Posted on: February 22, 2012 1:22 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 2:35 pm
By Matt Snyder
The Mariners are coming off a 67-95 season, when they finished 29 games out in the AL West -- seven behind the third-place A's. It was the sixth time in the past eight years Seattle came in last and they haven't seen the postseason since 2001. One big trade headlined the offseason as they attempt to turn the tide.
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Major additions: C/DH Jesus Montero, RHP Kevin Millwood, C John Jaso, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
Major departures: RHP Michael Pineda, UT Adam Kennedy
1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Dustin Ackley, 2B
3. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
4. Justin Smoak, 1B
5. Jesus Montero, DH
6. Mike Carp, LF
7. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
8. Miguel Olivo, C
9. Brendan Ryan, SS
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Jason Vargas
3. Hisashi Iwakuma
4. Kevin Millwood
5. Hector Noesi
Blake Beavan and Charlie Furbush are also in the mix.
Closer: Brandon League
Set-up: RHP Shawn Kelley, LHP George Sherrill
Important bench players
C John Jaso, IF Kyle Seager, OF Casper Wells, OF Trayvon Robinson
Prospect to watch
With the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Mariners pegged left-handed starting pitcher Danny Hultzen from the University of Virginia. It's likely his presence -- in addition to Furbush, Beaven and prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton -- made it easier to deal Pineda for some offensive help. Hultzen appeared in the top 30 overall in most prospect rankings this spring and is said to be close to big-league ready. The M's likely don't have a reason to rush him, but if he's ready come June or July, it wouldn't be surprising to see him make an impact this season.
Fantasy sleeper: Kyle Seager
"Seager isn't much of a home-run threat, and playing home games at Safeco Field won't help matters, but his gap power and keen batting eye could help him to an average in the .290 to .300 range, if not higher. Owners may look at last season's .258 mark, his lack of prospect hype and his place in a less-than-imposing Mariners lineup and discount him. However, Seager's ability to get on base and rack up doubles makes him worth a late-round flier in mixed league formats." - Al Melchior [Full Mariners team fantasy preview]
Fantasy "head-to-head hero:" Dustin Ackley
"Ackley's in-the-park extra-base hits will make him one of the seven or eight best second basemen in Head-to-Head, but the potential for mediocre homer and run production makes him a later-round option for mixed league Roto owners." - Al Melchior [Full Mariners team fantasy preview]
Ackley and Montero become stars, Figgins returns to form, a finally-healthy Gutierrez returns to form as well and Ichiro thrives in the 3-hole, finally giving the Mariners a viable offense. Iwakuma adjusts to America impressively while Hultzen storms onto the scene in early June to provide an additional pitching boost. The Rangers and Angels suffer major injury and underachievement issues, and the Mariners shock everyone by winning the AL West.
Heading into this season, expect the Mariners to be picked third by pretty much everyone. Thus, the pessimistic outlook would be that the Mariners find a way to finish below the A's. If the offense sputters, younger players stall in their development and the rotation behind King Felix proves thin -- which is possible -- that last place finish could repeat.
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Tags: Adam Kennedy, AL West, Blake Beavan, Brandon League, Brendan Ryan, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chone Figgins, Danny Hultzen, Dustin Ackley, Felix Rodriguez, Franklin Gutierrez, George Sherrill, Hector Moesi, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Vargas, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, John Jason, Justin Smoak, KEvin Millwood, Kevin Millwood, Kyle Seager, Mariners, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Mike Carp, Shawn Kelly, spring training, Trayvon Robinson