It’s not easy being a fan of the Seattle Mariners. A streak of three consecutive last place finishes is likely to be broken not by improvement of the team, but by the addition of the hapless Astros to the AL West. A lineup that makes the Padres look like world-beaters. Zero playoff appearances in the last decade. Chone Figgins. No matter how you slice it, things have not gone well for the M’s.
Not everything is doom and gloom, though. Though Ichiro is gone, the Mariners have a new face of the franchise in star pitcher Felix Hernandez. His recent contract locks him up through the 2019 season, and he certainly gives fans a reason to come to the ballpark every fifth game. Last year, Hernandez pitched the 23rd perfect game in MLB history. Now if only they could do something about the other four days.
The year 2013 looks to be one of flux for the Mariners. Nobody expects them to contend, and their roster has multiple starting positions up in the air. That’s not to say there’s a lack of talent; there are interesting players abound, and a highly talented minor league system. The upshot, though, is that this year’s Mariners might not look anything like what the team rolls out next year.
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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Jesus Montero||.260||.298||.386||46||15||62||0||553|
|1B Justin Smoak||.217||.290||.364||49||19||51||1||535|
|2B Dustin Ackley||.226||.294||.328||84||12||50||13||668|
|SS Brendan Ryan||.194||.277||.278||42||3||31||11||470|
|3B Kyle Seager||.259||.316||.423||62||20||86||13||651|
|LF Mike Morse||.291||.321||.470||53||18||62||0||430||w/WAS|
|CF Franklin Gutierrez||.260||.309||.420||18||4||17||3||163|
|RF Michael Saunders||.247||.306||.432||71||19||57||21||553|
|DH Kendrys Morales||.273||.320||.467||61||22||73||0||522||w/LAA|
Unsettled: So many things. First of all, Jesus Montero isn’t going to catch 140 games a season, but he’ll see his share of time at DH. This creates a situation where LF, 1B and DH could swap every day between five players, with Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez competing for playing time (assuming Bay makes the team). You also can’t count on Guitierrez to stay healthy. Thankfully, the players we’re talking about have little fantasy relevance. Morse, Saunders, Montero, Ackley, Seager and Morales should fit into the everyday lineup; it’s just not clear how the positions are going to shake out.
Target: Uh, no one? No matter how you look at it, the Mariners were offensively pathetic in 2012. They had a league-worst .291 team wOBA and were dead-last in AL runs scored. When you have to go down the list to fifth to find an OBP over .300, and that person is Kyle Seager with .316, you are in trouble. You want a target anyway? Fine. Give Dustin Ackley a look. The home park and the anemic offense limit his fantasy value, but he does have a strong minor-league pedigree and had an absurd .265 BABIP last year. His hit tool and batting eye are very good, and if you miss out on a top 2B, .280/15/15 are very attainable for Ackley.
|Felix Hernandez (R)||13-9||3.06||1.14||223||56||232.0|
|Hisashi Iwakuma (R)||9-5||3.16||1.28||101||43||125.1|
|Joe Saunders (L)||9-13||4.07||1.34||112||39||174.2||w/2T|
|Erasmo Ramirez (R)||1-3||3.36||1.00||48||12||59.0|
|Blake Beavan (R)||11-11||4.43||1.26||67||24||152.1|
Unsettled: Nada. This is very likely the opening day rotation. That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s not room for movement. The rotation is very shaky overall, and other than The King, no one has a yearlong spot locked up. The Mariners have one of the league’s best minor league systems, and prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer will be knocking at the door this season, with uber-prospect Taijuan Walker and less-uber-but-still-good Victor Sanchez hot on their heels. Just as you want to avoid Mariners hitters because of the home park, you want to give Mariners pitchers a little extra weight, and all these names could be fantasy relevant very soon.
Target: Again, no one. I mean, by all means take Felix Hernandez with confidence as your No. 1 starter, but it’s not like he’s being undervalued, and Saunders, Ramirez and Beavan are just not rosterable in a standard-sized league. Hisashi Iwakuma makes an interesting late-round flier in deeper leagues, as he very quietly put up a 3.16 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and won nine games in just 125 innings.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Tom Wilhelmsen (R)||29||2.50||1.11||87||29||79.1|
|Carter Capps (R)||0||3.96||1.44||28||11||25.0|
Chasing Saves: Tom “The Bartender” Wilhelmsen opens the season as the uncontested closer with no serious challengers. Now that he’s got his control problems under, er, control, he’s left with a sparkling K rate and a stellar ground ball ratio. He’ll be a fine pitcher this year; the only worry is that he’s dealt at the deadline to a contending team. If that happens, Carter Capps and his 100 mph fastball and excellent strikeout rate could get the job, although the Mariners do have other solid options. Check in with the M’s to see who’s getting the ball in the eighth.
The Mariners face an interesting challenge in their ascent to relevance. Their minor league depth, positional battles, under-performing young players, contract situations, composition of the AL West and the new market for TV deals all serve to provide a complex, nuanced situation that’s as fascinating as it is complicated. Fortunately for you fantasy owners, all you have to do is draft Felix Hernandez and then scream “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” whenever another Mariner comes up for bidding.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Texas Rangers.
Indy Zoeller is 27-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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