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2012 Fantasy Baseball Real Teams Preview: Seattle Mariners

Mar 19, 2012; Peoria, AZ, USA;  Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) at bat during the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Peoria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
Mar 19, 2012; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) at bat during the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Peoria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Our team-by-team preview of the 2012 MLB season from a fantasy perspective continues today with the Seattle Mariners. If you've just jumped on with our series or need a reminder, we are spending a day with each major league team, looking at 9 different fantasy angles for each franchise while also paying homage to the things we watch for as real life fans. The hope is that through this exercise we might all come to a greater understanding of the various environments that contain the players we spend so much time obsessing over. Fantasy baseball would be a lot easier if these guys played in a vacuum, but since they don't, it's a good idea to learn as much as we can about the circumstances that affect their play.

Make sure you check out Kenneth Arthur's spotlight on various Mariners players, scheduled to post later today. Our series will conclude tomorrow with the Texas Rangers.

2011 in Review & 2012 Outlook

On the morning of July 6, 2011, the Seattle Mariners, having beaten Oakland 4-2 in 10 innings the night before, sported a 43-43 record, just 1.5 games out of first place. After a disastrous 2010 that started with the infamous #6org article and ended with Jack Zduriencik making apologetic commercials, everybody had expected the M's to be terrible in 2011. On July 6, it looked like everybody might be wrong. What happened next was perhaps the most Seattle thing that could have happened: they lost 17 games in a row, a franchise record. The streak was so long that when you visit the team's Baseball-Reference page, a scroll button appears at the bottom of the screen because the "streak" box has to be expanded to accommodate all of those minus signs. Hey, at least this happened to them in July - plenty of teams collapse in August after they've already traded away the farm to make a late season run.

Even before the losing streak, however, there were warning signs. The Mariners offense was the worst in baseball by almost every measure, and that was the case all season long. To counter that, Jack Z traded Michael Pineda to the Yankees for highly regarded prospect Jesus Montero. Pineda was a revelation for the M's in 2011, but Montero fills a team need. The Mariners are hoping his presence in the middle of the lineup will be enough to get the team over the 600 run threshold.

Home Ballpark

Safeco Field has a well-deserved reputation as a pitcher's park, thanks to humidity and a deep left center field. Well-hit balls do stand a chance in the shallow corners, however, and the park actually gave up an above-average number of round-trippers last season while still playing as a stingy run environment overall.

Manager & Coaching Staff

Trying to figure out Eric Wedge is an exercise in futility. The man used 152 different lineups last season, which is certifiably insane. Somebody get Mark Grace on the phone.

Expected Position Battles

Chone Figgins has already been named as the third base starter for this morning's Opening Game (which hasn't started as of this writing, but will have by the time you read this, though it won't have been shown on national TV yet. Clear as mud?), but Kyle Seager could very well end up as the regular. There are two main reasons for this: (1) He's 10 years younger, and (2) He's not Chone Figgins. Figgins is a big fat no for fantasy, and Seager probably isn't good for much more than an empty batting average.

Projected Lineup & Rotation

Chone Figgins - 3B

Dustin Ackley - 2B

Ichiro - RF

Justin Smoak - 1B

Jesus Montero - DH

Mike Carp - LF

Miguel Olivo - C

Michael Saunders - CF

Brendan Ryan - SS

Wedge isn't going to stick with any particular lineup for long, so I simply posted this morning's iteration. I really thought he might be trolling us when he announced that Figgins (2011 OBP: .243) would be the leadoff hitter, but I guess it's really happening. Ichiro reportedly has a wider stance this season and he's hitting third, so the ludicrous "Ichiro could totes hit 30 homers if he wanted to" argument will finally be put to the test.

Felix Hernandez | Jason Vargas | Blake Beavan | Hector Noesi | Kevin Millwood

Do you think the Mariners will miss Michael Pineda?

Bullpen Situation

Brandon League is a serviceable closer, but you'd like your fantasy stopper to be better at missing bats, and then there's the issue of save opportunities. Setup men Shawn Kelley and Tom Wilhelmsen are mildly interesting as three category contributors, and Hisashi Iwakuma could provide plenty of quality innings as well.

Potential Fantasy Sleepers

My definition of sleeper and yours may vary. I use the term to refer to a player who may be undervalued, no matter his current or expected draft position.

Our own Ray Guilfoyle likes Justin Smoak as a post-hype sleeper, and I wholeheartedly agree. He projects him for a .283-23-83 season, while Zeile Consensus Projections have him at .245-17-63. I'm inclined to agree with Ray, since the consensus represents only a mild upgrade over Smoak's actual numbers (.234-15-55) in 2011, when he played through injury and had to deal with the death of his father. Ray's projection would rank roughly in the top 10 or 12 first basemen in the league. Smoak is currently being drafted 21st.

Spring Storylines to Watch

Spring is over for the Mariners. Turn on the game.

Follow the Team

Official: Site | Twitter beat reporter: Greg Johns (Blog | Twitter)

Seattle Times beat reporter: Geoff Baker (Blog | Twitter)

News Tribune beat reporter: Larry LaRue (Blog | Twitter) beat reporter: Shannon Drayer (Blog | Twitter)

SBN: Lookout Landing (Blog | Twitter)

Notable: U.S.S. Mariner (Blog | Twitter)

Know of any other sites or Twitter accounts that deserve a mention? Let me know in the comments.