This positional group probably had the most turnover during the offseason. Ichiro is gone, Franklin Gutierrez is finally healthy, and Mike Morse, Jason Bay, and Raul Ibanez were free agent signees. Despite all of the change, the unit as a whole probably isn’t any better than it was last year. If Gutierrez or Morse aren’t able to stay healthy or Ibanez or Bay see too much of the field, this unit could quickly become a disaster. Its not all doom and gloom. A healthy year from Guti could be a huge boon and Morse could rake at the plate. It seems like the Mariners outfield is boom or bust and no where in the middle. Lets take a look position by position.
|Michael Morse (LF/1B/DH)|
|Raul Ibanez (LF/1B/DH)|
|Jason Bay (LF/RF)|
All the outfield free agents we brought in this offseason are questionable defensively and expected to carry their value with their bats. Mike Morse, former Mariner, will be the starting left fielder but will probably spend some time at first and DH. He’s had trouble staying healthy, dealing with a few injuries last year; when he’s on the field, he mashes. His breakout 2011 performance is probably his peak and we shouldn’t expect numbers like those again but a strong batting average and tremendous power will help him produce at the core the Mariner’s lineup.
Raul Ibanez returns to Seattle for the third time after spending the last four years with the Phillies and the Yankees. He’s clearly near the end of his career and should only be counted on as bat off the bench. He’s a defensive liability in the field so hopefully most of his time will be spent as DH or pinch hitter. I think the gif below will speak for itself.
Jason Bay is fighting with Casper Wells for the last outfield position off the bench. I’ve already shared my thoughts on that position battle. In short, Wells is more versatile, younger, and better defensively than Bay. This spring Bay has hit .323/.417/.645 and Wells has hit .200/.256/.514, not that we should put much stock into 30 ABs. We also know Manager Eric Wedge has a soft spot for veteran-ness and grit. This position battle was probably decided before it even began.
|Franklin Gutierrez (CF)|
It’s hard to project how Franklin Gutierrez will perform because he’s been off the field more than he’s been on the field the past two years. The injuries he has dealt with have run the gamut but none of them have been recurring injuries (Irritable Bowel Syndrome!). I think we can safely say that Guti will play excellent defense in center when he’s healthy. Offensively, it’s hard to say what we can expect. Guti’s power was completely sapped in 2011 and he only played in 40 games in 2012. He has shown flashes of power and speed that made him one of the most valuable center fielders in the game in 2009. If he’s able to stay on the field, he will most likely out perform his projected numbers. If he’s injured again, expect Michael Saunders to slide over and play center with Ibanez or Bay covering right field.
|Michael Saunders (RF/CF/LF)|
|Casper Wells (RF/CF/LF)|
|Eric Thames (RF/LF)|
|Carlos Peguero (RF)|
Michael Saunders finally put everything together last year, hitting .247/.306/.432 with 19 HRs and 21 SBs. He will start in right field but if anything should happen to Gutierrez or Morse, he’ll shift over to center or left. The projection doesn’t buy into the progress he made last year, calling for a drop in performance across the board. If Saunders is going to provide any value, he will have to build on the promise of last year and the tools he’s always had.
Casper Wells doesn’t have any minor league options left so if he looses the battle for the fourth outfielder off the bench, it will probably mean the end of his Mariners career. I expect him to be traded by the end of the spring, probably to the Yankees who are in desperate need of able-bodied men who they can call an outfielder.
Eric Thames and Carlos Peguero are the forgotten men in camp this spring. Both have shown tremendous power (Peguero is slugging .659 this spring) coupled with huge strikeout rates. Eric Thames has already been assigned to AAA, Peguero shouldn’t be far behind. They’ll serve as depth in case the injury bug should hit.