During the 2009 offseason, the Seattle Mariners traded for Cliff Lee, signed Chone Figgins, and signed Felix Hernandez to a contract extension. It was an exciting time for M’s fans, with many experts tabbing them as dark-horse contenders or even outright favorites in the AL West. Well, two years is a long time. During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Mariners had a historically, unbelievably bad offense and lost 196 games. This current offseason saw the Rangers add Japanese phenom Yu Darvish to a team that’s made it to the World Series twice in the last two years, and the Angels add C.J. Wilson and some guy named Albert. So, is there any hope in the Emerald City?
Probably not. For us faithful Mariners fans, the 2012 season will consist mostly of counting the days between Felix starts and teetering on the brink of sports suicide 24/7. But hey, this is fantasy baseball! Surely there are some roster-worthy players to be had? Short answer: there are. Not realistically expecting to contend gives a team a chance to play its talented youngsters, and hey, guess what? This team has quite a few, including a bevy of pitching prospects, two of whom could make some serious noise in fantasy leagues as early as mid-2012.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Miguel Olivo||.224||.253||.388||54||19||62||6||477|
|1B Justin Smoak||.234||.323||.396||38||15||55||0||427|
|2B Dustin Ackley||.273||.348||.417||39||6||36||6||333|
|SS Brendan Ryan||.248||.313||.326||51||3||39||13||436|
|3B Kyle Seager||.258||.312||.379||22||3||13||3||182|
|LF Mike Carp||.276||.326||.466||27||12||46||0||290|
|CF Franklin Gutierrez||.224||.261||.273||26||1||19||13||322|
|RF Ichiro Suzuki||.272||.310||.335||80||5||47||40||677|
|DH Jesus Montero||.288||.348||.467||52||18||67||0||420||w/NYY|
Unsettled: Catcher and third base. Chone Figgins is still alive, apparently, and between him and Seager it’s kind of a “pick your poison” situation. Only those in the deepest leagues need monitor this Spring Training “battle.” Figgins could be a very deep sleeper if he holds down an everyday job and hits leadoff — there are rumblings that for the first time in 56 years, Ichiro may no longer sit atop the lineup. Miguel Olivo and John Jaso could split time at catcher, or Olivo could be traded or Jaso optioned to Triple-A. Montero figures to get a few starts there as well. Speaking of which…
Target: Jesus Montero. Montero is like a unicorn. He’s a mythical creature that will eventually qualify at catcher but magically see most of his ABs at DH. The problem with catchers is that they’re rested frequently, so their counting stats just aren’t on par with other position players. A hybrid C/DH solves that problem, and hitting third or fourth in the lineup won’t hurt either. The move to Safeco doesn’t look good on the surface, but Montero’s opposite field power should play very well there. Currently being drafted around pick 150 alongside the likes of Adam Lind and Stephen Drew, he’s a good bet to outproduce his position, and in any kind of keeper/dynasty/two-C league he becomes even more attractive.
|Felix Hernandez (R)||14-14||3.47||1.22||222||67||233.2|
|Jason Vargas (L)||10-13||4.25||1.31||131||59||201|
|Hisashi Iwakuma (R)||6-7||2.42||1.05||90||19||119||in JPN|
|Kevin Millwood (R)||4-3||3.98||1.22||36||8||54.1||w/COL|
|Hector Noesi (R)||2-2||4.47||1.51||45||22||56.1||w/NYY|
Unsettled: Millwood is a pretty good bet to start the season in the rotation, but he’s really just a placeholder. The fifth spot could easily go to Blake Beavan or Charlie Furbush, neither of whom is actionable in standard leagues. The real guys to watch are prospects Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. Both are long shots to break camp with the team, but a lot can happen between now and Opening Day, and the Mariners didn’t hesitate to give Michael Pineda (miss you…) the ball last year when it became clear he was their best option. Both Hultzen and Paxton have a lot of promise, and when they get the call, they’re well worth a look.
Target: Felix Hernandez. Kind of by default. Any of the M’s other starters could be helpful in ERA/WHIP simply because of the park and the defense behind them, but none have the strikeout potential to make them worth rostering. Noesi could be an exception, as he has veeeeery interesting minor league numbers/scouting reports, but he’s more of a “remember this name” guy than someone you want to target. Felix is one of the best pitchers in the game, and while his surface stats took a step back from his Cy Young campaign, his under-the-hood numbers held rock steady. Draft with confidence as your No. 1. Also, Felix Hernandez is only 25 years old. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Brandon League (R)||37||2.79||1.08||45||10||61.1|
|Tom Wilhelmsen (R)||0||3.31||1.16||30||13||32.2|
Chasing Saves: Brandon League’s slider/splitter/sinker — whatever you want to call his off-speed pitch — is in the running for dirtiest in the game. When he’s on, it’s hard to believe he doesn’t put up Marmol-like strikeout totals. Nevertheless, he is a very effective closer with job security, making him a fine pickup for fantasy leagues. The only worry with him is that he might be trade bait come July. A move to a contending team could push him into a setup role, which would effectively kill his value, similar to what happened with K-Rod last year. Behind League, there’s a mess of once-effective/coming back from injury/untested arms. In the long run, the guy you want to keep an eye on is Chance Ruffin. Acquired from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade, Ruffin is a young gunslinger with a wipeout slider. Make a note, but don’t hold your breath.
The Mariners haven’t made any noise in the AL West in some time, and given the strong additions to the Rangers and Angels, it doesn’t look like 2012 is going to be their year. The future of this team is going to rest heavily on some young shoulders: Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Nick Franklin, Taijuan Walker. The development path of these guys is going to have a pretty large effect on the next couple years for the Mariners as a whole. 2012 isn’t going to be too fun to experience as a fan, but as a fantasy player there are some sneaky values to be had.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Texas Rangers.
Indy Zoeller is 26-year old baseball fan and aspiring writer. He follows the Mariners with a curious mix of hope and cynicism and looks forward to the day when he no longer has to find an Auxiliary Backup Team to root for during the playoffs. He posts as lane_anasazi2 on the Cafe.
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