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2016 Team Previews: Seattle Mariners

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Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's the Mariners.

Robinson Cano showed signs that he isn't done just yet. Could even more be in store for 2016?
Robinson Cano showed signs that he isn't done just yet. Could even more be in store for 2016?
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Seattle Mariners

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Franklin Gutierrez OF 189 15 27 35 0 0 7.40% 28.60% 0.292 0.354 0.62
Nelson Cruz OF 655 44 90 93 3 2 9.00% 25.00% 0.302 0.369 0.566
Robinson Cano 2B 674 21 82 79 2 6 6.40% 15.90% 0.287 0.334 0.446
Kyle Seager 3B 686 26 85 74 6 6 7.90% 14.30% 0.266 0.328 0.451
Seth Smith OF 452 12 54 42 0 0 10.40% 21.90% 0.248 0.33 0.443
Ketel Marte SS 247 2 25 17 8 4 9.70% 17.40% 0.283 0.351 0.402
Mark Trumbo 1B, OF 361 13 39 41 0 0 7.20% 25.80% 0.263 0.316 0.419
Brad Miller SS, OF, 2B* 497 11 44 46 13 4 9.50% 20.30% 0.258 0.329 0.402
Austin Jackson OF 448 8 46 38 15 9 5.40% 23.90% 0.272 0.312 0.387
Logan Morrison 1B 511 17 47 54 8 4 9.20% 15.90% 0.225 0.302 0.383
Jesus Montero 1B 116 5 11 19 0 0 3.40% 27.60% 0.223 0.25 0.411
Dustin Ackley OF 207 6 22 19 2 2 6.80% 18.40% 0.215 0.27 0.366
Mike Zunino C 386 11 28 28 0 1 5.40% 34.20% 0.174 0.23 0.3
Chris Taylor SS 102 0 9 1 3 2 5.90% 30.40% 0.17 0.22 0.223
Jesus Sucre C 142 1 9 7 0 0 4.20% 14.80% 0.157 0.195 0.228

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Franklin Gutierrez 0.34 23.70% 40.70% 35.60% 35.70% 11.40% 17.00% 43.20% 39.80% 0.74
Nelson Cruz 0.35 20.40% 45.70% 34.00% 30.30% 13.70% 15.90% 48.50% 35.60% 10.31
Robinson Cano 0.316 24.20% 50.50% 25.30% 15.90% 8.70% 16.50% 51.10% 32.40% 6.13
Kyle Seager 0.278 24.00% 35.20% 40.80% 12.10% 7.50% 12.50% 54.60% 32.90% 5.95
Seth Smith 0.298 19.70% 42.30% 38.00% 10.50% 10.30% 15.20% 49.00% 35.80% 0.52
Ketel Marte 0.341 21.50% 52.30% 26.20% 4.40% 7.80% 21.70% 56.10% 22.20% -0.29
Mark Trumbo 0.328 19.00% 42.10% 38.80% 13.80% 15.40% 18.60% 51.70% 29.80% 3.23
Brad Miller 0.307 20.20% 48.40% 31.40% 10.30% 11.20% 18.20% 51.60% 30.30% 2.43
Austin Jackson 0.348 23.30% 51.10% 25.60% 10.10% 8.70% 13.90% 57.00% 29.10% 3.68
Logan Morrison 0.238 16.30% 44.70% 39.00% 11.60% 8.60% 19.50% 49.90% 30.60% 1.26
Jesus Montero 0.267 20.00% 45.00% 35.00% 17.90% 16.90% 12.50% 47.50% 40.00% -2.53
Dustin Ackley 0.234 13.30% 45.30% 41.30% 9.70% 5.40% 16.90% 52.60% 30.50% -1.00
Mike Zunino 0.239 17.40% 32.60% 50.00% 10.10% 16.10% 16.20% 55.30% 28.50% -3.60
Chris Taylor 0.254 24.20% 32.30% 43.50% 0.00% 13.30% 18.50% 44.60% 36.90% #N/A
Jesus Sucre 0.181 16.20% 47.60% 36.20% 2.60% 5.30% 21.70% 58.30% 20.00% #N/A

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

Nelson Cruz continues to defy everyone (including me) that thinks he is overdue for a down year. Obviously, the power is real and shouldn't be doubted. I doubt he can maintain a 0.350 BABIP next year. The last time he had a BABIP this high was 2010, when he stole 17 bases. I see his average dropping to 0.260, but the power staying mostly the same with small drops in runs and RBI accompanying the drop in average.

Robinson Cano ended up with almost a typical year after starting slow. He had an all-star 2nd half, hitting 0.331 with 15 homers to make up for his poor first half. He looked healthy at the end of the year after dealing with some ailments throughout the season. He had surgery on a sports hernia in October. I think he has a good chance of being a solid top-5 second baseman next season, and possibly top 3. His value is down from two years ago, when he was the top second baseman, so he might come cheap and has the upside to challenge Altuve and Gordon for the top spot in overall value at the position. He needs to cut down on the grounders to reach his potential and tap into more of his power. His GB% in both halves was about 50%. He doesn't have the speed to make that work like Gordon does.

