It didn't take the Mariners long to change course after their worst season since 1983. In addition to hiring manager Mike Hargrove, Seattle signed a big pair of corner men in Richie Sexson and 2004 major-league home run champ Adrian Beltre to drive in all-time single-season hits leader Ichiro Suzuki. Add in a strong pen and a good rotation and all the elements are present to bring the Mariners up from the depths.
Worth Every Penny
Even with the addition of Beltre, how can it be anyone but Ichiro? The hit machine had 262 safeties last season, beating George Sisler's old mark set in 1920 by five. Watching him play, you get the impression he can do absolutely anything on the baseball field that he wants. You often hear scouts talking about how they believe that Ichiro could hit 40 home runs if he put his mind to it. One of these days I'd like to see him try, and I have no doubt he'd succeed.
About To Blossom
Lefty starter Bobby Madritsch has had a tough career to this point, with injuries, releases, time in the independent leagues and a major comeback. But the 29-year-old persevered and he pitched well when he was finally given the chance in the majors last season. A fierce competitor, Madritsch has the pitching skill and stuff (a 95-mph fastball) to succeed on the big-league level, especially in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. He's a terrific $1-2 pitcher for the end of your draft.
Jamie Moyer's amazing late-career run finally hit the wall last season. One year removed from being the oldest first-time 20-game winner, Moyer had a hard time getting people out. He's 42 and it's not likely he'll recapture the magic of recent years. Let someone else worry about him.
Do You Feel Lucky?
Pokey Reese was supposed to enter the season as the Seattle's starting shortstop, but Jose Lopez's hot spring, coupled with Reese's prolonged slump, clouded the position. Lopez, a five-tool player and one of the Mariners' top prospects, was adequate in his audition for the regular spot at the end of last season and was surprised when Reese was signed and named the starter. But instead of pouting, he worked hard, and even if he starts the year in the minors, he'll likely be the starter for most of the year and a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.
Look no further than rookie center fielder Jeremy Reed, who averaged 37 steals over the last two seasons. He's going to play a lot and will be put in motion often. Ichiro, Reese, Lopez and Randy Winn also have big-steal potential.
If Something Should Happen To Eddie Guardado
We're going to know early in the season since Guardado could miss the first few games with a bad hamstring. The leader in the race is hard-throwing righthander J.J. Putz, who saved nine games at the end of the year last season. Another intriguing option is Rafael Soriano, who should return from elbow rehab sometime around the All-Star break.
Don't Forget About
Joel Piņiero, Gil Meche, Bret Boone, Raul Ibaņez
Don't Bother With
Moyer, Aaron Sele, Scott Spiezio, Dan Wilson
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).