2013 Seattle Mariners Fantasy Baseball Preview

WIll Kyle Seager lead your team to victory? - Otto Greule Jr

Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero lead a group of fantasy sleepers on the 2013 Mariners.

The secret to winning at fantasy baseball is not to have the best draft or the biggest name players. The key to winning is finding market inefficiencies, knowing your league's scoring format inside and out, and valuing players on how they apply to your team and your league's set-up, not how the site you're playing at values them. You must know your opponents, pick up the right players, make shrewd trades. But before you can start dealing, you first start with the draft.

If you're a fan of a certain team, you have to be extremely careful about drafting players you want to root for. Fantasy players are assets, they are there to get you numbers and nothing else. If you're serious about winning, you can't value your favorite team's players any higher than players of equal performance. Fortunately, the Mariners are full of potential steals and sleepers with upside that won't require you to overdraft them. Let's examine the Seattle Mariners and their relevant fantasy players for the upcoming 2013 season, position by position.

The first thing to note is that players are valued differently in different formats. While standard rotisserie and head to head leagues typically use the same 4x4 or 5x5 categories, more leagues are seeing a shift towards custom scoring methods, like K/9 instead of raw strikeouts, or using OBP instead of AVG. Then there's points leagues, where the scoring can be widely varied. Don't ever use a straight rankings sheet when formulating your draft strategy if you are in a format with any variation from the norm. Be careful and adjust accordingly.

The other thing to remember is that player value is relative. When somebody shows you a team and it looks fantastic, ask about context. All teams are going to be stacked in an 8 team league with your buddies, and rosters may look terrible in a 14-team dynasty league, but they may actually be strong. For the sake of this preview, let's assume value equal to a standard 12-team league. I'm also going to provide my own personal projections to go along with risk/reward scores on a scale out of 10. Ideal sleepers have the biggest discrepancy between their risk and reward scores.

Catcher:

Jesus Montero is an interesting target this season. Rotoworld has his ADP (average draft position) at 134, which places him below Wilin Rosario and Miguel Montero. Jesus Montero is a risk/reward catcher at a position where you can afford to wait. I typically like to wait on catchers as they can be overvalued simply because of how many games they miss. Those 20-30 days off are hard to stream players in and out of, and if your league has weekly position locks, don't overpay. That being said, Montero is a post-hype sleeper absolutely worth considering.

Montero isn't going to provide you with any steals or many runs (if you have seen him run, it will take a ball into the gap to score him from 2nd), but he is an intriguing power source with the capability to hit as many home runs as anybody else at the position. One aspect that is often ignored in roto leagues is plate patience and it's effect on RBIs. Montero is a aggressive hitter (to a flaw) at this stage in his career and doesn't figure to take many walks, which will lead to a worse OBP but an increased amount of RBIs. If you're in a standard 5 category roto league that uses AVG/RBI, take note and let others complain about his approach - it won't matter for you.

He's also undervalued due to his disappointing year where he was hurt by Safeco Field's dimensions. Combine the fences coming in with a natural step forward in career progression and he could easily return 7th round value in for a guy who's often going in the 11th. He doesn't come with much risk at the price he's been going for, as his worst case scenario is a repeat of last year in which he was still a serviceable fantasy catcher. There's true breakout potential here.

AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB Risk Reward
Jesus Montero .265 .330 .480 70 25 80 0 4 9

First base:

The curious case of Justin Smoak. Smoak has disappointed fantasy owners several years in a row and again fell well short of his potential, but his September (.341/.426/.580) coupled with a new swing teased owners once again. So much so that Smoak doesn't come entirely risk-free this season, as he went from completely off the radar to back on it. First base is an incredibly deep position that owners can be happy to wait on if they so choose, but I wouldn't rely on Smoak to be your starting 1B. At best he's a late round flier worth stashing for the first month to see if this truly is the year. He's enjoyed a fantastic spring training, but he also had similar success in 2012 and fell apart shortly after.

