streak using one of Nelson Cruz's bats
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:58 am ET) Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison extended his hit streak to six games Monday against the Angels with his third home run in four games.

Morrison credits his latest surge to using one of teammate Nelson Cruz's bats. Cruz leads the majors with 14 home runs.

"I've got a boomstick," Morrison said, per MLB.com. "I started using that when I had a four-hit game in Texas [last week]. So I thought, well, I guess I'm going to be using this bat for the rest of the year."


Report: Nats to promote pitching prospect Lopez to Class A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:54 am ET) Nationals pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez is expected to join Class A Potomac this week, a highly-ranking club official told MASNSports.com. Lopez is currently ranked the No. 49 prosepct in baseball, according to Baseball America

In 2014, Lopez tossed 83 1/3 innings between short-season Class A Auburn and low Class A Hagerstown. He went a combined 7-3 with a 1.08 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 16 starts. He is likely to make a start for Potamac sometime this week.


Report: Indians veterans Bruce Chen, Shaun Marcum up for Saturday start
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9:49 am ET) Lefty Bruce Chen and righty Shaun Marcum are the two primary candidates to be promoted by the Indians from Triple-A Columbus to replace shelved T.J. House in the rotation, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

The veteran that is chosen would start Saturday against the visiting Twins. Both have an ERA of 2.00 or under at their current levels.

Chen and Marcum performed well in spring training before their placement in the minors. Marcum was brought up briefly and yielded one run in five innings to Detroit in relief on April 12.

The fifth spot is wide open. House performed terribly in that role before going down. If Chen or Marcum pitch well, the spot could be nailed down long-term.


Braves P Alex Wood on making adjustments: 'The time is now'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:45 am ET) After the Braves' 5-2 loss to the Phillies on Monday, starter Alex Wood is definitely starting to feel some frustration. With the loss, Wood is now 1-2 with a 4.32 ERA. He had a breakout campaign in 2014, going 11-11 with a nifty 2.78 ERA in 35 games (24 starts) for the Braves.

"The time is now," Wood said, per MLB.com. "I've got to make an adjustment. It's a humbling game to say the least. It's one of those things where there's no doubt in my mind that I'm going to figure it out. It's just a matter of when. I think it will be sooner rather than later."

Wood feels his ineffectiveness is tied to not having his two best pitches working.

The sinker and changeup just haven't been there, and that's my bread and butter," Wood said. "It's one of those things where when I can get that to start clicking, with whatever adjustment we're going to make between now and Sunday, that's going to be the difference-maker. It's just frustrating. I know it's going to click. It's just a matter of having it happen. That's the frustrating part."

Wood is scheduled to take the mound on Sunday against the Nationals. He owns a 2.40 ERA in seven career starts against Washington.


Angels' Joyce admits to struggling with pressure to replace Hamilton
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:40 am ET) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce hit a much-needed solo home run off Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in the seventh inning of Monday's 3-2 loss. The home run helped lift Joyce's average to .148 through 24 games.

“Hopefully this will kickstart things,” Joyce said, per The Orange County Register. “You just hope to learn from it and figure out what’s going on earlier rather than later. It’s been a grind for me. It’s been a really tough year.”

Joyce admitted Monday he struggled to handle the pressure filling in for Josh Hamilton, who missed the start of the season due to a shoulder injury before being traded to Texas last week.

“I can’t sit here and say that I didn’t feel a lot of pressure or put a lot of pressure on myself to fill his shoes,” Joyce said. “I just want to be successful. You’re in a new place, a new environment. You have a lot of fans that have high expectations.

“It’s tough to go out there and relax sometimes. For us, it’s something that we have to learn to play with, to deal with.”


Report: Nationals P Giolito to be promoted to Class A this week
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:31 am ET) The Nationals will promote top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito to Class A Potomac this week, a highly-ranking club official has confirmed, according to MASNSports.com. Giolito was drafted by the Nationals in the first round (16th overall) in 2012. In 2014, the right-hander logged 98 innings for low Class A Hagerstown, and dazzled with a 2.20 ERA and 110 strikeouts. 

Giolito is currently ranked the 7th best prospect in the game according to Baseball America, and No. 6 by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. 

He had been working at the team's training facility in Viera, Fla. for the first month of the season, and could start as early as Wednesday for the P-Nats.


Report: Blue Jays set to recall Chris Colabello from Triple-A
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:24 am ET) The Blue Jays will promote first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello prior to Tuesday's game against the Yankees, according to Sportsnet.ca. 

The 31-year-old Colabello was International League Player of the Month in April. He is batting .337 with three doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 23 games for Triple-A Buffalo.


Mariners' Fernando Rodney allows homer, earns save Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:27 am ET) Mariners closer Fernando Rodney gave up a home run in the ninth inning Monday but was able to finish off his team's 3-2 win over the Angels for his eighth save.

Rodney retired the first batter he faced in the ninth inning but then served up a homer to center field to bring the Angels within one. After another out, the closer put a man on base with a walk, but catcher Mike Zunino was able to throw out a pinch-runner on a steal attempt to finish the game.

Rodney owns a 5.56 ERA and 11:7 K:BB ratio in 11 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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