Kyle Seager continues to be one of the most consistent (and boring) players in baseball. He puts up almost exactly the same stats every year, e.g. 2014 batting line: 0.268/0.334/0.454, 2015 line: 0.266/0.328/0.451. Next season will almost certainly give you the same production and the same 25 HR he always provides. He is the definition of high floor, low ceiling.

Seth Smith is a platoon hitter that is just ok. He doesn't hurt you, but doesn't have upside either. He's a good fill-in or bench player in deep leagues because he is consistent, but I don't expect much improvement from him in 2016.

Brad Miller is now in Tampa (traded for Nate Karns, among other parts), where he will likely play multiple infield or outfield positions. He's still very young and could improve, but I don't think it will be a drastic change at this point. He is valuable as long as he has SS eligibility because he has double digit power and speed. Shortstop is so bad that he might be a solid top-10 option. He could hit 15 homers with 15 steals with full playing time. The batting average will likely be near 0.250.

Austin Jackson's days of fantasy relevance are over. End paragraph.

Ketel Marte and Chris Taylor are likely to battle for SS starts. I think Marte is the better of the two and will win the job. He has a good OBP and decent speed, so that automatically makes him a top-15 SS. The BABIP was a little high, but he's the type of speedy player that could maintain a good BABIP.

Mark Trumbo is now in Baltimore, where he should do much better. That park helps him with his one skill: hitting homers. This was a bad year for him, but he could return to 30+ homers in that park and division. The average will still be bad (I think 0.230-0.240), but he should have power.

Logan Morrison was sent to Tampa in the same deal as Miller and isn't really relevant. He is a #35-40 first baseman and no better. I will only briefly mention Franklin Gutierrez because I will discuss him more later. Short version: I don't think a breakout is coming for the 32-year-old, despite his great 2nd half.

There are two hitting prospects to monitor here. D.J. Peterson is a first base prospect (he plays third also, but Seager's got that locked down) that has above average hit and power tools, but not much else. He doesn't have exciting upside, but could turn into something like Seager over time. He should be called up at some point in 2016. The team lacks a first baseman right now with the loss of Trumbo and Morrison, so he could step right in and get lots of playing time. Outfielder Boog (BOOG!) Powell is an above-average prospect likely to debut in 2016 that came over in the big Miller/Karns trade. He doesn't have much upside, either, but he could hit for a decent average and has just a little speed. He takes walks and could end up as a #2 hitter in the lineup over time. Scouts give him a value of 45 overall, or just below average, but the reports sound a little more optimistic about his hitting, except for his power which is non-existent.

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Mark Lowe RP 36 1.00 1.88 2.51 1.17 0.357 88.90% 36.50% 14.80%
Charlie Furbush RP 21.2 2.08 3.73 3.9 0.65 0.125 75.80% 48.20% 10.30%
Carson Smith RP 70 2.31 2.12 2.36 1.01 0.292 78.50% 64.80% 12.50%
Tom Wilhelmsen RP 62 3.19 3.33 4.22 1.37 0.306 76.10% 42.10% 10.80%
Felix Hernandez SP 201.2 3.53 3.72 3.33 1.18 0.288 77.80% 56.20% 10.70%
Hisashi Iwakuma SP 129.2 3.54 3.74 3.27 1.06 0.271 75.60% 50.40% 10.60%
James Paxton SP 67 3.9 4.31 4.35 1.43 0.289 73.10% 48.30% 7.20%
Joe Beimel RP 47.1 3.99 5.48 5.25 1.37 0.275 74.80% 42.40% 7.20%
Vidal Nuno SP, RP 74.2 4.1 4.79 4.2 1.3 0.3 81.30% 41.90% 10.20%
Roenis Elias SP 115.1 4.14 4.52 4.39 1.3 0.28 73.90% 44.20% 9.90%
Taijuan Walker SP 169.2 4.56 4.07 3.82 1.2 0.291 67.80% 38.60% 10.00%
Mike Montgomery SP 90 4.6 4.67 4.44 1.43 0.29 71.40% 51.20% 8.50%
J.A. Happ SP 108.2 4.64 4.12 4.15 1.41 0.319 70.90% 42.10% 7.20%
Danny Farquhar RP 51 5.12 4.6 4.02 1.37 0.306 65.10% 38.50% 10.10%
Mayckol Guaipe RP 26.2 5.4 5.72 4.61 1.76 0.372 72.10% 48.80% 10.50%
Fernando Rodney RP 50.2 5.68 5.27 4.67 1.5 0.295 70.20% 50.00% 9.10%
David Rollins RP 25 7.56 4.21 4.19 1.8 0.405 60.80% 41.00% 11.30%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Mark Lowe 0 12 32.60% 7.60% 11.80% 57.70% 30.60% 1.60
Charlie Furbush 0 13 20.70% 6.10% 22.40% 46.60% 31.00% 0.13
Carson Smith 13 22 32.40% 7.80% 24.50% 55.80% 19.60% 4.22
Tom Wilhelmsen 13 7 22.50% 10.90% 18.90% 61.10% 20.00% 1.45
Felix Hernandez 0 0 23.10% 7.00% 18.30% 56.30% 25.40% 7.00
Hisashi Iwakuma 0 0 21.50% 4.10% 16.20% 57.70% 26.10% 4.08
James Paxton 0 0 18.90% 9.80% 18.40% 51.90% 29.70% -0.80
Joe Beimel 1 6 11.20% 8.20% 17.20% 54.80% 28.00% -1.17
Vidal Nuno 0 4 19.50% 5.40% 18.40% 49.20% 32.50% 0.11
Roenis Elias 0 1 19.80% 9.00% 18.50% 50.30% 31.20% 0.57
Taijuan Walker 0 0 22.20% 5.70% 16.80% 53.00% 30.20% 2.98
Michael Montgomery 0 0 16.20% 9.40% 14.20% 58.80% 27.00% #N/A
J.A. Happ 0 0 17.50% 6.80% 18.50% 51.40% 30.10% 3.76
Danny Farquhar 1 8 21.90% 7.80% 26.10% 46.40% 27.50% -1.63
Mayckol Guaipe 0 2 18.20% 10.70% 20.50% 48.20% 31.30% #N/A
Fernando Rodney 16 7 18.90% 11.00% 20.10% 55.80% 24.00% 1.64
David Rollins 0 1 17.80% 6.80% 21.80% 49.40% 28.70% #N/A

