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March 19, 2014 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

2014 Fantasy Baseball Top Five Questions: Seattle Mariners

2014 Fantasy Baseball Top Five Questions: Seattle Mariners
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The biggest issue facing the Mariners is the sheer incompetence of their front office. Jack Zduriencik came in with high hopes, especially among the more statistically-inclined fans, but he has bitterly disappointed even his most ardent supporters. Now the team is in such dire straits that it has to play Dustin Ackley in the outfield and has a rotation that will include Scott Baker.

The coup-de-grace in the death of his tenure will be the acquisition of Fernando Rodney. The sheer blindness that makes one see that Danny Farquhar must cede the most important bullpen role to Rodney the Retread boggles the mind. It is not just that they think Rodney would be a good closer; it is that they used his money instead of trying to get a major league OF or starter. Fans of the team have to hope that they do not make an unexpected run at a division title or the Wild Card; such a development might set the team back even further as they trade Taijuan Walker to get Mark Teixeira to replace Justin Smoak.

5. Dustin Ackley in the outfield? Really? As of right now Ackley is the starting left fielder in a development that should make fantasy owners and Mariners’ fans retch. He is already 26 years old, has never been worth more than $6 in a 5×5 and now moves to a position where he is well below replacement level. His debut in 2011 is another Brett Lawrie-like example of a prospect coming up and looking like a major league hitter based on an inflated BABIP. At least he still qualifies at 2B and though his record shows no reason for optimism there is at least blind hope at that position.

4. Can Fernando Rodney rebound? As much as it pains me to see Danny Farquhar and his top-ten reliever potential shuttled to the set up role, Rodney may end up as a value play, or so goes the theory. There is nothing worse than the slaying of a beautiful theory with an ugly fact and the facts here are ugly indeed. Yes, there are people out there surprised at the regression in his control. Why, you ask? Damned if I know; it should have been as obvious as any fact in fantasy. His 2012 season was as unexpected and unrepeatable as any reliever season in recent memory. The fact that a guy who routinely walks over 5 per nine could not repeat a walk rate below two should surprise only the hardest heads. Draft him on the hope that you will get somewhere between 2012 and 2013 and you will be disappointed.

3. Is Robinson Cano set for a big decline? Which answer do you prefer: “yes” or “hell yes?” It doesn’t matter who you are, the transition from Coors Field East to Seattle is going to wreak havoc on your batting stats. Whether you buy into stats or scouting narratives such as lineup protection and team circumstance, almost every single arrow in Cano’s situation is pointing downward. Cano is 31 years old and has amassed a ridiculous number of at-bats that have him positioned to challenge the 3,000 hit barrier. That is a roulette wheel at 2B where player are often injured. His HR/FB dipped by 7% in Yankee Stadium last year and the last three years presented his three highest HR/FB rates. He does not hit enough fly balls to be a legitimate 30 HR hitter. The BA should be sound but he might hit fewer than 20 HR and is not a legitimate first-round or early second-round pick with all of the negatives. Draft him as such at your own risk.

2. How good is Hisashi Iwakuma? For almost a full season Iwakuma was the best fantasy pitcher in baseball and rates to be an ace at a number two starter price, but he comes into 2014 with a finger injury that is serious enough to keep him out until late April. He has significantly outperformed his expected stats for two years running, and if you think it is a guarantee that he does it again because of track record, go take a look at Matt Cain. He is already 33 years old, so it is very likely that 2013 was a peak. Iwakuma is an excellent pitcher to be sure, but like Cano almost every arrow is pointing in the wrong direction and to defeat fantasy gravity for a third year at age 33 is no small feat.

1. Is this the year Felix Hernandez finally breaks down? There is no reason to expect that this is the year and Hernandez is probably the most skilled pitcher in the major leagues, including Clayton Kershaw. Yet, there is that kernel of doubt gnawing away. As good as Hernandez is, for fantasy purposes he has not been worth $30 since 2010 when he was worth exactly $30 and the last three years have been worth $17, $26 and $21 in 5×5 leagues. That is not an ace, folks. Who are the most similar pitchers to him through age 27? Hop on over to BaseballReference.com and we see a slew of guys with arm trouble as they aged: Frank Tanana, Ken Holtzman, Brett Saberhagen, Fernando Valenzuela and Larry Dierker, but the list also features Greg Maddux and Don Sutton. We are not predicting a break down, but this is an article about fantasy questions and injury is a clear potentiality; it will happen at some point. Until then do you want to draft a $25 pitcher at best as a $30 ace? I hope not.

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