I'm a bet hedger (hedge bettor?), always have been. You know what I did when the Hawks made it to the Super Bowl? Put ten on the Steelers. Not because I thought they'd win, but because I wanted something to take the keen edge off the emotional guillotine should the Hawks fall (Didn't work. I still have nightmares of Clark Haggans lining up in our backfield, literally in a three point stance between Hass and Alexander, no flag).
Maybe this makes you want to disparage my level of fanhood, but it is what it is, we can't change who we are. I took a test once in sixth grade where the teacher accidentally put the same true/false question on there twice. I answered them differently, just in case. I am and always have been happier with one in the hand rather than two in the bush.
So, when it comes to fantasy baseball, where owning players on rival teams is a necessity, I look at it as sort of a hedge bet. Of course priority #1 is to will the Mariners to previously unscaled heights. Short of that, should my late round flyer on Brett Anderson (not this year though!) pay off with a good season by an Athletic player, then it lessens a bit of the pain of Los Marineros losing too many games.
I thought it would be a good idea then to take a look at the fantasy value of the players we see the most, those plying their trade in our own backyard. Over the next few posts, I'd like to break down the AL West, and try to identify some players that we can take advantage of this year for fantasy purposes. Sure, it will be hard to watch Pujols in his Anaheim devil-reds, but somebody has to take his .315/100/35/110/10, andmight as well be you. Today, we'll start with the team we all love, the Seattle Mariners. Part I will cover the hitters.
Mariner's hitters are not the sexiest fantasy baseball picks, however, this year there may be more high-upside choices then ever before.
Ichiro Suzuki: I think he makes a great third outfielder this year, especially with his drop in the lineup, expect a bit more balance in his statistics than before. Historically, Ichiro was a great pick for players who went heavy on power early and often in drafts, contributing outstanding average and steals numbers. Now, hitting third, he will have to drive the ball more, an approach that may be more in line with his skillset at his age. For those worried about his batting average, keep in mind he may have been a victim of extreme bad luck last year.
His batting average on balls in play over fifty (!) points below his career average. Many of his other peripherals statistics were in line with his career averages. Simply put, he was hitting where they were, not where they ain't. With some correction in his luck, he is a very good candidate to bounce back this year. He's going on average 103rd in Yahoo drafts. I think he's a great value there, and has a great opportunity to outperform that draft spot by a couple rounds. Target him in the trade market early, especially if he has one of his traditionally slow starts. Pry him away before mid-May and start him confidently.
Franklin Gutierrez: I was looking forward to Gutierrez as someone to watch closely, and to quickly scoop out of the free agency pool if he looked like his former self. He looked healthy and strong, and capable of repeating his solid 2009 where he made a solid contributor as a 3rd or 4th outfielder, and was certainly worthy of selection in the last third of a draft.
Now, with another injury and another missed spring training, my hopes of his ability to contribute fantasy-wise are dwindling. Keep on eye on him, especially later in the summer. If he shakes the rust off, and he starts heating up, he may be worth adding to ride out a hot streak.
Casper Wells: As a platoon player who struck out 36% of the time last year with the M's, I can't really recommend Wells. There is some pop there, but until his contact skills advance, and he can therefore offer more opportunities for runs, steals and average, I don't think he belongs on a fantasy roster.
Mike Carp: Maybe the most mystifying Mariner. He looked distinctly AAAA until last summer's tear. I was leaning strongly towards calling him a nice late round flyer, someone with an at least decent chance of contributing to a fantasy team, and it seems a lot of drafters agree with me, as he is being taken on average in the 22-23 round in Yahoo. I think the shoulder injury pushes him into free agency territory. While he should return quickly, these shoulder strains often seem to linger and wreak havoc on a player's swing. I think there is a strong chance he struggles when he returns. Spend your lottery ticket picks (last two-threerounds) on healthier players but be ready to swoop on him in free agency should he cook up another bowl of Carp Soup.
Michael Saunders: Saunders might be a guy you want to take in the last round. Blessed with serious talent, he just hasn't put it together, despite ample opportunity. Stashing him on the end of your roster for month could pay dividends, because if he finds a way to plug the Figgins-sized hole in his swing, he could put up some sweet power/steals numbers that could be a boon. If he performs in center while Gutierrez is out, he could create a nice problem for the Mariners to have in trying to find him more at bats when Franklin returns. Keep the leash short, but not a bad guy to roll the dice on.
