2016 Seattle Mariners Spring Preview: The Infield
Thursday, February 04, 2016
In this, the second piece in the series, I want to take a thorough look at the Mariners’ infield group. The group consists of a first basemen, second basemen, third basemen and a shortstop. If you’re wondering about the catchers, fear not. We’ll get there in the coming weeks.
Let’s get the facts out of the way. Here are the seven infielders on the Seattle Mariners’ 40-man roster.
The starting infield is relatively set, barring any sort of huge setback or early injuries. Adam Lind, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Ketel Marte are all going into spring training, for the most part, with no risk of losing their jobs to anyone else on the roster. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. There’s still a lot of time and work between now and opening day, and there are still some intriguing things to watch. I fully expect all but one of these players to make the 25-man roster and play regularly.
As long as Jesus Montero shows up in shape and holds his own this spring, he will make the team as either a backup or platoon partner with Adam Lind at first base. Adam Lind can hit right handed pitching. Not only does he hit righties, he crushes them. If all pitchers were right-handed, Adam Lind would be a perennial MVP candidate. So just keep that in mind. Last year he hit .291/.380/.503, in 398 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. Unfortunately for Adam Lind, left-handed pitchers are a real thing and he has real trouble with them. Last year against lefties he hit .221/.277/.298. That’s where Jesus Montero comes into the picture. Jesus has historically hit very well against lefties, and made a case in AAA last year that he’s ready to become the player every scout in the country once believed he could be. He was called up late in the season by the Mariners and struggled a bit in a small sample.
Jesus Montero could be the difference. I say that with authority because I believe it. He has that much raw talent buried under a couple years of frustration and immaturity. But in the last year and half, everyone in the organization said the change in his attitude and work ethic was real and the production in Tacoma was a testament to that. He’s still in his mid 20’s and if he has a good year, even as a platoon partner, the team should benefit from a giant gain in production at first base. He and Lind, combined, could make for one very dangerous first baseman.
The downside I see to having those two players both on the team is that neither of them can really play a second position. If you’re keeping a bench player who can only play one position, you’re thin somewhere else.
Who Makes the Cut
As I said earlier, there’s a need on this team for all but one of the infielders currently on the 40-man roster. And that competition will come down to Luis Sardinas and Chris Taylor. Without checking to see who has more options left, (I believe they both have minor league options left) my guess is that this battle will be won by whichever of the two get on base more often, and don’t make stupid mistakes defensively. I have to admit I’m sort of pulling for Taylor, as I like the way he plays short and his aggressiveness at the plate. I think he’s got some interesting tools that I’d like coming off the bench.
Again, much can change between now and then. We could see a giant spring training regression from Ketel Marte, which pushes him into the Tacoma conversation. I doubt that though. Whether you’re looking at stats or just trusting your eyes, Marte looked like the real deal in the second half of last season. He had good range at shortstop, made some awe-inspiring highlight plays and looked good on the base paths. He also showed good patience, contact ratings and gap-power in limited plate appearances. The double play duo of Marte and Cano could be downright lethal and is a big part of being strong up the middle defensively.
I’ve only got a couple of things to say about Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.
Firstly, Robinson Cano had offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia injury. He says he’s feeling better than he has in the last two years. Who knows what that actually means, but my baseball intuition, (which is totally a real thing!) is telling me that Cano is about to shut the mouths of some of his critics this year.
Kyle Seager has said that he wants to work on raising his on-base percentage this season. He’ll be looking at improving pitch selection and cut down on his bad swings. Again, doesn’t everyone want to strike out less and get on base more? If Kyle does put his focus on OBP, it’ll also likely mean his home runs dip a little in favor of more doubles and runs scored. To me this is a sign and shows that Seager is buying into to the Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais’ playing philosophy.
Kyle Seager just watched his little brother play in the playoffs. His little brother is the number one prospect in the country. Kyle now has a chip on his shoulder and wants to play in October very badly. All Kyle has ever done is get better, every single year. I’m going to just go ahead and say it now. Kyle Seager makes the All-Star team and wins a silver slugger award this season and once again, gets even better.
Areas of Concern
I’m feeling sort of uncomfortable with all of this Mariners optimism. The idea that I’m not worried even a little about this group producing is sort of terrifying. Am I just setting myself up for disappointment? Possibly. History certainly isn’t on our side, Mariners’ fans. But I can’t help but to get increasingly excited the more deeply I look at this team that Jerry Dipoto has put together. I honestly don’t see a lot of holes in this group.
My friend Neal always says, “If you can’t get excited about the possibilities of spring training, you should stop following baseball.” I tend to agree with that. There’s reason for hope with this group, and if I’m wrong there will be plenty of time to talk about that later.
That’s two position groups down and three more to go. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at the catchers, the outfielders and the bullpen. And I’m happy to say, there’s more positivity to come.
Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time
Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films.
#8 The Longest Yard
Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.
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