Ichiro Suzuki
It’s always fun to generate and debate lists. We’ll continue with the All-2000 to Present Mariners Lineup.
C – Kenji Johjima
1B – John Olerud
2B – Robinson Cano
3B – Adrian Beltre
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
RF – Ichiro Suzuki
LF – Raul Ibanez
CF – Mike Cameron
DH – Edgar Martinez
SP – Felix Hernandez
SP – Jamie Moyer
SP – Hisashi Iwakuma
SP – Freddy Garcia
SP – James Paxton
Closer – Kazuhiro Sasaki
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Houston Astros
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels
Minnesota Twins
New York Yankees
Oakland A’s
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays

Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times
In the past thirty days Miguel Olivo is hitting .320. He has scored 13 runs, hit five long balls, drove in another 16 runs, and even swiped a couple of bases.
If you look at the past 15 days, he’s even better hitting .378 with ten runs, 4 HRs, 13 RBI, and two SBs.
Among catchers he ranks second with 26 runs scored, tied for sixth with seven home runs, and tied for seventh with 26 RBI.
As hot as he’s been he’s only owned in 17 percent of Yahoo! and 8.5 percent of ESPN leagues. With Buster Posey lost for the year and Joe Mauer’s return still uncertain, there is certainly a need for production out of the catcher position.
He’s owned in fewer leagues than Geovany Soto, Kurt Suzuki, Jorge Posada, Carlos Ruiz, Chris Iannetta, and John Buck who not only have been less productive and have a worst batting average. Carlos Santana would also qualify, but he has more upside. The other six though are just like Olivo. Veteran catchers that aren’t going to suddenly develop into Buster Posey.
It’s also not like Olivo is playing over his head. He’s averaged 16.2 home runs and 56.4 RBI over the past five years.
He will likely start getting scooped up by more fantasy owners thanks to a three-game home run streak. Don’t drop Alex Avila, Jonathon Lucroy, J.P. Arencibia,  or Yadier Molina for him, but if you’re holding onto Jorge Posada for sentimental reasons while Olivo is floating in the free agent pool, I say cut bait and give Miguel a shot.

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Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America
On May 7th Brandon League had nine saves and a 2.08 ERA to his credit. He hadn’t lost a game or blown a save. He was automatic.
He then gave up three runs in 1-1/3 innings against the White Sox on May 8th. He didn’t blow a save that day, but took his first loss of the season. His ERA jumped to 3.77.
Two days later League blew his first save of the year against Baltimore giving up two runs while getting just two outs. League’s ERA climbed to 4.80. The once steady closer became shaky.
He didn’t have to stew on the first blown save long as he was back at it two days later.  Again it was Baltimore. Again the results were the save. League blew his second straight save and lost his third straight game. He gave up two runs again while getting just one out this time. His ERA jumped to 5.87. What was going on?
The very next night Eric Wedge gave him another opportunity. Like the previous three outings, League blew it. He gave up three runs while recording just two outs. It was League’s third straight blown save and fourth straight loss. League’s once petite ERA skyrocketed to 7.31.
Which brings us here. What to do, what to do? At least David Aardsma had a setback, which gives League some time. It’s crazy that only a week ago I wonder if Aardsma would have replaced League as effective as League had been.
Aardsma worries me. If he pitches at all in 2011 I’d be slightly surprised. Still, with a streak like League is on, the questions start piling up.
Should Chris Ray be given a chance? He has 51 career saves. He also has an 11.88 ERA and 2.16 WHIP. David Pauley has a 1.16 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP, but has never been called up on to save a game. Aaron Laffey is pitching well (1.35 ERA, 1.35 WHIP), but has just one career save. Jamey Wright has also pitched well (1.96 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), but he is 36 and not likely to get his first crack at the closer position.
Where does that leave us? The M’s could raid the farm system, but that seems unlikely right now.  He may just get a temporary break from the gig to clear his head. There is always a chance that somebody takes the job and runs with it, but more likely than not this will be a closer by committee system until League gets back on track.

