Balentien Vs. Langerhans: The Fourth Outfielder Conundrum

Charlie WilsonContributor IJuly 25, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 29:  Wladimir Balentien #25 of the Seattle Mariners bats against the Chicago White Sox during the game on April 29, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There are many people right now asking themselves: Why does the Seattle Mariner front office continue to mishandle it's prospects?

As you may or may not have heard, Wladimir Balentien was designated for assignment earlier today to make room for the future starting left fielder and hot prospect Michael Saunders.

But, it breeds the question of why?

Why Balentien? Why not Langerhans? They are both hitting the same and Balentien was once a touted prospect and is still only 25 compared to the 29-year-old Ryan Langerhans.

He has plenty of time to still grow into that power hitter we need.

The Mariners just don't know how to handle their people right? Wrong! This was an excellent move and let me explain to you why.

While on the initial look Balentien is hitting .213 with just four homers. Does he just need more time to develop?

Wlad has been given several opportunities over the past two years to have the left field starting job. However during the miserable 2008 season he was given an opportunity then and he hit .202 in 71 games with only seven home runs.

He was considered for the job during spring training this year. One that I really wanted him to win, as I thought, "He just needs a little more time". 

He had a stretch in early May that I thought may be his coming out party. He had good games in Chicago and then followed that up with a good stretch in Kansas City. He hit a couple of home runs and showed his arm strength gunning down a couple of runners trying to make it home.

Sadly, he fell off the map.

He posted just a .213/.271/.355 (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) which are all far below league average, after 50 plus games. 

Wladimir is one of those players that never made the jump from AAA to the Majors. He may never make that jump. Such is what happens to some prospects.

Some make it, some burn out.

But you could say that he was a decent fielding left fielder, using defensive metrics called UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) which takes into account not just the plays he made but the plays a normal defensive position player would have made at that position. He posted a 4.1, almost 10 points higher than last season.

While this year he showed an improvement fielding he has a history of being a below average left fielder. He also becomes trapped in either left or right field because of his speed or rather lack there of, while his arm strength is good, he just doesn't have the capability to hold down the fort in center.

This is where Ryan Langerhans comes into the mix.

Despite being 29 and owning a sub .230 batting average himself, Ryan has shown the Mariners coaching staff that he can get on base by other means. He currently has an on base percentage of .343 that is almost 70 points higher than Wlads.

Langerhans has gotten that OBP so much higher because he posted a 14.9 percent walk percentage. A percentage almost doubles (7.9 percent) Balentine's.

Ryan also has shown patience at the plate.

It's something that, if you watched the end of the Tigers game earlier this week you would have seen lacking in Balentiens approach. He swings at balls outside the strike zone only 25.6 percent of the time. While that is only one percentage point higher that is a career high for Langerhans it is also a career low for Balentien. Langerhans averages only a 17 percent career of swinging at pitches outside the zone.

There is one last final and real nail in the coffin.

Ryan Langerhans has made a career of playing defense. Despite his sub average bat, he shines defensively. Every place that he has played, it is due in part because he can flat out field in the outfield.

Langerhans has the speed and the defensive ability to play center field, and God forbid something happen again to Franklin Gutierrez we need a fourth outfielder that can play solid defense in his place.

While Wladimir Balentien being designated for assignment doesn't guarantee the end, it signals the clubs intent on trading him within the next 10 days, which was reported by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. This means a deal is in the mix and forth coming.

It's sad to see him go, but good luck and happy trails Wlad.