By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
The Mariners know about keeping a young ace healthy. They managed to get Felix Hernandez past the injury nexus without any scars. When they traded Michael Pineda, I immediately wondered if they knew something the rest of us didn't. Pineda wore down under the innings load last year, but he didn't break down. I'll deal more with him in the Yankees THR, but that trade is significant. It shows self-awareness and it shows self-confidence. GM Jack Zduriencik and his staff aren't worried about hot seats and they're sticking to a plan even in the face of a restless public. This division is going to be hard to win in face of a dominant Rangers squad and an Angels squad with a big checkbook. The M's don?t have to be the Rays, but they can?t make mistakes either. They also can't lose any of the talent they have, which is becoming pretty good. The M's are also on the cutting edge with sports performance, bringing in a sports scientist with an advanced approach. I like forward thinking, but I like results more, so this will definitely be a team to watch. If smarts can out-leverage talent, the M's are your example.

Health Keys: Use this team's low risk profile to minimize chronic injuries. Keep Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation.

(HEAD TRAINER: Rick Griffin; FIVE YEAR RANK: 16; 2011 RANK: 19)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
C Miguel Olivo
Olivo was green last year as well, largely because the System thought he'd be platooned. He didn't break down under an increased workload, but he didn't hit well either. It's the same thing this year with new options behind him in John Jaso and Jesus Montero (theoretically.)

1B Justin Smoak
Smoak had a thumb injury and a broken nose last season, but both were traumatic, non-recurrent injuries. Hitting is as important as health, especially at a power position.

2B Dustin Ackley
The former first-round pick came up and did exactly what people expected from him. He should hold onto 2B for a while, which was a big concern. The M's work out at a high-tech facility, and Dr. Marcus Elliott, the M's Director of Sports Science, specifically cited Ackley as someone with incredible strength, flexibility and work ethic.

3B Alex Liddi
Liddi strikes out a lot -- a lot. If he could cut down on them even a little, he'd lock down the 3B slot for years. If he can't, Kyle Seager will get a shot here.

LF Trayvon Robinson
He?ll fight with Mike Carp in spring, but they'll probably share the slot.

SP Felix Hernandez
I compared him last year to Carlos Zambrano and I still think it holds. He's got a lot of mileage on his arm, but the cost hasn't come yet. Baseball Reference says his most comparable pitcher is Catfish Hunter; that would be both the best-case scenario and a long-term concern. In fantasy, he's still a must-own or must-keep through his peak years.

P2 Jason Vargas
Vargas backed up 2010's career high in innings with another last season. He's a lefty without dominant stuff, but he's a solid LAIM (League Average Innings Muncher.)

CL Brandon League
League took up the fallen David Aardsma's closer mantle and ran. He showed a better fastball as the closer. Adrenaline is amazing, isn't it?

Also Green:
RF Ichiro Suzuki
This is a first. In 10 years, I've never had a team with no yellows.

SS Brendan Ryan
Ryan had a disk problem in his neck that kept him from doing much in the offseason. It's a major question how he'll respond to baseball activities. If he can't go, Kyle Seager goes from super sub to starting shortstop.

CF Franklin Gutierrez
Gutierrez came back from an intestinal disorder only to strain his oblique severely. The team has some options, but Gutierrez is the best option if and when he's healthy. You can't ignore a terrible season, but he was drastically weakened and likely came back too soon. He's risky, but a nice comeback candidate if you're looking for a late-round pick.

DH Jesus Montero
Montero is calculated as a part-time catcher, which probably won't happen, even a little bit. He's not risky as a DH and has Edgar Martinez around to mentor him. That's a recipe for success. Those who skim the colors and don't read the reports will miss out on this. You're not that guy. You're better than that.

SP Hector Noesi
Noesi?s been spoken about in the same breath with Ivan Nova and is following the same path. He's got good but not great stuff, and at 25, can be pushed a bit harder in his first full year than a younger pitcher. He's risky above 160 innings, but manageable up to that point. The M's did fine with Pineda on a similar plan last year.

P4 Hisashi Iwakuma
There wasn't much attention paid to the second-best pitcher out of Japan. Part of that was his missing two months with a shoulder injury and part of that was that he signed so quickly. He's a forkball specialist, so he'll be reliant on his defense and will need to be more efficient here.

SP Blake Beavan
Beavan was once a hard-throwing Texan schoolboy. Now, he profiles as a younger Doug Fister. He showed some durability at two levels, but the System ignores minor league innings. It overplays his risk slightly, especially since Kevin Millwood could win this slot in spring training, holding down Beavan's innings total at the big league level.

RP Hong-Chi Kuo
Kuo has amazing stuff ... in between surgeries and other injuries. He can't stay healthy but he's never really lost his stuff either, which is astounding given all his problems. He also dealt with an anxiety disorder that the System has no clue how to calculate. He's a difference maker, even a closer, on those rare occasions when everything's right. Still, George Sherrill is the more stable option in front of League.

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