Jennifer Buchanan-USA Today Sports

2017 Seattle Mariners Team Outlook

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Shawn Childs examines the Seattle Mariners heading into the 2017 MLB season!

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners missed the playoffs for the 15th straight season in 2016. They score 112 more runs than 2015 (656) while allowing 19 fewer runs on the pitching side. Seattle won 86 games to finish 2nd in the AL West, which was their second winning season over the last three years. For the year, they ranked 3rd in the American League in runs scored (768) and second in HRs (223). Three players hit 30 HRs or more – Nelson Cruz (43), Robinson Cano (39), and Kyle Seager (30).

In the offseason, the Mariners lost C Chris Iannetta, 1B Adam Lind, OF Franklin Gutierrez, and RP Drew Storen to free agency. They acquired OF Mallex Smith, SP Max Povse, SP Rob Whalen, and RP Shea Simmons from the Braves for SP Luiz Gohara, SP Tyler Pike, OF Alex Jackson, and RP Thomas Burrows. Seattle then traded OF Mallex Smith, IF Carlos Vargas, and SP Ryan Yarbrough to the Rays for SP Drew Smyly. They swapped SP Nathan Karns for OF Jarrod Dyson with the Royals. OF Seth Smith was moved to the Orioles for SP Yovani Gallardo. SS Jean Segura, RP Zac Curtis, and OF Mitch Haniger were acquired from the Diamondbacks for SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker. IF Danny Valencia was added for SP Paul Blackburn. RP Vidal Nuno was shipped to the Dodgers for C Carlos Ruiz. There were also multiple minor level deals.

In early January, the Mariners traded OF Seth Smith to the Orioles for SP Yovani Gallardo.

Seattle ended up third in the AL in ERA (4.00). Their bullpen ranked 7th in the majors in ERA (3.55) with 24 wins, 23 losses, and 49 saves.

The combination of runs, HRs, and ERA should have led to a better season, but they struggled to defeat Texas (7-12) and Houston (8-11).

The starting rotation needs a bounce back season from Felix Hernandez plus a healthy season from James Paxton and a step forward from Drew Smyly. CL Edwin Diaz should offer electric upside in the 9th inning.

The offense will have new players at three spots in the starting lineup. Their success scoring will come from the big four – Cano, Seager, Segura, and Cruz.

1. SS Jean Segura

Segura had a huge step forward in 2016. He led the NL in at bats (637) and hits (203) while setting career highs in multiple categories – runs (102), double (41), HRs (20), and RBI (64). His AVH (1.567) was much higher than his previous seasons with a huge jump in his CTBA (.379). Jean was able to shave off almost six percentage points off his ground ball rate (53.1). Even with a career high FB rate (27.8), his swing path offers minimal upside in power. His jump in HRs was due to a career high in his HR/FB rate (13.5 – 5.1 in 2014 and 5.3 in 2015). He has a low K rate (14.6) with a below par walk rate (5.6), which is great for a top of the order hitter. Segura was impressive against RH pitching (.333 with 16 HRs and 52 RBI over 484 at bats) while holding his own against lefties (.275). He hit over .300 in every month (April - .333, June - .323, July - .309, August - .346, and September - .322) expect May (.278). Jean had strength as well with runners on base (18 percent RBI rate). By moving to the AL, he should have a bump in his RBI chances. Just reaching his prime with a nice balance skill set. Possible 100+ runs again with about 15 HRs and 30+ steals. His normal path would lead to regression in batting average in 2017. Getting closer to free agency (2019) so another strong season will add many dollars to his pocket.

