The 2010 Seattle Mariners feature a new lineup, but much about the team remains the same. Here is the projected lineup:
1. RF Ichiro Suzuki
2. 2B Chone Figgins
3. LF Milton Bradley
4. 3B Jose Lopez
5. DH Ken Griffey Jr.
6. 1B Casey Kotchman
7. CF Franklin Gutierrez
8. C Rob Johnson
9. SS Jack Wilson
Let’s take a look at who will carry the Mariners to success, drag them to despair, or keep them in the same place.
The Top of the Lineup: Suzuki / Figgins
Last year the Mariners featured one of the league’s best leadoff hitters in Suzuki, commonly followed by 1B Russell Branyan (.251 average), Lopez (.272), and Griffey. (.214).
This offseason the Mariners brought in some high on-base-percentage hitters. Most notably, they signed the former rival Figgins to hit second.
Ichiro and Figgins create a potent 1-2 punch at the top of Seattle’s lineup. Ichiro has never posted an on-base percentage lower than .350, while Figgins has three straight seasons of .367 or better and speed to burn on the basepaths (117 stolen bases in the past three seasons). These two could form one of the better leadoff combinations in all of baseball.
The Heart of the Lineup: Bradley / Lopez / Griffey
This portion of the lineup is leaning towards “The Bad,” but for now it holds onto “The Average.” If it were labeled Bad, it would be based less on the players' talent and more on the difference between their output and the league average for Nos. 3 through 5 hitters.
Bradley joins a Seattle squad desperately in need of players with good on-base percentages. Coming out of Chicago, where the Cubs allegedly expected him to hit 30 home runs, Bradley nestles into the three-hole in Seattle with one primary goal: Get Suzuki across the plate. How bad were the 3-through-5 hitters last year? Suzuki hit .352 and scored all of 88 runs… Miserable.
Lopez was the Mariners’ offensive MVP last year. He quietly clubbed 25 home runs and drove in 96 runs. These statistics were even more impressive when viewed in light of last year’s anemic offense. Lopez is moving to third base, and at age 26 his offensive production should persist.
Griffey is an anomaly in Seattle. He is a fan favorite, but should his offensive woes of 2009 continue, he could be a thorn in the Mariners' side.
Griffey hit .214 in 2009, but reported to camp in what he described as “ripped” condition, and claims to be healthier than he was all of last season.
So far his health has resulted in a .150 spring training average… It will be interesting to see how Griffey affects the Mariners’ lineup in 2010.
The Space Between the Heart and the Cellar: Kotchman / Gutierrez
The middle of the order could very well outproduce the 3-through-5 hitters.
Seattle acquired Kotchman from Boston this offseason to replace the departed Branyan, and 2009 breakout star Gutierrez could ride his new contract to new heights.
Kotchman has made a living as a contact-hitting, defensive-minded first baseman. He sports a less-than-stellar .269 career average, but the Mariners hope Kotchman can return to his form of 2007, when he batted .296/.372/.467 with the Los Angeles Angels.
Kotchman is a perfect fit in Seattle’s defense-first mentality. He could find himself in a platoon with backup 1B Ryan Garko, but Kotchman can still be a solid producer both at the plate and in the field.
Gutierrez was last year's breakout storyline. Acquired from Cleveland, he thrived in his first full season as a starting outfielder, turning in Gold Glove-caliber defense and consistent production at the plate. There is no reason to expect that the 27-year-old will regress.
The Bottom of the Order: Johnson / Wilson
Somewhere in the world, an offensive-minded fan is weeping at the thought of the bottom of the Mariners' lineup.
In an offense that ranked near-last in almost every category last season, it can be assumed that the bottom of the lineup is far from desirable.
Johnson has turned into a fan and staff favorite in Seattle, as his time behind the plate in 2009 resulted in several more pitching gems than fellow catcher Kenji Johjima could produce. Johjima left to return to Japan this offseason, turning the full-time gig over to Johnson. The 27-year-old remains the bionic man, undergoing multiple surgeries this offseason, but if he can stave off up-and-comer Adam Moore, the job should be his all year.
Wilson, quite simply, is a defensive dynamo. He's a prototypical Mariner, as he has displayed stellar defense but less than impressive offense. Wilson, a career .268 hitter, posted a paltry .224 average in 31 games in Seattle last season. The Mariners hope this production increases, but won’t be expecting much more than his career averages (.268, 6 HRs, 44 RBI).
That's it for the 2010 Seattle Mariners' projected lineup. Sound off with what you like, dislike, and are excited about!