Carlos Peguero: Peggy is a favorite of mine, but not so much for his numbers, but rather his Nile-long swing, and the fact that he is the only player we have capable of hitting a home run that never gets more then 12 feet off the ground. Don't touch him for fantasy purposes, but make sure to tune in when he does get at bats.
Justin Smoak: Smoak is another guy you should try and grab late (going about 257th on average), but unlike Saunders, be ready to give him some time, even if he struggles early. With only a little more then one full season worth of MLB at-bats, Smoak is just about to hit that mystical breakout zone. Seems like a tough kid, who probably played with injuries when he shouldn't have last year.
If healthy this year, I expect him to show real improvement. I don't think 30 homers/90 RBI's/.275 is out of the realm of possibility. Give him a valuable bench spot, water him daily, and watch the numbers grow.
Dustin Ackley: George Lucas prophesized Dustin, and animated it in his 2002 gem Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Sixed-legged, razor sharp fangs, quick, powerful and deadly. It took two of the galaxies most powerful Jedi and smoking hot ballerina to bring the Acklay Monster down, and I'm pretty sure it would take more to stop the Dustin Ackley Monster. However, for fantasy purposes, let's not get carried away. His sneaky strength will put up above average homers for a 2B, and his on-base skills will hopefully keep his average in a beneficial range. However we have yet to see how aggressive he will be on the basepaths.
Without steals, he will probably be a two category contributor until the core of Seattle's lineup progresses to the point of pushing across the plate 90 or more times a year. Right now he's being taken as about the 12th 2B overall, a position that seems about right. If he falls further than that, grab him up. I think Ackley will be a fantasy force in the future, but perhaps this year is a bit too soon.
Jesus Montero: Montero comes with high high hopes, but I caution you to not overspend right now. A new team, new coaches and a new ballpark traditionally difficult for right-handers may temper his results in the early going. If he has catcher eligibility, his stock gets a huge boost, but it may be a few weeks before he qualifies there. We have yet to see how often he catches, so if he needs 5 or 10 starts, depending on your league settings, he may only be usable in a Utility spot. My approach with him is to wait.
Right now he is going around pick 150. I think owners that invest that much in him may become disgruntled if he experiences a slow start. If you can, target him in the trade market on the cheap. Once he can get slotted at catcher, any cold streaks become more tolerable. I really like him as part of a catching tandem if, like me, you like to wait and grab your catchers late. I would love to have Jesus to pair with someone like Wilson Ramos or Yadier Molina, playing matchups and hot streaks throughout the year.
Brendan Ryan: While one of my favorite Mariners to watch, Brendan doesn't offer much for fantasy purposes even with a shallow shortstop market. If there was a category for defense or spirit awards, he'd be a hot pick.
Kyle Seager: As a third basemen, Seager doesn't offer a whole lot of fantasy potential. However, should be gain super utility status, he might be useful for many teams. Much like a Ty Wiggington the last few years, a guy who has 2B/SS/3B eligibility can be a nice player to have for the flexibility, and Seager may hit just enough to justify carrying him in that role.
For now, it seems the M's are committed to him as a 3B, but I don't see him staying there for the long term, with the guys coming up behind him. So if they want to keep him on the roster and in games, shuffling him around the diamond might be the way to do it.
Chone Figgins: There is always the chance he starts playing like the Chone of old, but I wouldn't bet on it. If you feel like taking the chance (and many owners do, going about pick 236) keep the leash short.
Miguel Olivo: Miggy can give you some power from a spot that is often a sinkhole for many teams, but you're going to take it in the shorts in every other category. In a standard 10 or 12 team league, I think there will almost always be a better option, but if your league gets deeper than that, his power potential becomes a bit more tantalizing.
John Jaso: If given the chance to play regularly, this guy is a potential bargain. He likely will not be drafted in your league, but keep an eye on him. His line drive approach seem to be a good fit for Safeco, and if that translates into a higher batting average, that could be a real help for your team. Only six catchers hit over .270 last year and got over 400 at bats, and one of them was Victor Martinez. If Jaso gets a chance and plays up to his potential, grab him quickly if you have problems with batting average.
For more on Fantasy Baseball, make sure you head to SB Nation's Fantasy Sports Hub,Fake Teams. For more on the Mariners, stick with us here at SB Nation Seattle in our Mariners' 2012 Season StoryStream or head to Lookout Landing.