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You knew when you drafted Chone Figgins that you were’t looking for power numbers. After all, he had 32 career homer runs entering the season. His career high in RBI is 62, but he had just 35 last season in his first year with the Mariners.
In part  you got him for the runs scored. From 2004-2009 Figgins averaged 92.7 runs per season. Of course he had just 62 for the M’s last year. In part you got him for his batting average. He hit .292 over that same span. Of course he it .259 for the M’s last year. The return to third base (from second) was expected to help. It hasn’t. Chone is hitting just .165 with eight runs, a home run, and nine runs.
The main reason you went with Figgins was the stolen bases. Even when his average dipped to .259 last year he still managed 42 stolen bases. He’s averaged 45.5 stolen bases over the past six seasons. That hasn’t been the case this year.
Figgins has just two stolen bases through 24 games. Averaged out to 162 games that’s just 13.5 stolen bases. He attempted a 57 stolen bases in 161 games last year, or one every 2.8 games. He has three attempts in 22 games played, which is one every 7.3 games. Obviously his .165 average and .209 on-base percentage come into play.
One thing to keep in mind is the fact that he’s been a slow starter the past few years. He hit .200 in April and .220 in May before finishing .280 the rest of the way, including .286 after the All-Star Break. In 2009 Chone hit .244 in April and .305 the rest of the way. For his career he has hit .254 before June and .297 after June.
I know it’s hard to hang onto a guy batting so poorly, but his stolen bases will start to come. If you’re in a bind I can see letting him go, but if you have a roster spot I’d try to stash him for a little while longer.
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Click here to enter the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Team Name Contest

Justin Smoak clubbed 62 home runs for the University of South Carolina in 739 at bats, prompting the Texas Rangers to select him with the 11th overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft. He shot through their farm system after just 492 at bats, hitting 17 home runs.
He earned a trip to the bigs, but struggled to adjust. He hit just .209 for the Rangers. Despite his struggles, he did manage to hit eight HRs in 235 at bats. The 29.4 AB/HR ratio isn’t great, but considering his average and his 57 strikeouts (one every 4.1 ABs), it wasn’t that bad.
He was then dealt to Seattle. He started off slow for the Mariners going ten for 63 (.159) with two HRs. He was sent to Triple-A Tacoma where he hit .271 with seven HRs in 133 ABs. When he was recalled in September, Smoak did a much better job hitting .340 (17 for 50) with three HRs. His overall numbers with the Mariners .239-11-5-14-0 were terrible at best, but at least  he had a strong finish to build upon for 2011.
I expect Smoak to enter the year with a little more confidence, assuming he holds his own in Spring Training. The first base position is deep, but he offers a decent choice near the end of fantasy drafts. In fact, his average draft position, according to Mock Draft Central, is 345, meaning he’ll likely go undrafted. You can take a chance on him with one of your last picks, or you can just keep an eye on him. If he starts the season the way he finished, scoop him up. Either way, there isn’t a lot of risk involved. There could be plenty of reward though.
What are your feelings about Justin Smoak?

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With the baseball world (and sports world in general) focused on Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga, I want to take a moment and thank Ken Griffey, Jr. for over two decades of entertaining baseball. Junior will forever be remembered for his flawless swing and his spectacular catches in centerfield.


Unfortunately injuries derailed the latter part of his career. Despite his struggles it was nice to see him return to Seattle to finish his career. Would I have liked more of a fairytale ending for a player I like as much as Junior? Of course. I am happy that he has never been linked to performance enhancing drugs. He played the game the right way and he always had a smile.

Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Gutierrez stepped it up last year hitting .283 with 85 runs, 18 HRs, 70 RBIs, and 16 SBs. He turned 27 yesterday so continued progression is likely. However, I’m not sure he has a 20/20 season in his future.

The bulk of his stolen bases, seven to be exact, came when he was hitting out of the two-hole. Newly acquired Chone Figgins figures to occupy that spot in the order meaning Gutierrez will hit fifth.

He hit nearly half (8) of his HRs in the fifth slot (in 21.9 percent of his ABs). He only stole two bases there though. Hitting fifth takes a different mentality than hitting second. His job is no longer to get on base and get in scoring position. His job is to drive in runs.

I believe he’ll do that well in 2010. I just don’t see him as the all-around threat he was last year.