His current ADP is borderline undrafted in standard leagues. Smoak will provide more value in many points-based formats that reward power/OBP more than the runs/steals dependent leagues, so take note of that. A true breakout from Smoak seems unlikely at this stage in his career, but if you want to roll the dice in your last few rounds, there are few players with better rewards. Grab Smoak over somebody like Adam Lind or Mark Reynolds because he has the potential to be much better, and you'll be able to find marginal performances from the 1B spot on the waiver wire all season long.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Justin Smoak
.250
.340
.410
65
22
70
0
2
7

Kendrys Morales is expected to be the Mariners primary DH, though he could get more AB at 1B if Smoak falters yet again so the team can fit another bat in the lineup, or find a way to keep Mike Morse out of the outfield. Morales is a good option for your utility spot, as you can safely pencil in 4th tier 1B production. Morales is still in his prime, so he presents little risk for decline, and should improve on his numbers last year as he settled in returning from a major injury.

Morales' 2nd half power numbers (14 HR in 64 games) suggests he has plenty of power left in the tank, and could be a sneaky pick now fully recovered from injury. His ADP is in the 15th round and is an attractive option if you choose to invest in middle infielders and pitching early. Despite the mild injury risk, he is one of the more attractive fallback options, and certainly a safer investment than somebody like Eric Hosmer. Low risk, but capped possible reward.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Kendrys Morales
.285
.325
.490
75
28
90
0
3
4

Second base:

There are two players with 2nd base eligibility worth discussing, though we'll focus on Dustin Ackley here and Kyle Seager (who is eligible at 2B in Yahoo) at 3B. Ackley is another post-hype sleeper like Montero, and the investment level is extremely low. With an ADP of 18, Ackley is a steal for your bench in the final rounds. In 2012, Ackley met the sophomore slump hard, managing only a terrible .622 OPS, but benefited from the extra AB from hitting at the top of the order. There's signs that suggest those days may be over for Ackley now, as he could be dropped to the bottom of the order. This is a value killer for many of his counting stats, but there's potential to earn his way back up, as the Mariners don't have a prototypical leadoff hitter.

Ackley is too talented of a hitter to write off, and this is a critical year for his career. He's more than worthy of a spot at the end of your bench and should provide a handful of steals and the potential for all numbers to rise as he earns his way back into favor. He's the ideal sleeper pick as you fill out your bench. The thought of Ackley being a star seems like a distant memory, but you could end up with some Brian Roberts offensive production if everything goes right. Remember to fill your bench with guys who could at some point be good enough start for you. Don't settle for guaranteed mediocrity, it will be freely available on the waiver wire as you go along the way, even at a thinner position like 2B.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Dustin Ackley
.270
.350
.395
80
12
60
10
1
6

Shortstop:

Brendan Ryan is the only relevant name worth mentioning, and he should go untouched in all but the deepest of leagues. Unfortunately, defense does not count in fantasy baseball, and Ryan was a disaster at the plate last season and even his most optimistic upside still belongs on the waiver wire. In the last year of his deal, he may be unseated by prospects Nick Franklin or Brad Miller as the year progresses. If Ryan is ever on your team at any point in the season, I'm sorry for your loss.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Brendan Ryan
.230
.300
.290
70
3
30
10
1
1

Third Base:

Kyle Seager is the Mariners' starting 3rd baseman, and he accumulated enough time at 2B last year to have dual eligibility in Yahoo leagues, but only has 3B eligibility in others. 2B is generally a much thinner position than 3B, so adjust your valuations on him accordingly. His ADP is near the 13th round, which is a steal if you start him at 2B, and still very good value if you start him at 3B. Seager busted out last year with incredible clutch statistics, which netted him 86 RBI. There's good news and bad news about that, as generally speaking repeat performances of superhuman situational hitting are unsustainable, so his RBI/opportunities are likely to come back to earth. But the roster of surrounding talent around him is much better, so that will help to offset the regression.