2. OF Leonys Martin

I’m torn on who should hit second for the Mariners this year. Jarrod Dyson is too one dimensional for me, and I can’t see Kyle Seager moving up as he does provide protection behind Nelson Cruz. Leonys has a nice balanced skill set with a walk rate (7.9) that is trending toward the league average. He did have a career-high K rate (25.9) with two straight years of regression. Martin only hit .200 in April, but he was productive in HRs (9) and RBI (20) over the first two months of the season. His power was pretty empty over the last four months of the season (six HRs and 27 RBI) while scoring 43 runs over the last three months of the year with 15 SBs. Leonys has had a weak RBI (10) over the last three seasons. He was a better hitter against lefties (.261 with five HRs and 15 RBI over 176 at bats). Martin had a stronger swing path in 2016 leading to a lower GB rate (43.2 – career low) and career high fly ball rate (36.8). He set a career high in his HR/FB rate (11.3) as well. His minor-league resume gives him a chance to improve in his K rate, which would go a long way in improving his opportunity in the batting order. I’d like to see more extra base hits so his major jump in production may be a Fantasy dream. His game is strong enough to produce a 15/30 season with a neutral batting average, but don’t overpay if he’s schedule to hit at the bottom of the order.

3. 2B Robinson Cano

After three down years in his AVH (2013 – 1.642, 2014 – 1.444, and 2015 – 1.553), Cano exploded for a career high in HRs (39) while raising his bar in his AVH (1.790). His CTBA (.351) has been in a tight range in his three years in Seattle with more value in New York. Robinson continues to take a low volume of strikeouts (14.0 percent) with a below league average walk rate (6.6). His swing was very good against RH pitching (.312 with 28 HRs and 69 RBI over 397 at bats). Cano delivered most of his HRs (31) and RBI (83) in April, May, August, and September with short production in the other two months (eight HRs and 20 RBI). He finished with his second highest HR/FB rate (19.3) of his career with improvement in back-to-back years in Seattle. Robinson was able to cut down on some ground balls (45.9 GB rate – 52.6 in 2014 and 50.5 in 2015) with a sharp spike in his FB rate (36.1 – 30.5 in his career). Great player with one of the best swings in the game. He needs 790 hits to reach 3000 in his career. It really comes down to HRs or batting average for Cano. Solid .300 hitter with 30 HRs within reach with triple digits in runs and RBI. It’s amazing to see the Yankees let this Hall of Famer go.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

4. OF Nelson Cruz

Over the last three seasons, Cruz has 127 HRs with 306 RBI. His ability to play DH has helped him stay healthy. His K rate (23.8) has been above his career average (22.7) in the last two years with a walk rate (9.3) that is trending upward. Nelson has a AVH (1.935) that’s been in a tight range over the last four years. His batting average has held value thanks to a high CTBA (.393) in Seattle (.418 in 2015). Cruz has a huge slugging percentage (.644) against lefties leading to a .293 BA with 19 HRs and 35 RBI over 191 at bats. He had a monster September (.318 with 11 HRs and 26 RBI over 110 at bats) with consistent success over the first half (.285 with 20 HRs and 53 RBI) and second half (.289 with 23 HRs and 52 RBI) of the season. His HR/FB rate (26.2) has been the highest of his career in Seattle (30.3 in 2015). His only area of improvement could be more success with runners on base (15 percent RBI rate in 2016 and 14 percent in 2015). Nelson has a solid floor of 35+ HRs with 100 RBI with more upside with better play at the top of the batting order.

5. 3B Kyle Seager

There is something to be said for a player that stays healthy and in the lineup every day. Over the last five seasons, Kyle missed only 16 games. His home run total has improved in each year in the league while setting a career high in runs (89) and RBI (99) in 2016. Even with an above average K rate (16.0), Seager has been unable to pop in batting average. His CTBA (.339) was improved over 2015 (.316) with a career high in AVH (1.795). He had a career-high walk rate (10.2) as well. In 2015, Kyle hit .297 against lefties with a high slugging percentage (.511). Last year he only hit .227 against LH pitching with 11 HRs and 33 RBI over 216 at bats. His game was improved against righties (.307 with 19 HRs and 66 RBI over 381 at bats). Here’s an interesting stat: Seager had five HRs in every month in 2016. After a short April (.159 BAA), he hit .317 over the next four months. Kyle tends to be a FB hitter (42.2 percent in his career) while setting a career high in his HR/FB rate (14.6). Not quite a foundation player, but he’s real close. If he rebounds against lefties, a .300 season with 30+ HRs and 100+ RBI seems like a reasonable expectation.

