Seattle Mariners: 7 M's Who Need to Step Up Soon
When you've got players hugging the Mendoza Line day in and day out in your lineup, you know you've got problems.
Hey, the Seattle Mariners are 20-25, and it's not because of a few unlucky bounces or the ever-biased wind blowing out to center field. It's because roughly a third of the team is not pulling their fair share.
That includes Chone Figgins, although this list doesn't include him since he's about as hopeless as that dirty sock sitting under your mattress.
Although most of us have little to fear about M's players not giving their 100 percent, we'd like to see that 100 percent go further in the way of performing for the team.
Dustin Ackley, 2B
It's a bit of a surprise to start off this list, I know, as Dustin Ackley is everyone's favorite player. Well, he's probably up there, at least.
Ackley hasn't been terrible this season, hitting about .250 for much of it. But when a player like him does so well the previous year, it leaves expectations a lot higher.
Ackley was supposed to build on his experience last year and become a dangerous weapon on offense for the M's. And while he's been an okay leadoff hitter for the team, he's falling short of the expectations he'd take over as "franchise player."
To be clear, Ackley is still a very young player without a full year of experience yet, but he should step up by increasing his batting average and work towards blossoming into the complete hitter he can be.
A few more extra-base hits wouldn't hurt either.
Blake Beavan, SP
It hasn't been a remarkable year for the pitching staff, but they aren't underperforming by any means. The bullpen has pitched adequately all season, and the rotation has been shaky but bend-but-not-break-y.
We'd like to see a little more from Millwood than mediocre league-average stuff, but he's a seat-warming solution for now.
As for Beavan, I think a 4.46 ERA is about in line with what was expected of the young starter this season. However, he's not going deep enough into games, going at least six innings in his first three starts but not more since then. He's also reached 100 pitches just once.
I don't know if this is an issue of stamina, but the team is going to suffer if a starter is only going five innings with alarming consistency.
Beavan could also stand to induce more groundball outs, which might be something the coaches will work with him on in terms of pitching mechanics.
Brendan Ryan, SS
It's kind of pathetic when you sharply raise your batting average to .181, isn't it?
Though Ryan has been hitting better as of late, he has to continue to produce at a rate that won't leave people inventing a new line—the Ryan Line—to measure mediocrity.
Plain and simple, the guy needs to keep stepping it up at the plate. When he's hitting the ball well, the Mariners will have a solid hitter at the end of the order to complement Ackley and Ichiro at the top.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Eric Wedge badly needs his veterans to deliver. With all of the "proven" vets grossly underperforming their contracts and clubhouse positions, it puts him in an extremely tough spot.
How can you hold the young players responsible if the vets are being trotted out there daily with a .180 batting average? Will you lose the clubhouse if you bench all your underperforming vets? Who is out there being a role model for youngsters Montero, Seager, Ackley and company?
Justin Smoak, 1B
Like Ryan, Smoak has raised his average a bit lately, and like Ryan, it's pretty sad his average raised to .213.
Smoak has been an enigma all season long—and for his career in Seattle, really. We've been willing to give him more than a few free passes for his time here, but he's no longer a prospect. He doesn't have a nagging injury, and he's probably over the grief of losing his father a year ago.
Just a .213 average? What gives? His slugging percentage suggests he's not hitting for much power either.
Recent improvements or not, Smoak needs to step up big time if he wants to become the everyday first baseman of the future. The M's need a guy like him in the middle of the order, belting extra-base hits and bolstering the offense.
With a pitiful batting average and the lack of impressive power hitting, he's going to have to show a lot more the rest of the season. Time and patience is starting to fade.
Miguel Olivo, C
After a severe injury to the groin area, Olivo is slated to be back in action by next week.
In the weeks following his last start, we've seen Montero hold his own as a catcher, and John Jaso has continued to be productive at the plate.
Both Montero and Jaso are far younger than Olivo, and Olivo only has this year on his contract. In other words, the M's don't have anything invested in him for the foreseeable future. He doesn't hit well (.210 average with power no better than Montero's), and his defense isn't anything to write home about.
Teams don't really need three players at the catcher position, so the onus is on Olivo to step up and be someone Wedge feels comfortable inserting into the lineup as the starting catcher.
More than likely, though, it'll end up being an awkward situation in which Olivo continues to be a dud with the bat, and Wedge plays him uneasily anyways.
And with Olivo coming back, the M's will probably send Casper Wells back to Triple-A Tacoma since they're more intrigued with Liddi, the other would-be demotion—especially after that grand slam on Wednesday.
Michael Saunders, CF
It's important to mention that the 2012 Michael Saunders is an improved version of 2009-11 Saunders. He's hitting for a bit more power, and he's been a solid defender in roomy center field.
As has been the case for the other players on this list, though, you can't get away with hitting .225 for long, and that's where Saunders has been for most of May.
It may be easy to turn a bit of a blind eye towards Saunders when a significant portion of the hitters have been doing worse than him, but there's no excuses for a .225 average. There isn't anyone to replace him except for Franklin Gutierrez, but Guti will be on the DL for another month at the least.
Saunders seems to be performing enough to stay out of Wedge's doghouse, but the Mariners would like to see him raise his average a few dozen points to complement the nice hitting power he's displayed.
Mike Carp, LF
Not much to say here, besides the fact that Carp has yet to get things going for the 2012 season. Hitting just .160, it's plausible that a nagging injury is to be blamed for the bad hitting.
We know Carp is capable of a hell of a lot more than what he's shown this year, given how amazing he was after getting called up last season. This offense will begin to fire on all cylinders if he adds his potential to the mix.
But for now, he's fighting off Alex Liddi for playing time in left field, and unless Carp can get his act together, it's a losing battle. No manager wants to play a guy hitting under .200 if he can help it.
Looking at the bigger picture, we can see how players like Carp, Smoak and Ackley can jump start this team if they can raise their averages more.
They're all players we've seen flashes of brilliance out of, and if they can sustain that brilliance, combined with talent like Liddi, Seager, Montero, and Ichiro, it's not hard to see this offense being quite formidable.