Seager's left-handed hitting profile shouldn't seem like Safeco Field should harm him too severely, but he struggled mightily at home last year (.632 OPS) compared to on the road (.836 OPS). If the fences were more of a mental limitation than a physical one, we could see a true breakout season from Seager. He'll also provide a handful of steals and should see his average increase to the .270 range. He's one of my favorite targets this year, regardless of where he plays given his deflated ADP. Seager could easily provide value equal to that of Brett Lawrie or Will Middlebrooks, and they're going a full 6 rounds before him. The word is getting out on Seager, so you will probably need to reach above that ADP to get him. Just do it before another savvy owner beats you to it.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Kyle Seager
.270
.340
.460
75
25
85
12
3
7

Outfield:

The Mariners outfield will be headlined this year by Michael Morse, returning to Seattle after several years in Washington. Morse is an exciting hitter who swings at everything and strikes out a lot, but when he gets a hold of one, it goes a long way. Morse is going to provide solid batting average, home runs, but plays at an incredibly deep position. He's also a major durability question mark, having only played over 102 games once in his entire career. Morse is an adequate target to fill out your bench, but you'd be better off targeting somebody with more upside to fill his role. Hitters like Morse are a dime a dozen, and his fantasy profile really isn't all that different from Alfonso Soriano, who typically bounces back and forth of waiver wires all year long.

Morse has an ABP near the 14th round, but you can easily find something better at a scarcer position at that stage in the draft. If he's still around after many others are gone, go for it, but he comes with plenty of risk, and chances are we've seen the best that Morse will ever be when he was in Washington. Don't pay for a return he's unlikely to get to. If you do end up with him, trade him at elevated value if he has a hot start.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Michael Morse
.295
.330
.475
70
28
80
1
7
4

Michael Saunders is the other viable option in the Mariners outfield, who managed to graduate from being a bust to serviceable player last year. Saunders is an unattractive fantasy option, even to take a step forward. His strikeout woes helped land him a .247 average, and his upside is capped until he makes better contact. He'll likely steal 20 bases again, but expecting 30 home runs or 75+ RBI is wishful thinking. There's a good chance this is as good as he'll get. He'll play every day and doesn't possess much of an injury risk. He has moderate upside to take another step forward, but I'd rather grab somebody who is more of an unknown and represents better upside, like Leonys Martin or Aaron Hicks. Saunders, or somebody like him, will be available on the waiver wire after your draft.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Michael Saunders
.255
.310
.435
65
20
70
20
3 3

Franklin Gutierrez is the final option in the Mariners outfield, and he represents as much of a durability risk as anybody in baseball. Though Gutierrez has been more a victim of bad luck than he has injury prone, it's hard to ignore the past several years. He'll go undrafted in all but the deepest leagues. Though Gutierrez has looked to be a solid offensive contributor when healthy, OF is simply too deep to justify spending a draft pick on him. The Mariners also may bench him a few times a week to keep him healthy. Keep on eye on him as the season progresses, but he's waiver wire material until then.


AVG
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
SB
Risk
Reward
Franklin Gutierrez
.270
.315
.420
50
12
50
8
8 2

Starting Pitching:

It starts with the King himself, Felix Hernandez. One of the biggest reasons that Hernandez's value has been capped in the past is his lack of wins. If you're stuck in a league where wins is a category, first of all - I'm sorry. Tell your commissioner to change it to something that represents pitcher talent more fairly. And then after you do that, draft Hernandez at his discounted rate because his pre-draft ranking always factors in his inability to get wins. Of course, that may also change this year with a better offense behind him. The run support will be much improved, but the defense could be a bit worse with Michael Morse in the outfield. In any case, it shouldn't be enough to make a significant difference to his ERA. He's about as safe as they come.

Hernandez has been a horse over his career and presents no evident injury risk. He's a guarantee for 200-230 strikeouts, an ERA in the low 3s (or better) and a 1.10-1.20 WHIP. There's always the chance that he returns to Cy Young form as well, and he is certainly capable of doing so at just 26 years old. You won't get him at any kind of discount, but that's the price to pay for a true fantasy ace. He'll be a 3rd round pick in almost all formats, and while you could be similarly happy with Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, or Cliff Lee at that price, Felix presents an upside that is a bit higher than the others. He doesn't present much risk/relative reward given that you simply won't be able to steal him. You'll pay for what you get, and what you get is reliable excellence.