6. 3B Danny Valencia

Valencia looks to be in the weaker half of the platoon situation at first base for Seattle in 2017 if rookie Dan Vogelbach shows he’s he can handle major league pitching. In addition, Danny could see time in the OF or DH when Nelson Cruz makes an appearance in the outfield. Over the last two seasons, Valencia has a high CTBA (.379 – .377 in 2015). His AVH (1.556) and RBI rate (12) were much weaker than his success the previous year (AVH – 1.790 and RBI rate – 21). Danny had just below a league average walk rate (7.9) over the last two years. His K rate (22.2) has been a slight negative over the last three seasons. He did a nice job against lefties (.318 with seven HRs and 19 RBI over 129 at bats) with starting success against RH pitching (.275 with 10 HRs and 32 RBI over 342 at bats). Valencia played his best ball in May (.359 with eight HRs and 19 RBI over 78 at bats). His fly ball rate (31.8) has been low in each of the last three seasons while flashing some strength in his HR/FB rate (14.9). I expect between 400 and 450 at bats with a chance at being a 15/60 player with a neutral batting average.

7. OF Mitch Haniger

Over five seasons in the minors, Mitch hit .290 with 61 HRs, 268 RBI, and 38 RBI over 1617 at bats. His game made a step forward at AAA in 2016 (.341 with 20 HRs, 64 RBI, and eight SBs over 261 at bats. His K rate (17.5) was better than the league average with strength in his walk rate (10.1). Haniger struggled over 109 at bats with the Diamondbacks (.229 with five HRs and 17 RBI). He has a step back in his K rate (22.0) with almost the same almost the same walk rate (9.8) as his minor-league resume. Mitch was a fly ball hitter (43.4) in the majors with a solid HR/FB rate (13.9). Showing growth with a possible 20/15 skill set in the near future, but Haniger needs to prove he can handle major league pitching.

8. C Mike Zunino

Zunino looks like 4A player. He started the year at AAA where he had electric results (.286 with 17 HRs and 57 RBI over 280 at bats). Mike struck out 21.1 percent of the time with a solid walk rate (10.7). Seattle called him up in July. Over his first 95 at bats in the majors, he hit nine HRs with 22 RBI. Unfortunately, he whiffed 34 times over 115 plate appearances (29.6 percent). He lost his ability to make contact in September (40.3 percent K rate). In his major-league career, Mike has a 32.4 percent K rate with growth in his walk rate (10.9) in 2016. Zunino is a fly hitter (52.5 percent in 2016) with a high HR/FB rate (23.1). Over 1125 at bats in the majors, he hit only .195 with 50 HRs and 133 RBI. Possible 30 HRs with 450 at bats, but he may not hit .200.

9. OF Jarrod Dyson

Dyson will compete for playing time in the outfield. He’s never had a starting job in the majors. Jarrod had his lowest K rate (11.6) of his career with about a league average walk rate (7.7). His CTBA (.319) tends to be in a tight range with minimal length on his hits (AVH – 1.398). Dyson had the most success against lefties (.379 with no HRs and two RBI over 29 at bats). From June through August, he hit .223 with no HRs and 11 RBI. Jarrod is a ground ball hitter (55.8 percent) with a weak HR/FB rate (1.7). His only asset is his speed when he’s running. Bench player in my mind, but he may get a better than expect opportunity early in the season. Maybe a career high in at bats with a chance at 40+ SBs.

BN: 1B Daniel Vogelbach

Over six seasons in the minors, Vogelbach hit .286 with 83 HRs, 355 RBI, and 12 SBs over 1958 at bats. His K rate (16.9) offers upside with a plus walk rate (14.4). Dan has some risk vs. lefties with a line drive swing. His skill set gives him middle of the order upside. This season he’ll battle for playing time at first base with Danny Valencia. Possible 20/80 player with full time at bats.

Bench Options

C Carlos Ruiz – After a nice 2012 season (.325 with 16 HRs and 68 RBI), Ruiz has been on a negative path. Over 201 at bats in 2016, Carlos hit .264 with three HRs and 15 RBI. His K rate (14.2) remains low with strength in his walk rate (11.6). This season he’ll compete for playing time with Mike Zunino.

