There have been plenty of injuries to go around this spring, but losing 2/5 of your rotation, and players who are expected to contribute greatly to your team's early start, puts you off your game quickly. How will the Mariners adapt? Let's take a look-see.
Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis
Potential Rotation Alternatives
ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.
Felix Hernandez should benefit from the improved lineup the Mariners will be trotting onto the field this season, and maybe he can finally cash in on those wins he was denied over the past few years. You don't need me to tell you that King Felix is a true ace, putting up elite K/9 numbers (9.51 in 2013) and insane peripherals, including a 3.04 ERA and 1.13 WHIP last season. He keeps the ball on the ground to a large extent, and limits home runs, as well as exhibiting exceptional control (2.03 BB/9). If you want him for your team, expect to draft him in the late second round.
A strained tendon in his finger on his throwing hand has put Hisashi Iwakuma on the shelf to start 2014. He is expected to return to continue his domination of AL hitters in late April or early May. With his elite control (1.72 BB/9) and brilliant peripherals, this injury could prove to be a blessing for those willing to draft him at a reduced price. Once he returns to the Mariners' rotation, expect great things from him similar to 2013, if perhaps at a slight regression. Take advantage of his being sidelined and get him a round later than you expected.
Erasmo Ramirez has been having a great spring, with only 2 walks being issued over 18.2 innings, portending good things in 2014 after a injury induced bloat up to 3.24 BB/9 last season. He throws a good 92 MPH fastball, and while not an exceptional outstanding groundball inducer, he does limit the fly balls enough to be effective in his home park.
A shoulder injury will keep Taijuan Walker from taking his proper spot in the Mariners' rotation to start the season, but he and his good control should be back to work mid-April or so. Seattle will want his mid-90s fastball back in the fold ASAP (he can elevate his velocity to near 100 MPH) so he can work on improving his average 7.2 K/9 ratio. Like Iwakuma, his injury means he should be more of a value than before, and with an April return, he will be there to help your team prosper for most of 2014.
Roenis Elias has come out of Double-A to apparently lock up a spot in the rotation. The Cuban lefty has a low 90s fastball and a sharp curve, but is an unfinished product, as far as being a complete MLB starting pitcher, still throwing his pitches from multiple arm slots. Expect this experiment to end when Walker returns from the DL.
One of the Mariners' top prospects, expect James Paxton to keep the rotation role he has been given for the course of the season. He features a 95 MPH fastball, a good not great strikeout rate of 7.88 K/9, and while it would insane to think he can maintain his 2013 1.50 ERA and 0.92 WHIP given the small sample size we saw in 2013, as an extreme groundball pitcher, I am expecting good to great results from him this season. It is especially nice that he can be had so late in drafts.
Brandon Maurer will not start the season in the rotation, despite the Walker and Iwakuma injuries. There is no guarantee that he will be ready for Opening Day, as he is still recovering from back and neck issues that he suffered earlier this spring. He has a decent 92-93 MPH fastball, but only manages to post average strikeout numbers (7.0 K/9 in 2013). He suffered from an abnormally high BABIP last season (.348), so a decrease in his ERA and WHIP should take place this season, but not so great that he becomes a good fantasy option.
Once Iwakuma and Walker come off the DL, the Mariners will have a great starting rotation to go with their revamped offense. Fortunately, neither pitcher is expected to miss a lot of time. You can get both at a small discount, and that's always a treat in fantasy baseball. Of course, Hernandez will command ace value, and as noted above, I would not waste my time dwelling on either of the back end starters.
If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.