Prediction:  .290, 80 Runs, 20 HRs, 85 RBIs, 14 SBs

Past profiles:
Arizona Diamondbacks:  Brandon Webb
Atlanta Braves: Yunel Escobar
Baltimore Orioles:  Adam Jones
Boston Red Sox:  Clay Buchholz
Chicago Cubs:  Geovany Soto
Chicago White Sox:  Jake Peavy
Cincinnati Reds:  Joey Votto
Cleveland Indians:  Grady Sizemore
Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Florida Marlins: Cameron Maybin
Houston Astros: Lance Berkman
Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Howie Kendrick
Los Angeles Dodgers: James Loney
Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Hart
Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan
New York Mets: Jason Bay
New York Yankees: Robinson Cano
Oakland A’s: Kevin Kouzmanoff
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
Pittsburgh Pirates: Octavio Dotel
San Diego Padres: Everth Cabrera
San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito

While Joe Mauer was supposedly set to sign a ten-year deal with the Twins according to WCCO, it appears the announcement was premature. There were, however, some other moves that were on a much smaller scale.

Melvin Mora inked a deal with the Colorado Rockies. He will serve as a utility player as he can play virtually every position. He will turn 38 on Sunday, and his fantasy value has probably dried up, as evidenced by his .260, 44 R, 8 HR, 48 RBI 2009 numbers. 

Kevin Millar, who’s also 38, will try his luck with the Cubs. Millar managed to hit just .223 with 7 HRs and 29 RBIs for the Blue Jays last year. He too has little to no fantasy value, and little may have skipped town.

The Reds bolstered their infielde by signing free agent SS Orlando Cabrera and trading for Aaron Miles. Cabrera will start for the Reds and likely hit in the two-hole. He had a solid year split between the A’s and the Twins hitting .284 with 83 runs, 9 HRs, and 77 RBIs. He has a good chance of replicating those numbers in Cincinnati. Miles will serve as a backup infielder and has little fantasy value.

Ryan Garko signed with Seattle. He’ll be used primarily as a bat off the bench to face lefties. He could also play some first, DH, and even have spot duty at catcher. He too has little fantasy value.

1. Will Hideki Matsui continue to produce?
He will turn 36 this summer so expectations should be tempered. He’s also leaving the HR Haven that is Yankee Stadium. Plus, the Angels’ lineup is not as formidable as the Yankees was. Given his injury risk and new home, he’s a player I would avoid in 2010.

2. Will Scott Kazmir continue to pitch well for the Angels?
After a miserable 2009 with Tampa Bay, Kazmir pitched well for the Halos posting a 1.73 ERA in six starts. He is always an injury risk, but should post a low ERA. Getting away from the Yankees and Red Sox should help. Don’t expect a ton of strikeouts from Kazmir though, as 2007 was more the exception than the rule.

3. Outside of Kurt Suzuki, will the A’s have any decent fantasy players on offense?
Rajai Davis will get you a bunch of SBs. Other than that it’s a crapshoot. The only dark horse is Jake Fox, who could possibly put up a bunch of HRs for Oakland.

4. Will Jose Lopez have a monster year?
With Ichiro and Chone Figgins setting the table, Lopez should have plenty of RBI opportunities. He averaged 92.5 RBIs the past two years, and should go over the 100 mark this year. See where he ranks among Second Basemen.

5. Will Ichiro win the batting title?
With Chone Figgins hitting behind him and Joe Mauer playing in a new ballpark, I think Ichiro is the favorite to take home the batting crown.

6. Will Chris Davis bounce back?
Davis was everyone’s darling last year and he fell short of expectations thanks to his .238 average . He still managed to hit 21 HRs though, and was a force in September and October hitting .318 with 5 HRs and 21 RBIs in 110 ABs. Look for him to be better in 2010.

7. How will the move to Texas affect Rich Harden?
He’s pitched in the AL West before so he has a brief track record at Ranger Ballpark. It’s not pretty though. In five starts he has a 7.66 ERA, a 2.01 WHIP, and a .330 BAA. Couple that with his injury history and he’s a player I’d avoid on draft day unless he came at an absolute bargain.

Monday Must Be Pitching Day

14 December 2009

The Hot Stove has been relatively quiet, but that changed today as three aces have found new homes.

ESPN is reporting that John Lackey reached a five-year deal with the Red Sox for $85 million. Lackey’s fantasy value shouldn’t change much as he remains on a contender. He is pitching in a tougher division, but his move to third in the rotation should lead to move favorable match-ups.

ESPN is also reporting that Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee will have new homes in 2010. The Phillies, Mariners, and Blue Jays agreed to a three-way deal that will send Halladay to the Phils, and Lee to the M’s. The details have yet to be finalized. Personally I don’t see the point of acquiring Halladay if you can’t have Lee as well.

Both Halladay and Lee should be two of the first Pitchers off of fantasy boards next year.

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