IF Shawn O’Malley – The Mariners gave Shawn 210 at bats in 2016 with minimal success (.229 with two HRs, 17 RBI, and six SB). He struck out 25.4 percent of the time, which tell me that Seattle should be able to find a better utility player in 2017. Over 11 years in the minors, O’Malley hit .263 with 18 HRs, 260 RBI, and 211 SBs over 2927 at bats.

IF Taylor Motter – Over six years in the minors, Taylor hit .272 with 56 HRs, 263 RBI, and 127 SBs over 1981 at bats. He struggled in his first chance in the majors in 2016 (.188 with two HRs and nine RBI over 80 at bats). Motter did show the ability to take a walk with Tampa (11.8) with a league average K rate (20.4). Possible favorite to be the top infield option over the bench this season.

OF Guillermo Heredia – After defecting from Cuba, Heredia hit .300 at two levels of the minors over 343 at bats with four HRs, 47 RBI, and five SBs. He finished with more walks (48) than Ks (47). Over six seasons in Cuba, Guillermo hit .285 with 23 HRs, 121 RBI, and 20 SBs over 1177 at bats. With Seattle in 2016, he hit .250 with one HRs, 12 RBI, and a SBs over 92 at bats. His walk rate (11.2) had top of the order ability with a low K rate (14.0). Only a 10/10 player with full time at bats so Heredia will come off the bench this season.

1. SP Felix Hernandez

The King pitched more like a Queen in 2016. Batters still didn’t hit him hard (.239), but the high volume of innings over 11 seasons seemed to catch up with him. Felix has the worst walk rate (3.8) of his career leading to a decline in K rate (7.2 – career low). His AFB (91.2) was 1.6 mph lower than 2015 (92.8) while being well off his career best (96.0) in 2008. The biggest part of his fade came against lefties (.252) with a poor strikeout to walk ratio (1.67). Hernandez had a low ERA (1.38) over five starts in April despite walking 18 batters over 32.2 innings. His arm was worthless over his next eight starts (4.88 ERA). He landed on the DL in June with a calf injury. Felix threw the ball well in August (4-1 with a 3.51 ERA), but he still had command issues (18 walks over 41 innings) while batters only hit .203 against him. He blew up in September (5.12 ERA and 1.579 WHIP). His changeup (.172 BAA) and curveball (.225 BAA) held value. His failure was tied to a much weaker sinker (.331 BAA and .616 SLG), but it wasn’t an edge in 2014 (.314 BAA) and 2015 (.308 BAA). He has long resume of success (154-109 with a 3.16 ERA), but the Fantasy world has trust issues with his upside in 2017. Hernandez has an ADP of 135 in early draft season in 15 team leagues. I expect a bounce back season with much better command.

Jennifer Nicholson

2. SP Drew Smyly

Smyly killed Fantasy owners in back-to-back seasons. In 2015, a left shoulder injury led to only 12 starts with a high level of success when he was on the mound (3.11 ERA). Last year he managed to make 30 starts, but he allowed over four runs or more in 13 starts (10 of his first 18 starts). His arm did flash upside in three of his first 13 outings when he struck out double batters. Drew was extremely tough to hit in April (.151 BAA) leading to his best success (2.60 ERA with 41 Ks in 34.2 innings). Smyly was a totally different pitcher over the next three months (7.18, 6.85, and 5.20 ERA and .336, .302, and .306 BAA). He trickled home with two boring months in August (3.82 ERA) and September (4.43 ERA) as well. Both his walk rate (2.5) and K rate (8.6) fell in line with his career resume with much of his failure tied to the long ball (32 HRs allowed – 1.6 per nine), which was his second straight year of concern (1.5 in 2015). His AFB (91.0) was in range with his previous two years (2014 – 90.9 and 2015 – 91.2). Drew had success with his curveball (.212 BAA) while batters crushed his cutter (.339 with .636 SLG) and weakness with his changeup (.281 with .781 SLG). Stud or dud is the question. Not far off if he can get the HRs under control, but I do sense that less life of his fastball in the zone and weakness with his cutter could be an underlying elbow issue. Viable swing if the spring reports are positive. The move to Seattle should lead to more wins and better matchups by avoiding Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore.