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma had almost identical pitching lines, despite different styles and different histories. For Felix, it was not a good year in terms of outcomes, but I believe better things are in store. His ground ball rate and swinging strike rate remained excellent. His K%-BB% was also well above average. These signs all point to an ERA in the low 3's next year, like he has done several times before. Iwakuma pitched basically like he always has. His 3.36 SIERA and 3.27 xFIP show that he actually pitched pretty well and he still has an elite walk rate, which always keeps the WHIP down. He's a free agent, so who knows where he will end up, but cross your fingers for another good pitcher's park like Seattle. Health is the only issue with him and he looked healthy at the end of the season. I'm buying on him next year, but I'm less excited if he goes to a team in a bad pitcher's environment.

Sadly, I wrote about a potential breakout for James Paxton this season, but it never happened. When he was healthy (we think) he didn't pitch as well as he did in 2014 and he missed most of the year. A finger injury derailed his season. I'm not buying him for 2016. I didn't see enough from him early in the year to invest in his (now) limited upside.

Taijuan Walker didn't look like a former top-10 prospect, but was close to average in xFIP. He is still very young and I would bet on improvement in 2016. I like the swinging strike rate, velocity, and WHIP, but everything else is pretty mediocre or bad. He has upside, but the downside is another 2015. I wouldn't invest too much.

For info on the incoming Nate Karns, see the Rays team preview coming in mid-December. The rest of the rotation doesn't have anyone worth mentioning.

Over in the bullpen, Carson Smith did very well as the closer for this team. He did everything you could ask of a closer and put up Kimbrel-like FIP, xFIP, K%, and WHIP values. On top of that he had an excellent 64% GB% and a 12.5% swinging strike rate. Despite that stellar performance, the Mariners never fully trusted him and he was used often as just a lowly setup man. Going into the 2015 offseason, it looked like he might get the closer job to himself, but then the Mariners acquired Joaquin Benoit and named him the closer. Booo. Smith is better than Benoit and should be the closer. If Smith were guaranteed the job, I would have no problem pegging him as a top-10 closer in the company of David Robertson and Hector Rondon. Benoit was covered with the Padres over a week ago. There isn't a good reason to cover any other relievers here.

Edwin Diaz is the Mariners second best pitching prospect and the best one with a chance to debut in 2016. He doesn't have great upside, but he has a mid-90s fastball and average control with an above average slider. That's enough to make him worth mentioning, but that's about it. He projects to be an average starter and likely won't debut until September or 2017.

Breakout

Ketel Marte

I wanted to put King Felix or Cano in here since I think they will have big bounceback years, but I'm guessing I couldn't get away with calling them "breakout" players since they are, you know, old and stuff. So, I'm going out a limb here and picking the speedy guy with good plate discipline. Shortstop is top-heavy but then tails off quickly, so he could be a sneaky good option late in drafts, assuming he wins the starting SS job outright. Steals are the new scarce resource in fantasy and SS is a great position to go after speed.

Breakdown

Franklin Gutierrez

The dude had 15 homers in just 189 PA last year, which is ridiculous. He is also 32 years old, hit 18 and 12 HR, respectively, in his last two full seasons of at bats (2009 and 2010), and relied heavily on both a 0.340 BABIP and an ginormous 35.7% HR/FB% (average is around 10). He did hit the ball hard with his LD% and hard hit % both above average, but to expect a 32-year-old hitter to suddenly find a power boom and maintain it over more than just a tiny sample of part-time at-bats is too much for me.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!