Seattle Mariners Hitters Preview
This coming season could potentially mark the turning the point for a young Mariners’ roster, maturing into their own and continuing their progression. At the very least, it’s hard to go anywhere but up from the dismal last few years. However, it’s going to be difficult to get an accurate gauge on 2014 projections for these players given the high-risk/high-reward approach Jack Z. took to the offseason. Of particular variability is going to be runs and RBI, as these numbers are bound to fluctuate based on injuries and lineup interactions. From a fantasy perspective, few of these players are inherently sexy picks, and their significance lies largely in the value they can provide at different points in the draft.
Early Round Talent (Rounds 1-5)
Robinson Cano (2B)
Robinson Cano has been an absolute stud for the Yankees at second base, a position which has become increasingly shallow in terms of fantasy value. In New York, Cano was the model of consistent production: he played in nearly every game since 2007, notching over 600 at-bats in all but one of those years (597 in 2008). Last season, Cano cranked 27 HR, 107 RBI, and had 190 hits while batting .314. These numbers were enough to place him in the top five for hits, RBI and batting average. This kind of production in the power categories was exactly what the Mariners have been looking for, and I firmly believe he will continue to play at near-MVP levels despite the change of scenery.
In terms of his 2014 outlook, I think rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. There have been concerns about the changes in venue, division and lineup hampering the two-time Gold Glove winner. However, looking at his raw statistics with the Yankees, his home/road split was relatively even (the stadium didn’t have an outstanding impact on his HR production), and he matched his career batting average of .309 while hitting in Safeco. More telling, he also performed at an amazingly high level last season while in midst of an injury-plagued Yankee lineup. Though he won’t have the advantage of playing in favorable AL East parks like Toronto and Baltimore, I think Cano will certainly be able to continue playing at an exceptionally high-level.
Fantasy Projection: 22 HR, 90 RBI, 3 SB with a .310 BA
Could be worthy of a top-five pick when considering the positional depth.
Mid-Round Talent (Rounds 6-15)
Kyle Seager (3B)
Seager fell late or went undrafted in most fantasy drafts for the previous two years, but he has continued to provide reliable value in his bat and his feet. Seager has developed in a 20/10 threat for HR and SB, while also providing a good source of hits, a serviceable batting average and relatively few strikeouts. Last season, he had 160 hits, 22 HR and 69 RBI while hitting .260 and stealing nine bases. Equally as valuable, he also hit 32 doubles and showed the ability to consistently snag extra bases. Additionally, his production has not been propped up by an unsustainable BAPIP (.290). The major question here is whether the transition to 3B and loss of 2B eligibility will reduce his value to fantasy owners. There is a real fear that his value at the shallow 2B position will not translate positively to the deeper, traditionally more powerful 3B position. However, if teammates like Brad Miller and Corey Hart can continue to improve, it is entirely conceivable to see Seager’s progression continue.
Fantasy Projection: 23 HR, 75 RBI, 10 SB and a .260 BA
Has a lot of upside, but there is concern about his value at 3B.
Late Round Targets/Sleepers
Corey Hart (DH)
Hart presents the ultimate black box for the 2014 Mariners’ season. He hasn’t played since 2012, and is coming off of two major knee surgeries. Prior to the knee issues, however, he was a great source of production in the power categories. After playing 149 games in 2012, Hart produced 30 HR and 83 RBI while hitting 270. It’s also worth mentioning that the .270 mark was well below his previous two seasons, during which he surpassed a .280 average each year. He also had at least five stolen bases in the seasons prior to his injury, but we can’t really expect him to continue producing in that category. Hart’s performance this year is going to be entirely dependent on how he recovers from his injury. He seems confident, claiming that he could play outfield or first base if necessary. Nonetheless, a lot of unknowns remain with a guy coming off these kinds of injuries.
Fantasy Projection: .270 BA, 22 HR, 65-70 RBI and a smattering of stolen bases
Dependent on health, but could be a good supplier of RBI hitting behind Cano. He is likely to fall in drafts, yet could reasonably provide fantasy value. If you can get Hart between picks 180-200, he could definitely be an investment that pays strong dividends.
Brad Miller (SS)
I’m very high on this kid-- I love him as a possible sleeper and I think he can make great strides this season. While in college at Clemson, Miller won the Brooks Wallace award for top college shortstop in 2011. After a strong minor league stint where he hit .334 with 15 homers, 68 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 137 games, he looked promising in his short time in the majors last season. Though he only played 76 games in the big league, he still hit 8 homers and 36 RBI while maintaining a .265 BA. Also important to note: he had five steals in that time and saw over a quarter of his hits go for extra bases.
Fantasy Projection: .285 BA, 12 HR, 60-70 RBI, 10-15 SB
Sleeper pick that could produce; certainly worth keeping an eye on as a potential value pick.
Justin Smoak (1B)
I don’t see a whole lot of value in picking up Smoak as an option at 1B. While he has some pop to his bat-- he hit 20 HR in 131 games last season-- he is lackluster at most other categories. In 2013, he provided only 50 RBI, and hit at for a dismal .238 BA which, though uninspiring in itself, also marks his highest average. A more typical batting average for Smoak would likely be closer to .225 or so. Despite this uninviting outlook, he is a former top prospect, and started out strong in the 2013 season before significantly regressing in the second half. He’s worth looking out for in case he gets hot, but I have pretty low expectations for his 2014 season.
Fantasy Projection: .228, 15-20 HR, 50 RBI, 0 SB
Could be worth a flier in deeper leagues, but should just be monitored in other formats.
Logan Morrison (OF)
This could be a proving year for the once highly-touted prospect. Though his 2013 season was nothing less than underwhelming, as he played only 85 games and hit just six HR, 36 RBI, and no stolen bases with a .242 BA. Nonetheless, there is hope that he will return to his 2011 form, a season in which Morrison hit 23 HR and 72 RBI with a .247 average. Helping his cause is the fact that he has decent plate discipline and takes a good amount walks, which may provide some insurance to his otherwise marginal value.
Fantasy Projection: Unclear. If he stays healthy (a big if), this is his best opportunity to produce since 2011.
As always, stay tuned for more in-depth Seattle Mariners fantasy baseball analysis.