If you run a report on our trusty Leaderboard section for the Seattle Mariners outfield, you’d think something has gone wrong with our database. Indeed, ranking the qualified outfielders for the 2013 Mariners outfield yields zero results. This is largely due to the front office investing in horrible outfielders or because the majority of their outfielders rotated on the trainers table like they got free Skittles for doing so. Or I suppose lastly, because they needed to convert a former first round second baseman to the outfield. Sigh.
Jason Bay and Michael Morse were disasters without mitigation. Franklin Gutierrez and Raul Ibanez demonstrated the delicateness of deals with Devil. Michael Saunders received the most playing time in the outfield but his shoulder and legs bothered him most of the season, which limited his production and certainly his fantasy usefulness. So as to get healthy and solidify their outfield, the Mariners signed Corey Hart who missed all of 2013, traded for Logan Morrison who has been hampered by knee injuries for pretty much his professional career, and they re-signed, ahem, Franklin Gutierrez who can probably pull a tendon by accidental telekinesis.
The outfield will feature some kind of creative mix of Hart, Morrison, Gutierrez, and Saunders along with the likes of Abraham Almonte, Dustin Ackley, and probably Willie Bloomquist. And don’t rub your eyes too hard if you happen to see them trot Nick Franklin out there too.
Frankly, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about in the Seattle outfield, although there are certainly some interesting opportunities — almost all characterized as buy-low fliers.
As far as dedicated outfielders go, you can probably only rely on Michael Saunders at this stage in the game. Saunders battled a variety of injuries in 2013, most notably a shoulder injury which “my people” (friends on Twitter) absolutely swear ruined his swing and sapped his power. Dubious at best. If you want to get into healthy/not healthy conspiracy theories, then consider his second half split where THE CONDOR (sorry, can a nickname like the condor not be capitalized and put in italics?) slashed .251/.350/.440 with double digit two baggers and a half dozen home runs in under 200 plate appearances. His walk rate was a healthy 13% and he cut his strikeouts down to 23%. He still demonstrated horrible platoon splits — and that might be why Franklin Gutierrez is back.
So the man made of glass who acts as fly paper to struck baseballs is back, and the Mariners brass is praying the 2009 version of Franklin Gutierrez shows up. Because since then, he hasn’t been healthy and he hasn’t been good. Gutierrez has been set back by stomach issues, back, chest, groin, thigh, and neck issues. Throw in a concussion, just because. If he shows up healthy in Spring, it’s not out of the question that he could break camp as the regular center fielder, but chances are the club will proceed with kid gloves so as to preserve him as long as possible. Should he fall into any kind of platoon, Gutierrez isn’t worth a fantasy roster spot.
Corey Hart is likely to see more time at DH and first base than the outfield, but he still qualifies as an outfielder, so damned be his actual assignment. Hart is probably the most intriguing Mariner outfielder for your fantasy squad, after all, the last time he saw the baseball diamond, he was finishing up a .270/.334/.507 campaign with 30 home runs, 91 runs scored, and 83 RBI. Of course, that was 2012. He spent all of last year recovering from knee surgery, but if you want to spend some time viewing his agility drills in the offseason, he looks pretty spry to me. Hart is probably done giving you a half dozen steals, but the lanky 32 year old can provide decent pop still, and it’s likely he’s going to hit somewhere in the middle of the order and rather inexplicably near Robinson Cano. So at least as far as opportunity goes, the RBI ought to show up if he can manage to stay healthy.
Logan Morrison is also going to be part of some corner outfield/first base/DH carousel and he’s also another player coming off a litany of ailments, including a career of knee complaints. But at 27 and apparently feeling healthy for the first time since he was kinda, sorta interesting back in 2011, Morrison profiles as having the patience and the pedigree to be an interesting option for formats carrying five outfielders or certainly for those league specific. Steamer and Oliver quibble on batting average, but both seem to feel he might flirt with 20 home runs given enough at bats and considering he’ll likely hit fourth or fifth, he might even fall into 80 RBI.
Almonte might struggle to find more than about 300 plate appearances, but if for some reason he falls into regular playing time (which isn’t out of the question given the gimpy knees described above), he’s got decent wheels and enough pop to provide 10 or 12 home runs. He mashed at AAA in 2013, with a .314/.403/.491 slash line, but he’s probably not going to see enough of the field to be fantasy relevant, at least in 2014. Dustin Ackley will no doubt roam somewhere on the field in 2014, but you really should only draft him with the hopes that he gets traded, goes back to second base, and then pray he realizes some of his potential — and even then he’s a fringey fantasy type.
The Mariners could go and sign Nelson Cruz despite themselves, which throws the whole outfield/DH rotation into chaos. If so, watch for another one of these posts and check my Twitter feed for profanity.