2016 Fantasy Baseball: Seattle Mariners Team Preview
2015 QUICK OVERVIEW
The Mariners finished 76-86 on the 2015 season. A number of pundits had them picked as the front runner to win the 2015 AL West championship after signing slugger Nelson Cruz to join Robinson Cano in the everyday lineup. Unfortunately, the supporting cast let those guys down and the Mariners faded down the stretch. It eventually cost Jack Zduriencik and Lloyd McClendon their jobs as Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais ended up becoming the new general manager and manager.
2016 OFFSEASON OVERVIEW
Jack Z infamously sold himself as a hybrid between old fashioned scouting and new analytics. He was a little light on the analytical side. In fact, that side was nearly non-existent. He built top heavy rosters that tried to rely on star power and didn’t have enough depth to overcome injuries or make it through the dog days of summer. Dipoto acknowledged that the fixes wouldn’t be easy, but he did have some stars off which to build. He just needed to fill in the holes with some capable players.
The most important work came in the everyday lineup. The Mariners catching and first base situations have been a mess over the past several years. Dipoto combined two trades and a free agent signing to shore those positions up. First, he signed Chris Iannetta away from the Angels. No one would ever accuse Iannetta of being brilliant, but up until 2015, he had four consecutive seasons with OPS+ scores above 100. He will form a solid platoon with Steve Clevenger. The Mariners got him in a trade with the Orioles. He was average a year ago. Again, he’s not brilliant, but Dipoto didn’t really want brilliant. He wanted competent.
The biggest deal of the offseason probably came when he traded prospects for Brewers first baseman Adam Lind. When healthy, Lind is a decent bet to hit 20 home runs and drive in around 80 runs. Again, we aren’t looking at brilliance here, but when you consider what has been manning first base over there, this is a considerable upgrade. Finally, Dipoto dealt Tom Wilhelmsen to the Rangers for center fielder Leonys Martin. Martin has been brilliant defensively and could be a Gold Glove level performer if he can play every day.
Dipoto robbed Peter to pay Paul in the bullpen, so the net result is probably a pen that will be almost as good as it was a year ago. Steve Cishek and Joaquin Benoit will man the 9th and 8th inning, respectively. They did this to effectively make their rotation that much deeper. They added quality veteran arms in Wade Miley and Nate Karns. The biggest coup of the offseason might have been the re-signing of Hisashi Iwakuma. Added to Felix Hernandez, they may have the best rotation in the AL West.
FANTASY IMPACT BATS
One of the positive effects of being a top heavy team is that you have more fantasy prospects than a 76-win really should. Cano is still a solid fantasy selection. This is especially true when you consider that he had a weird stomach bug for most of last season. When that healed up he suddenly became the Cano of old. Cruz is not a first or second round selection, but he might go within the first five rounds in some drafts.
That being said, the two sleepers on this squad play on the left side of the infield. Kyle Seager would be a top-five fantasy player at his position anywhere other than third base. Since that position is stacked, some people will be tempted to overlook him on draft day. Ketel Marte came up late in the year and flashed at shortstop. He could be a late round sleeper, so you should keep your eye on him as well.
FANTASY IMPACT ARMS
The list of impact arms on the Mariners is pretty short. Felix Hernandez is pretty much the ticket. Iwakuma will make some noise on your draft boards, but he has been slipping the past few seasons, so a wise player might wait on him. The rest of the guys are guys you can comfortably get at the end of the draft or even wait until the waiver wire. Nate Karns and Wade Miley might be worth a roster spot down the line, but they are fringe fantasy prospects. The same is true of Cishek and Benoit.
WHAT’S ON THE FARM?
Taijuan Walker and James Paxton aren’t officially prospects because they have pitched enough big league innings to register, but they are the closest thing Seattle has to an actual prospect. Mike Zunino will start the year in AAA, but he also is not a rookie. In fact, if you go to rosterresource.com and peruse the depth chart, you will notice that most of the players are minor league free agents that have already tasted the big leagues.
The team’s best prospect (Alan Jackson) is still in A-ball and will likely begin the season in advanced A-ball. The rest of the bunch are wash outs like Jesus Montero that aren’t likely to make a lasting impact on the big league level.
Dipoto has the Mariners moving in the right direction. When you look at their roster you don’t see any obvious holes and that is a vast improvement over past seasons. You could also argue that moving to anyone other than Lloyd McClendon in the dugout is worth a handful of games as well. McClendon and Jack Z were two peas in a pod. Neither embraced the new analytics in the game, so they were outflanked in nearly every direction.
Each AL division is becoming more competitive by the minute. Simply improving the roster and management might not be enough to win the division next season. It’s fair to assert that 87 wins will not win the division in 2016, so every team needs to step up their game. On paper, the Mariners appear poised to compete for a playoff spot. It will be interesting to see how it all fits together.