2010 Seattle Mariners: Projecting the Starting Lineup
The Mariners have made a lot of moves since the regular season ended back in October, and their off-season has been praised by many as one of the best in baseball. So now, with Spring Training about to start and opening day getting closer and closer, how exactly will it all come together?
Let's take a look at how this abundance of new faces will come into place.
Catchers—Adam Moore & Rob Johnson
This one is a bit of a tough call. There are three viable players who will be competing for these two spots come Spring Training - they are Adam Moore, Rob Johnson, and Josh Bard.
Moore is the Seattle Mariners' catcher of the future and one of the best prospects in the Mariners' system. Based on his 2009 performance down in Triple-A, he may finally be ready to break into the big leagues—whether or not the team gives him that opportunity will almost certainly depend on how well he performs in Spring Training.
Rob Johnson is clearly a favorite of this organization, despite the fact that his offense is awful and he apparently lacks the ability to consistently catch fastballs. He had several major surgeries this off-season to rectify various health issues. How his recovery is going will certainly be a factor when it comes to his eventual role.
Josh Bard would certainly be an okay choice, but I don't see him making the team out of camp. One thing he has going for him is the fact that he's a switch hitter, but that's about it. He isn't a real good hitter from either side of the plate, and his ability to throw runners out has been in question throughout his career.
I have no doubt that, whatever route the team decides to take, the catcher situation will be much closer to a 50/50 playing time split than to a starter/backup type of thing.
First Base—Casey Kotchman & Ryan Garko
First base is likely to end up as a platoon situation because of the fact that Kotchman and Garko each bring very different things to the table.
Kotchman is an excellent defensive first baseman with an average bat, but he does have noticeable platoon splits. If the team were to go with only Kotchman as the starting first baseman, we'd be slightly more vulnerable to southpaws. That's where Garko comes in.
Ryan Garko has always been able to hit lefties well, which is why he's going to earn a spot on this team. With Kotchman at first against righties and Garko at first against lefties, the Mariners should get solid production across the board out of first base.
Second Base—Jose Lopez
A lot of us expected Lopez to get dealt this off season but, with Orlando Hudson now off the market and with the Twins no longer needing a second baseman, it looks like he's here to stay—for now, at least.
That isn't something in which to be disappointed. Although his offense is overrated by a lot of people and he's a well below average on-base guy, he's still a nice asset.
He's roughly a league-average player. A league-average player's market value, right now, is somewhere in the $9-$10 million range. Jose Lopez is costing the Mariners $2.3 million in 2010, and that's quite a bargain. I'm not sure if he'll be around after this season but, for now, we should be happy to have him.
Third Base—Chone Figgins
Signing Chone Figgins was the first big splash that Jack Zduriencik made this off season, and it was a really nice move. The Mariners got him for relatively cheap, and he should do a nice job of filling the void that Adrian Beltre left in our hearts.
He's a good defensive third baseman (as illustrated by his career 23.4 UZR at the position), and he does an excellent job of getting on base. A speedy, patient switch hitter is exactly what this team needed, and he is an excellent fit for Safeco Field.
Also, it's going to be really fun to watch him and Ichiro at the top of this lineup for at least the next three years.
Jack Wilson is a perfect example that it doesn't matter from where you get your value. He is not a good hitter—not awful, but not good either. However, he's still a 2-3 WAR player, solely because of the fact that his defense is amazing.
It's important to remember that the Mariners had to deal with several months of Yuniesky Betancourt (the least valuable player in baseball) last year. That should make it pretty obvious that a full year of Jack Wilson represents a significant improvement, both offensively and defensively, over the production we got out of shortstop in 2009.
Also, for those of you worrying about what we saw offensively from Jack Wilson last year—don't. That was an extremely small sample size, and he was injured. Like I said, he isn't a very good hitter, but he isn't that bad. His career wOBA is .298, and his wOBA during his Seattle tenure last year was .253. Expect some positive regression there.
Left Field—Eric Byrnes, Ryan Langerhans, & Milton Bradley
This is where it gets a little bit complicated. Left field is probably going to be a three-man tandem in 2010, with Byrnes, Langerhans, and Bradley all getting significant time out there.
Byrnes will generally be the starter against lefties, as he's always been able to hit them well.
Langerhans and Bradley will likely split time in left when a righty is on the mound. Langerhans is useful for a couple of reasons: 1) He's much better defensively than Bradley, and 2) Bradley is certainly no guarantee to be healthy.
However, when both Bradley and Griffey are feeling good and a right-handed pitcher is on the mound, they'll probably stick Bradley out in left so that Griffey can DH. Using these three players like this is probably the best way to get good production out of left field.
Center Field—Franklin Gutierrez
This one should be pretty simple. Franklin Gutierrez is a spectacular defensive center fielder and an above average hitter. He'll be one of the few players on this team (others being Lopez, Wilson, and Ichiro), who has absolutely no competition for a starting job in Spring Training. This job is his.
Guti is unlikely to repeat the defensive production he brought to the table last year (just because it was so incredible that you can't expect him to match it), but he'll still be well above average. One thing I'll be looking for, personally, is whether or not he continues to improve offensively. Specifically, I am looking power-wise, as he started to show his home run power off a lot more as the year came to a close.
I shouldn't have to explain this one to you guys either—Ichiro is amazing. He's 36 years old now and still hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. He's going to continue to hit in 2010, he's going to continue to play good defense in 2010, and he's going to continue to be awesome in 2010. End of story.
DH—Ken Griffey, Jr. & Milton Bradley
It's tough to predict exactly how much time each of these two guys will get in the designated hitter role. Junior is 40 years old now (and an extreme injury risk), so he's far from a guarantee. However, if by some miracle he's able to stay healthy, he'll probably get substantial time DH'ing against right-handed pitchers.
In that scenario, like I mentioned earlier, Bradley will probably be in left most of the time. Against lefties, on the other hand, Bradley will spend a lot of time DH'ing and Griffey will spend a lot of time on the bench, which is probably where he belongs at this point in his career.
I still love Junior but, come on, he's 40.