Seattle Mariners 2019 Fantasy Projections – A Momentary Pause in the Mariner's Master Plan?
Most baseball fans might assume that falling one-win shy of 90 victories in a season should prove to be more successful than 14 games back in your division and eight games off the pace for the final wildcard berth. Well, as anomalous as it might seem, that is exactly what the Seattle Mariners did last season.
What might be even more baffling is the thought that a majority of projections have them losing close to that number in 2019. Seattle unloaded two prime contributors, and with them went their salaries. They traded away an arm who many felt was their best pitcher. Seattle seems to have chosen to rebuild, but it could only be described as a rebuild fast objective.
Seattle Mariners 2018 Recap
Despite being a full eight games behind the second place team in their own division, Seattle fans would have certainly deemed 2018 a success. Seems it wasn't good enough for the Mariner's management.
After missing half the 2018 season on suspension, Seattle parted ways with long-time second baseman Robinson Cano. The Yankees offered an appealing deal for James Paxton, so Seattle's best pitcher is gone.
Jean Segura heads for the City of Brotherly Love to play shortstop for the Phillies. Mike Zunino, as a power bat at the catcher spot, isn't going to happen in Seattle either. In spite of winning nearly 90 games, Mariner management has decided to put 2018 behind them as an anomaly and look directly towards the future.
2019 Fantasy Pitchers Projections – The Best Mariner Arms
The Mariners shifted around a lot of money, and in doing so seemed to deplete the one aspect of their team that could ill-afford to be depleted, pitching. James Paxton is now in Yankee pinstripes. With Paxton now out east, the reigns as the club's number one starter have been handed back to Felix Hernandez.
The problem with that strategy is that King Felix hasn't posted anything like ace numbers for nearly two years now. His ERA has been climbing for four consecutive years, and it peaked at a disturbing rate of 5½-runs per nine innings in 2018. Once a 200 strikeout per season guarantee, he only fanned 203 over the last two campaigns.
The bottom three spots in the Mariner rotation are all back from last year, but collectively, Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc went 32-24. Not so bad, but they frequently benefited from timely hitting from a trio of bats that are no longer wearing a Mariner uniform.
Seattle will have a very interesting prospect at the second spot in their rotation. 27-year old rookie Yusei Kikuchifrom Japan will attempt to fill Paxton's spot. He brings an upper-90mph fastball to the Mariner's staff, but is an unproven commodity for fantasy purposes, outside of dynasty formats.
Felix Hernandez SP – Fernandez resumes the top slot in the Mariner's rotation, but he must rediscover his dominance to once again become fantasy relevant. At this point, King Felix is a flier at best, but keep an eye on a possible bounce-back season.
Yusei Kikuchi SP – Another experiment from the Far East, Kikuchi has incredible talent. He is, as all Japanese pitchers who transfer to the major leagues, without any experience against the best hitters in the world. If he looks good early on, he becomes a viable addition to a fantasy staff, especially in dynasty formats.
2019 Fantasy Hitter Projections – The Best Bats on the Mariners
Seattle's 89 wins wasn't the only anomaly of their 2018 season. They posted the eighth best team batting average in baseball, but fell nearer to the bottom than the top in run production. They were equally deficient in hitting home runs.
The most telling stat was a 23rd rank for driving in runs. The Mariners had base runners; they just had trouble pushing them across the dish. Middle infielders Robinson Cano and Jean Segura are no longer in Seattle.
Cano was moved, in part because of an 80 hiatus due to a PED bust, and Segura entirely due to an expensive contract. They actually had hoped to unload the corner of their infield as well, but there weren't any takers for 3B Kyle Seager.
Nelson Cruz left for greener pastures, and a greener contract, so input Edwin Encarnacion as the cleanup DH for the same reasons. Seager will be projected to bat third ahead of Encarnacion, giving his fantasy value a boost. In front of Seager will be Mitch Haniger.
Haniger is the one Seattle thoroughbred who has yet to live up to expectations. The injury bug has bitten him recently, so he gets somewhat of a pass on poor production. Be aware this is a five-tool player, who is two-years removed from being one of the New York Yankees prized prospects.
Beyond the fourth spot in the order, the Mariners have a lineup full of questions. Jay Bruce is the consummate MLB hitter, but he is often a hit-or-miss. Ryon Healy will follow Bruce, and while he is an intriguing option, Healy plays at a loaded first base position for fantasy purposes.
Kyle Seager 3B - Seager now becomes the RBI go-to-guy in the Mariners order. A lot will depend on how fast Mallex Smith develops as a leadoff hitter, if he even does. Mitch Haniger will be the swingman between these two spots in the order.
Having Cruz behind him helped Seager last season, and Encarnacion should do much the same thing. Seager is going to probably lace up his spikes for at least 150 games, so he is dependable.
A problem to consider is the 25-plus point drop in his batting average last season. His walk rate has dropped, but his strikeout tendency has remained steady. Seager is fairly consistent source of long balls, good for a couple dozen homers.
However, keep in mind he topped out in 2016 with his career high of 30. Seager may be the most reliable fantasy source on Seattle, but he isn't even a top-tier third baseman.
Edwin Encarnacion DH – Ryon Healy is going to play first base on most days, but Encarnacion may put on his glove enough to earn 1B eligibility. If not, being only a DH seriously limits his fantasy flexibility.
Encarnacion will enter his 15th season, and is a proven producer in fantasy baseball. His lowest home run total since 2012 is 34, and that was the only year he failed to top 100 RBIs.
Until the last three seasons, he didn't strikeout as often as many prolific power hitters. Even with a DH –only restriction, he is fantasy worthy for yet another season.
Fantasy Rank for the Seattle Mariners
Unless Felix Hernandez finds his once dominant stuff, he has been both hittable and vulnerable the last couple of seasons. The bottom third of the Mariners rotation is going to hold their own, but they are not must-own commodities.
As a dynasty flier, Yusei Kikuchi is almost a must draft, wait-and-see arm, too good to pass up. Seattle's run production is going to depend on how their rearranged order produces. Two players in the middle are draft worthy, but the others should consider that same wait-and-see philosophy.
The Bottom Line for the Mariners
Seattle actually surprised a number of prognosticators by hanging tough until the last week of the season. Their third place finish in the AL West was one spot ahead of projections. However, the moved three prime players out of Seattle, and 2019 estimates have them anywhere from fourth in the division to as low as last.
A lot depends on King Felix and his new Japanese complement on the staff. The Mariners will probably score runs at a slightly above average pace, but the question will be if they score enough. With a host of young talent now in the Seattle farm system; look for 2019 to be a momentary pause in the Mariner's master plan to rebuild with youth.