Felix Hernandez didn't live up to somewhat unreasonable expectations last year, but should be better in his second season.
John W. McDonough/SI
Projected Lineup (2006 stats)
Projected Rotation (2006 stats)
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The arrival of three veteran starting pitchers plus a couple of former Nationals regulars will have things in the Pacific Northwest looking a bit brighter than the previous three years and the Mariners' corresponding last-place finishes.
In six major league seasons, Ichiro Suzuki has averaged 225 hits, 10 home runs, 60 RBIs and 40 steals and was at or around each of those numbers last season. A switch to center field should have minimal effect on his fantasy value, but his possible impending free agency and feeding frenzy that could be created should the Mariners fall out of contention, both in the standings and to re-sign Ichiro, might be. It's a gamble well worth taking.
The Next Big Thing
Felix Hernandez, take two. King Felix was supposed to take the AL by storm last year, but something funny happened along the way to the AL Rookie and Cy Young Awards -- he didn't pitch too well. It's not like he was bad, but for all of the expectations, he had a pretty pedestrian first full year, with an ERA over 4.50 and more hits allowed than innings pitched. The experts can't all be wrong, can they? Give him one more chance.
Mike Hargrove has had his fair share of "interesting" players over the years, ranging from Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle with the Indians, to Sidney Ponson with the Orioles, so he should be up to the task of managing rightfielder Jose Guillen, who has scraped together a major league career and always seems just one step away from melting down as he did in Anaheim. Add his season-ending elbow injury from last season, Safeco Field's reputation as a pitcher's park and .216 average prior to the injury, and you have to think twice before investing too much.
Do You Feel Lucky?
For the first time in his career, Jose Vidro finds himself in the American League but without a position to play. However, the three-time All-Star and career .301 hitter is well suited for the Mariners attack, and as the team's primary DH, injury problems that have haunted him for the last three seasons should be kept to a minimum. A .300-10 HR-75 RBI season with second base eligibility isn't asking for too much.
Steals Come From...
The Mariners run, finishing fifth in the AL with 106 steals last year. Ichiro is the prime contributor, although Yuniesky Betancourt and Adrian Beltre also chip in their fair share. Don't overlook underrated utility man Willie Bloomquist, who stole 16 bases last year while serving as a universal lineup patch, especially in AL-only fantasy leagues.
If Something Should Happen To J.J. Putz
Putz was the answer to this spot last year when Everyday Eddie Guardado held the job. As a closer, the M's finally put his power arm to good use, watching Putz rack up 104 strikeouts while walking just 13 in 78 1/3 innings en route to 36 saves. A $13 million, three-year contract should mean that only an injury would necessitate a closer change. With perennial closer-in-waiting Rafael Soriano now with the Braves, the job would go to lefty George Sherrill, who isn't worth drafting, even to tether to Putz.
You Need Them Too
Miguel Batista, Raul Ibanez, Kenji Johjima, Jose Lopez, Jarrod Washburn
Better Left As Someone Else's Problem
Ben Broussard, Horacio Ramirez, Chris Reitsma, Jeremy Reed, Jeff Weaver