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Cano Fallout - How His Suspension Impacts the Mariners' Lineup

Seattle Mariners' All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano was suspended for 80 games on Tuesday for violating MLB's drug prevention and treatment program. He was charged with using Furosemide, a diuretic sometimes used as a masking agent for performance enhancing drugs. Cano stated he would accept the suspension, which begins immediately. "Recently I learned that I tested positive for a substance called Furosemide, which is not a performance enhancing substance," Cano said in a statement released by the MLB Players Association.

Under MLB's drug policy, a player is not automatically suspended for use of a diuretic unless there is proof the player intended to use it as a masking agent. Needless to say, MLB found their proof and Cano will be out almost $12 million dollars and be unable to play until August.

In fantasy baseball this will not only impact Robinson Cano's value, but could also benefit or hurt others in the Seattle lineup.

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No Cano: The Trickle-Down Effect

Some owners of Robinson Cano are fairly safe dropping the second baseman in shallow leagues. However, MLB ruled that Cano will begin serving the suspension immediately while he is on the disabled list for a broken hand. This is interesting news for fantasy owners. Instead of wasting a roster spot for 80 games, owners can place Cano on the DL for nearly 60 days of the suspension. If your league format allows for the Mariners second-baseman to remain on the disabled list for that long, it may be worth it to stash him if you can spare the roster space.

The Mariners' immediately came out and stated that they would not consider moving their center fielder Dee Gordon back to second base to replace Cano. They instead said that they planned to use recently recalled Gordon Beckham in the vacant position. This would have been a sad and underwhelming fill-in for both Mariners fans and fantasy owners. Luckily, manager Scott Servais has already back tracked from the teams position to move Dee Gordon and the speedster has already began taking grounders at second to prepare for the move. Good news all around. The move will not change Gordon's fantasy value one way or the other considering he was already eligible at second base in fantasy leagues. The move will allow him to retain the eligibility for next season though, while also opening up an opportunity in the lineup elsewhere.

Removing Cano from the lineup leaves a giant hole in the Seattle lineup that will not be easily filled. Almost every player will be a little less effective due with Cano being removed from the lineup. Every hitter will have a little less protection and opposing pitchers will be more stingy with their offerings with one less power threat to deal with. The Mariners' still have plenty of talented hitters to move around but without the threat of the all-star second baseman in the middle of the lineup, the other Seattle hitters will need to shoulder a larger load while missing some serious lineup protection. Of course, the Mariners could always to decided to spend the close to $12 million dollars they saved by not paying Robinson Cano and reinvest it into their offense via trade. Either way, for immediate fantasy purposes we will go on the assumption that the Seattle lineup will stay as currently constructed.

Breakout outfielder Mitch Haniger was moved to the three-hole in Cano's absence. In general, this situation should actually help Haniger's value due to the RBI and runs scored opportunities that come with batting in that position in the batting order. He should should still see plenty of protection from Nelson Cruz, who should bat cleanup behind him, while having Dee Gordon and Jean Segura setting the table in front of him. Haniger is batting .295/.383./.577 with .401 wOBA and fairly sustainable metrics to back it up. I would buy Haniger from anyone who assumes the Cano suspension somehow hurts his fantasy value.

First baseman Ryon Healy and catcher Mike Zunino should see a slight bump in fantasy value as well, each moving up a position in the Mariners' lineup. Healy is off to a fast start after returning from an ankle injury. The Seattle first-baseman has hit eight home runs with a .392 wOBA and .319 ISO through 99-at bats this season. The Mariners acquired Healy from the Oakland Athletics due to the impressive power he exhibited. If he can continue to hit the ball the way he has so far, he could be in for a solid season batting fifth in Seattle. Fantasy owners are going to want to make an investment in Healy in 12-team mixed leagues or deeper, while keeping him on the radar in 10-team formats.

Outfielder Guillermo Heredia will see the most sizable increase in fantasy value, seeing how he will certainly be an everyday player in the Seattle outfield once Gordon makes the inevitable move back to second base. In 50 at-bats, Heredia is batting .260/.397/.817 with two home runs and a stolen base. He has shown solid plate discipline with a 6.7% swinging strike rate, 15.5% O-swing, and 15.4% walk rate so far this season and is generally a solid contact hitter, but given that he offers only modest power at best, his fantasy upside is somewhat limited. Everyday at-bats could make Heredia an immediate pick up in AL-only leagues and a man to keep in eye on in deep mixed formats. Honestly, the decision to move Gordon to second will have a larger fantasy impact on Zunino and Heredia than anything else due to the fact that they will not have to bat in front of Gordon Beckham. That would have been a major setback.

Kyle Seager is an interesting case. He is batting just .241/.303/.444 on the year, but does have seven home run with a .204 ISO. Everything about Seager , including his .321 wOBA and 103 wRC+, scream league-average player. The Mariners will certainly need him to be more than that if they hope to contend, but fantasy owners will need him to step up as well. His success or failure will impact the other Seattle hitters in a big way. If Seager is not seen as a threat, pitchers will not be forced to challenge Nelson Cruz in front of him. If Cruz struggles, that will impact Haniger. On the flip side, a struggling Kyle Seager will be a rally killer that will smother the fantasy value of hitters like Healy and Zunino trailing him in the batting order. The former All-Star is a solid everyday player, but will need to improve upon his career low 6.2% walk rate and career high 18% strikeout rate if he hopes to return to his 2013-2016 peak. If there was a player that will serve as the make or break catalyst for both the Seattle Mariners' and their fantasy owners in Robinson Cano's absence, it's Kyle Seager.


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