By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Russell Branyan
After leading the Mariners in home runs in 2009 (31), few expected Branyan to do it again in 2010. Why? Because he started the season with a nasty back injury (and as a member of the Cleveland Indians). After a few months in Cleveland, he was re-acquired by Seattle. In 57 games, he has hit 15 home runs for the M’s which is (sadly) good enough for the team lead. He also leads the team with a .802 OPS.
Biggest Bust: Chone Figgins
There were plenty of choices here: Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez. But Figgins’ poor season comes with the biggest price tag. After signing a four-year deal in the off-season, Figgins is “hitting” .263/.344/.310 this year – a far cry from his career .287/.360/.376 line. He has just 24 extra-base hits in nearly 700 plate appearances and has rated as a below-average defender at second base. The one good thing from a fantasy perspective is Figgins stole 42 bases this season, though he still scored just 62 times in a historically awful Seattle lineup.
2011 Keeper Alert: Ichiro Suzuki
Even in what could be described as a down season for him, Ichiro, remained the Mariners’ top offensive weapon in 2010. His slash line dipped to .315/359/.394, but once again topped the 200-hit mark – becoming the first player in league history with 10 consecutive seasons of 200 hits. In addition to the hits, he also stole 41 bases and somehow managed to cross the plate 73 times – nearly 15% of the teams total runs scored. Another 200 hits and 40 steals should be doable for the great Ichiro in 2011.
2011 Regression Alert: Justin Smoak
As the big chip in the Cliff Lee trade, Smoak has been a disappointment in 2010. The young slugger is hitting just .201/.301/.364 in 356 plate appearances. On the plus side, he’s hit 13 homers in less than 400 plate appearances, and has found his stride in the last couple weeks of the season, hitting for power and showing a much better batting eye. He’s just too talented to be this bad next year, and he could be an excellent deep sleeper.
For more on Ichiro and the Seattle Mariners’ lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.