3. SP Hisashi Iwakuma

Iwakuma has a winning record in each of his five seasons in the big leagues leading to a 63-37 record with a 3.39 ERA. Just like Hernandez, he had a step back in his K rate (6.6). His walk rate (2.1) remains in a winning area while regressing from his last three years (1.7, 1.1, and 1.5). Hisashi struggled against RH (.276) and LH (.290) batters. Over the first three months of the season, Iwakuma had a 4.34 ERA with 17 HRs allowed over 101.2 innings. He threw the ball better in July and August (7-4 with 3.50 ERA) before fading again in September (4.64 ERA). Hisashi had a career high FB rate (37.8) while losing his ground ball ability (40.8 percent – 48.7 in 2013, 50.2 in 2014, and 50.4 in 2015). His AFB (88.6) was a career low with a decline in every season in the majors. Batters crushed his sinker (.349 BAA and .554 SLG) and curveball (.328 BAA) with fade on his cutter (.285 BAA) as well. His best pitch was his split-finger fastball (.198 BAA), but it lost value as well in 2016 (.249 BAA). Fading arm that needs a bounce back in his stuff. My gut tells me the winning ride is over with disaster on the horizon.

4. SP James Paxton

Paxton had a nice step forward in his walk rate (1.8) helped by growth in his first pitch strike rate (62.3). He also threw the most overall strikes (66.4) of his young career. Even with better command, he was easier to hit (.279 BAA) with failure against both righties (.278) and lefties (.284). James spent the first two months of the season at AAA (3.73 ERA with 53 Ks over 50.2 innings). In his first major league start in 2016, Paxton allowed three runs and 11 base runners over 3.2 innings. He flashed his high upside in his next two outings (1 run over 12.1 innings with 17 Ks), but James couldn’t hold his value over his next five starts (5.74 ERA and 1.68 WHIP). Over his last 10 starts of the season, he found his rhythm (3.19 ERA with 71 Ks over 67.2 innings). His AFB (96.9) was the best of his career, but batters still hit .308 against his four-seamer. Paxton had success with his cutter (.176 BAA) and curveball (.234 BAA). He tends to be ground ball pitcher (48.1) with a low fly ball rate (30.1). Over 50 starts in the majors, James has a 3.43 ERA. His growth in command points to a huge step forward in 2017 with better command of his fastball within the strike zone. Possible sub 3.00 ERA with 200+ Ks.

5. SP Yovani Gallardo

It's been four years since Gallardo has had winning value in the Fantasy market. His survived in 2014 (3.51 ERA) and 2015 (3.42 ERA) with less life on his pitches leading to a plummeting K rate (2014 – 6.8 and 2015 – 5.9). He’s never had an edge in command in his career (3.4 walks per 9). In 2016, he issued 4.7 walks per nine innings with a slight bounce back in Ks (6.5 per 9). His HR/9 rate (1.2) is fading as well. Yovani missed a couple of months early in the year due to a shoulder issue. His arm had no value in any month (April – 7.00 ERA, June – 4.41 ERA, July – 5.63, August – 5.46, and September – 4.43 ERA). His AFB (90.8) was the lowest of his career. Batters crushed his slider (.371 with seven HRs in 143 at bats). Surprisingly, Gallardo still got batters out with his four-seam fastball (.210). With a fading GB rate (43.2) and rising FB rate (36.7), this soft tosser has plenty of failure risk. Pure avoid even if he pitched better than expected out the gate.

6. SP Chris Heston

Heston was a key replacement pitcher for the Giants in 2015 (12-11 with a 3.95 ERA), but he failed to make the starting rotation last year. He struggled in four appearances out of the bullpen in April (10.80 ERA) leading to a trip back to the minors. His arm has no value at AAA (4.54 ERA) due to regression in his walk rate (3.5). Chris suffered an oblique in late June, which led to a couple of months of the DL. Over seven years in the minors, Heston has a 3.64 ERA with 707 Ks over 857.1 innings. Low upside arm with enough success in one season in the majors where he may emerge as the first replacement option for Seattle with a rebound in his command.

