Seattle Mariners Lineup Is Strong on Potential, but Not on Production

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer ISeptember 20, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Justin Smoak #17 of the Seattle Mariners hits an RBI single in the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field on September 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Red Sox 4-1.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has done about as good a job as anyone would expect when it comes to assembling a team. His strategy this season has been to surround his superstar pitcher Felix Hernandez with some quality bats to score some runs and win some games. 

The theory of his plan was good.  The actual production hasn't been. To illustrate that point, we look to the Mariners' back-to-back extra innings losses on September 18 and 19.

In the combined 29 innings of those two games, the Mariners were shut out in 27.

And the lineup was filled with players who had the "great potential" label on them.

One of the three runs scored in the 30 innings by Seattle was on a home run by Franklin Gutierrez, one of the first hitting prospects acquired by Zduriencik. He was a pickup from the Indians in 2008, and was ranked by Baseball America as one of the top prospects in baseball before the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

But Gutierrez has been ordinary in his first few seasons in Seattle and injuries have wiped out his once great potential.

In the Cliff Lee deal, Zduriencik acquired Justin Smoak from the Texas Rangers. Before the 2009 and 2010 seasons, he was considered to be one of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball. Instead the switch hitting slugging first baseman has been a complete bust, even being sent to the minors at one point this season.

Jesus Montero was ranked as one of the top six prospects in all of baseball from 2010 to 2012. He was stolen from the Yankees for the broken down body of Michael Pineda. While Montero has produced some power this year, he was a complete bust in the 18-inning marathon and has not put up superstar numbers yet.

Those are three players who were considered elite prospects that Zduriencik brought over. If they all reached their potential, he would look brilliant.

The sad thing is, they are not the only prospects he brought in that have been underperforming.

Casper Wells was a terrific right-handed power prospect brought over in the Doug Fister trade last year. He has a poor OPS and low power production in the majors. He went 2-10 in the extra inning games.

At one point, Eric Thames was a big power-hitting prospect in the Blue Jays' system, but has come over to Seattle where he strikes out too much and cannot get his OPS over .700.

Trayon Robinson was one of the best Dodgers hitting prospects, but ever since coming to Seattle in a three-team deal last year, he's been a major bust at the plate.

Those young players join homegrown super prospects like former Top 15 prospect Dustin Ackley, who is a liability in the lineup, and Michael Saunders, who is now in his fourth consecutive season of being a potential star.

All of these players could still blossom and turn the Mariners around for 2013. That, in a way, is what happened in Tampa Bay in 2008 when many of their prospects turned a corner at the same time.

A lineup with Smoak, Montero, Gutierrez, Wells, Thames, Robinson, Ackley and Saunders clicking all at once could be an exciting one (though crowded in the outfield).

They might be able to score in more than two out of 29 innings.

Who sunk the Mariners in the 11-inning Orioles victory on Wednesday night? That would be Adam Jones, who hit the game winning home run. Jones was originally a Mariners prospect and he reached his potential as a member of the Orioles.

Don't blame Zduriencik, though. He was traded before he took over.