There are huge question marks surrounding almost every position for the Mariners in an absolutely loaded division. They brought in no one through free agency and are hoping for huge jumps in production that will very likely not come. There is a whole lot of mid-tier talent on this roster as they have about 12 guys that are being drafted after the 250th pick in drafts. From a fantasy perspective and real-life perspective, you’ve got real issues when the first guy being drafted from your team is Mallex Smith when he put up 0.0 fWAR and had a 74 wRC+ last year. There is really no one on the roster that is a sure bet to be highly productive this year. The one bright spot is rookie 1B Evan White, who has lived up to minor league expectations and could be the next Rhys Hoskins, but with better defense. There is a litter of players that could, in essence, outperform their projections such as Shed Long, Dan Vogelbach, Austin Nola, Justus Sheffield, and Matt Magill, but all of whom are being drafted very late in deep mixed leagues. Keep an eye out for them, as I won’t be highlighting them in this article. There are really only 6 guys that meet the cut of being drafted in the top 350 picks (even though I am a fan of Sheffield). As always, here is an analysis of what to expect this year and where they are being drafted.
Kyle Seager (ADP 272): Most people probably would have slapped Seager with the “MVP” label on this team as he is far and away the most established player on this roster and I wouldn’t have argued with them. The soon to be 33-year old is vying for his 9th consecutive 20-HR season and will be one of the few “forces” in this lineup. I actually love his ADP given how deep 3B is this year and he will be as consistent as they come throughout the year from a production standpoint. Seager is still a solid hitter with his low(ish) K-rate, solid BB-rate, above-average power, and good hard contact rates. There is nothing screaming regression at the moment so take advantage of the final few years of a very productive career. Seager isn’t overtly flashy, but you have come to know what to expect from his year in and year out.
ZiPS Projections: .250/.318/.446 with 22 HR/76 RBI/61 R with a .321 wOBA
Marco Gonzales (308): Since he was a Cardinals prospect, I have always been fascinated with Gonzales especially with his plus changeup, but last year he took a step back in terms of his peripherals. He ended the year with a 5.1 xFIP, only posted 2 more strikeouts from the previous year but pitched 40 more innings, and gave up a lot of contact. There are a few positives as he did throw over 200 innings and won 16 games and solidified himself as the SP1 in Seattle. However, his strikeout rate was just so low, doesn’t get groundballs at a profound rate, and doesn’t throw hard enough where he can elevate himself into a true top of the rotation starter. His launch angle was borderline catastrophic last season at 14.6 degrees where I don’t expect to see an improvement in his contact rate numbers. At this point in the draft, you can take a chance on pitchers with much higher upside like Dylan Cease, Michael Pineda, or Spencer Howard. Gonzales is definitely on my DND list.
ZiPS Projections: 171 IP/13 wins/4.26 ERA/4.31 FIP with a 6.96 K/9 and a 2.37 BB/9
Mitch Haniger (ADP 328): At this point in the draft, we are continuously looking for value and high-risk/high-reward players, and Haniger certainly falls into that category this season. After suffering a groin injury last season, and getting a second surgery in January on his back, there is no time-table for his return at the moment. He may not play at all this year, as he could suffer a setback or he could only be a shell of his former self. There is always a risk when a player is coming back from injury, but if he does come back, and is fully healthy, Haniger will provide you with fantastic value. If he was healthy, he would be an easy top 175 pick as he had a 137 wRC+ during the 2018 season. Even though he had an injury-shortened season last year, I am not to believe that 2018 was a fluke as all of his peripherals were pretty consistent with the year prior and he posted an unlucky .255 BABIP which deflated some his overall production. At the moment Haniger is working out on his own but has not been cleared to resume baseball activity yet. This makes sense given he isn’t under the careful watch of the team on a full-time basis because of the pandemic, but I expect Haniger to possibly be ready for the start of the year. He could potentially turn out to be the best value pick on your team this season.
ZiPS Projections: .253/.341/.472 with 22 HR/66 RBI/66 R with a .341 wOBA
Evan White (338): White is currently ranked as the 56th best prospect in baseball, according to mlb.com. He is an advanced player on both sides of the ball and was rewarded with a 6-year/$24 million contract before even stepping foot in the big leagues. The power will come with White, but he has an excellent approach and gets a lot of hard contact driving the ball to all parts of the field. Even though he is an unknown in terms of major league production, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the Mariners’ most productive hitter this season. Clearly, in a rebuilding mode, the Mariners will lean on White to be a staple in the middle of their lineup this season. Especially with Haniger’s return in question, he will see more on-base opportunities than anyone else on this team. There will certainly be some growing pains but get on board the White bandwagon, as he will be a fantasy baseball household name sooner rather than later.
ZiPS Projections: .227/.275/.376 with 15 HR/51 RBI/51 R and a .276 wOBA
Mallex Smith (ADP 174): I get it, stolen bases are valuable, but not this valuable. Mallex Smith is one of the worst hitters in the league, with his aforementioned 74 wRC+ and .278 wOBA. I cannot convey how big of a travesty it is that he is taking this high. Sure, his BABIP took a dip last season, back to the mean of .300, and given his speed, it very well might creep up. However, speed isn’t the only thing that is an indicator of a higher than average BABIP as contact rates are just as important as a correlator. Smith has a criminally low 26% HH rate as well and owns one of the league-worst barreled ball rates. For goodness sake, he only had 35 XBH last season. Again, I get it, stolen base production is valuable especially at the rates he is putting up, but not at the sake of every other statistical category. Have a little respect for yourself and do not draft him this high.
ZiPS Projections: .251/.319/.364 with 6 HR/40 RBI/70 R/48 SB and a .297 wOBA
Tom Murphy (ADP 264): After I do the team preview series, there is a pretty good chance that Murphy will rank last on all of the “MVP’s” that I have anointed for each team. I am pretty sure that no one before reading this was thinking that he will probably be their most complete and productive hitter this season, especially with Mitch Haniger’s return in question, but that is how it is shaping up to be. I love Murphy’s value here in the early-late rounds of the draft. With Omar Narvaez now in Milwaukee, Murphy is very likely to get 400-plus plate appearances. He had 18 HR and a .355 wOBA in just 280 PA’s last season and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him hit 25-plus dingers this year. There are a lot of things to not love about Murphy including his high K-rate (30-plus %), sub .300 xwOBA, and unsustainable BABIP, but he has a lot of power, had a solid 11.1 barreled rate from last year, and will see a huge increase in playing time. I may be going out on a limb here giving him this label, but this team is depleted of any high-upside talent that is sure bets. Full disclosure: ZiPS is much more conservative on Murphy’s production and is only projecting 300 PAs.
ZiPS Projections: .220/.271/.422 with 13 HR/38 RBI/32 R and a .291 wOBA
Justin has been a DFS pro for 5 years now, focusing primarily on NHL and MLB. He has won numerous tournaments on Draft Kings and FanDuel and has made it to multiple live finals for hockey. Prior to becoming a DFS pro, he was an associate scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.