You know, it's fun in the baseball smart-guy community to say the Mariners are bad. A .464 winning percentage, no playoff appearances since 2001, only two winning seasons since 2003? This is a team that decided in the offseason that it somehow made sense to sign Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay and trade for Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse and still have Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero and...I feel like Pete Incaviglia belongs there somewhere? I dunno.
Anyway, it's true that the Mariners are pretty awful. The fact that Jack Zduriencik couldn't find any takers for the people on his team with any sort of value at the trading deadline is mystifying, and Tom Wilhelmsen and Humberto Quintero and Aaron Harang are pretty awful punch lines at this point.
All that said, have you seen what the Mariners have done lately, at least in fantasy value? In the last 30 days, according to ESPN's Player Rater, Kendrys Morales ranks seventh. Kyle Seager is 29th. Felix Hernandez is 34th. Justin Smoak - he of the perpetual disappointment, and who I noted not long ago might be turning it around - and Brad Miller and Hisashi Iwakuma all show well on the list also.
Plus...Michael Saunders. In the last 30 days, Saunders ranks 22nd on the Player Rater. His full season numbers aren't great, owing to a .187/.282/.297 slash line in May and a .227/.312/.258 in June. Coming off a 109 OPS+ in 2012, Saunders sits at 106 this year. No, he's not a superstar - though at only 26, the next couple years could theoretically change that - but he's a perfectly serviceable third or fourth outfielder on your fantasy team.
That 109-106 wholly respectable run in OPS+ the last two years comes on the heels of a pitiful run in his first three years, with OPS+'s (I have no idea how to pluralize OPS+, so please tell me in the comments if there is an accepted way to do this, as I tried five different ways before settling on that and am now stressed) of 45, 86, and 23, in 2009, 2010, and 2011 respectively. Between mechanical adjustments and natural maturation, Saunders' line-drive percentage has risen from mid-teens to 20-ish the last two years, with a correlated reduced fly-ball percentage. Also, his 2013 walk rate of 11.5% is a career high and that, combined with a career low O-Swing percentage (swings at pitches outside the strike zone) shows a player whose plate discipline has improved dramatically.
Despite his improvement, Saunders' batting average still sits at only .232, and even his OBP is only .319. Like I said, he's no superstar. But if you're in a deep league, if you're punting batting average, if you have a fondness for Canadian ballplayers, Saunders is worth a look, especially considering he's only 21% owned in Yahoo.
The Mariners are pretty terrible, as a team. But danged if there aren't some helpful players on the roster. Don't let a bad team color your impressions of the not-bad players on it.
Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley
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