ERA WHIP W K Saves Risk Reward
Felix Hernandez 3.05 1.10 17 225 0 2 4

The rest of the rotation is where it starts to get unreliable. Hisashi Iwakuma is an interesting name to fill out your fantasy bench. Iwakuma very quietly put together a solid year last season, limiting runs to the tune of a 3.16 ERA to go along with a 1.28 WHIP. His strikeout rate was a bit higher than we can expect going forward, given his relief appearances and one 13k performance versus Toronto. His style doesn't lend itself to much upside, but there's a chance he could put up 180+ innings with a mid 3 ERA - perfect for the end of your bench.


ERA
WHIP
W
K
Saves
Risk
Reward
Hisashi Iwakuma
3.60
1.25
12
140
0
1
3

Joe Saunders may very well post an ERA under 4 and win a dozen games, but he is quintessential waiver wire material. Guys like him will be available all year long, and you're better off picking up guys who are hot or are pitching against a terrible offensive team for a spot start. Blake Beavan supposedly has a new delivery but the results don't seem to have changed much, and last year he sported one of the worst strikeout rates in baseball. Don't pay for results that you haven't seen.

Brandon Maurer remains the final rotation arm worth discussing, and is the perfect guy to grab at the end of your draft. Maurer was a relatively unheralded pitching prospect who shot up the ranks so quickly that he bypassed top prospects like Danny Hultzen and Tajuan Walker and is now ready to break camp with the Mariners. Maurer is 22 and seems to still be taking major steps forward in his career. He's struck out 22 batters in 20 innings this spring and could even be a breakout fantasy star. We clearly haven't seen anywhere close to his best in the minors.

Just know that Maurer has a history of injury, and last year's 137 innings were a career high by a huge margin, so the Mariners are likely to be careful with him and will shut him down at some point. If you're in a re-draft league and you own a player like Maurer who you know will be shut down, don't be afraid to sell high and deal him - especially if you're going head to head. If he won't be around for the playoffs, let him help you get there, then sell when his worth is highest. This applies to all pitchers of his nature, so take note.

Do not be the guy that drafts Barry Zito in the 2nd to last round because he doesn't know anyone else. Get Maurer. He may shock all of us like he's already done this spring. If he doesn't, the investment is so low that you can easily cut bait.


ERA
WHIP
W
K
Saves
Risk
Reward
Brandon Maurer
3.90
1.30
9
100
0
1
6

Relief Pitching:

There's only one name worth mentioning here, and it's closer Tom Wilhelmsen. The rest of the Mariners bullpen is unsettled in their roles and generally much weaker than other bullpens around the league, especially from a fantasy perspective. Keep an eye on Carter Capps if Wilhelmsen is traded or injured as the guy to fill in for save opportunities, but don't draft him.

Wilhelmsen is a perfectly fine reliever to draft, but isn't a great value at his current 12th round ADP. He has a solid strikeout rate, but it isn't elite. He doesn't have a track record of consistency, and while he has a hold on the job, there's no financial commitment keeping him there. There's a long-standing saying in fantasy baseball and it's still true - don't pay for saves. There is one closer worth paying for, and that's because he is so unbelievably ridiculous he makes a true impact in every stat besides wins. Craig Kimbrel. If you're not Craig Kimbrel, you're not worth drafting until much later. You can easily pass on Wilhelmsen and wait for the closers who inevitably fall because teams are filling other needs. If you want to get one guy you can rely on, get him, but Wilhelmsen is not the most reliable of the guys who have apparent locks on their jobs. There's plenty of risk and not much reward.


ERA
WHIP
W
K
Saves
Risk
Reward
Tom Wilhelmsen
2.80
1.20
3
65
30
6
4

That wraps things up. If you made it this far, you deserve something nice. Go buy it. There are plenty of Mariners players who have the chance to greatly outperform their draft position. Target some of them in the later rounds of your draft and perhaps you'll be nicely rewarded.

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