7. SP Ariel Miranda

Over seven seasons in Cuba, Miranda had a 3.78 ERA with 274 Ks over 396 innings. He walked 3.5 batters per nine innings with a short K rate (6.4). He threw the ball about the same over one and a half seasons in the minors (3.80 ERA) with a batter walk rate (3.0) and stronger K rate (8.3). Ariel threw the ball well over 12 games in the majors in 2016 (3.88 ERA) with a slight uptick in his command (2.8 walks per nine) with a decline in Ks (6.8 per nine). Miranda had success against righties (.200 BAA), but he allowed 11 HRs over 170 at bat. His lack of success against LH batters (.310) may limit his value in the starting rotation. His AVB (92.8) was just below league average. He had success with his changeup (.205 BA) and split-finger fastball (.169 BAA). Looks to be major league ready with limited upside in Ks.

CL Edwin Diaz

The Mariners decided to move Diaz from the starting rotation to the bullpen in 2016 at AA. His walk rate (1.5) was much improved with an electric K rate (12.0). Seattle called him up in early June where he hit the ground running (2.03 ERA with 23 Ks over 13.1 innings). He pitched even better in July (1.54 ERA with only two walks and 26 Ks over 11.2 innings) leading to him closing over the last two months of the season. Edwin didn’t pitch as well in the 9th (3.71 ERA with 39 Ks over 26.2 innings). He converted 18 of 21 save chances with success in his walk rate (2.6) and K rate (15.3). Lefties only hit .195 against him with some work to do vs. RH batters (.248). His AFB (97.7) is elite, but batters hit .292 against it. His slider (.141 BAA) has swing and miss ability. Over five years in the minors (71 starts), Diaz had a 3.15 ERA with 409 Ks over 386 innings. He’ll be very attractive in 2017. I expect 100+ Ks with 40+ saves. In the early drafts season, Edwin is the 8th closer off the board with an ADP of 88 in 15 team leagues. Solid value with impact upside.

© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

RP Steve Cishek

Over the first five weeks of the season, Cishek looked like a steal on draft day. He converted 11 of 12 save chances with a 0.98 ERA and 22 Ks over 18.1 innings. He struggled in three of his next five outings (six runs and 10 base runners over 6.1 innings). Steve rebounded to pitch well over his next 16 games (1.56 ERA over 17.1 innings with 23 Ks). He had five bad outings (eight runs and 14 base runners over 10 innings) in July and early August leading to a trip to the DL with a torn labrum in his left hip. The injury required surgery after the season. Cishek pitched well with the injury in September (no runs allowed over 12 innings with eight Ks). His arm had success against both RH (.169 BAA) and LH (.216) batters. His AFB (91.9) remains below his best season in 2010 (94.7). His slider (.128 BAA) offers the most upside. The recovery time from his surgery is four to six months, which may lead to him missing the start of the season. Closing experience, but there is no sheriff in town.

RP Tony Zych

Tony had a huge drop off in his walk rate (6.6 – 1.5 in 2015), which was due to a bum right shoulder. After three and half months of the DL, Zych made two appearance in late August (one run over 1.2 innings with two Ks) before tearing a biceps tendon that required surgery. Seattle expects him to be ready for spring training. His AFB (96.7) has plenty of life while featuring a plus slider (.139 BAA). Over six seasons in the minors, he has a 3.63 ERA with 207 Ks over 233 innings. Live arm, but he needs to throw strikes to improve his value in late innings.

References

Baseball America Prospect Handbook. (n.d.).

Baseball-Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.baseball-reference.com/

Brooksbaseball.net. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brooksbaseball.net/

Fangraphs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fangraphs.com/

Roster Resource. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rosterresource.com/mlb

Rotowire. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotowire.com/

RotoWorld. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotoworld.com/

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