If you had asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell you that Justin Smoak would be the Mariner’s all-star first baseman by 2013. It’s unbelievable how things change, isn’t it?
The man that was supposedly a future all-star first baseman has done absolutely nothing in a Mariner uniform. He even whiffed his way into AAA this year. Smoak’s struggles have created a vacancy at first base as well.
So, who is the first baseman of the future?
Call me crazy, but I think Smoak deserves a little more time. Not much time, but a little. Essentially, I think that he gets Spring Training and a few months of next year to prove that he is a better option than anyone else. There is simply too much potential and too much value in him to give up on him now. Switch hitting first baseman with plus gloves don’t come around very often. Smoak knows that his career is on the line, and he might be able to make a few adjustments and pull a move like Michael Saunders did this spring.
A lot of people, including myself, had given up on Saunders, but he has turned in a solid season. I think that we should give Smoak an opportunity to turn around his career in a similar way.
In all likelihood, Smoak will not figure out how to hit over the course of an offseason which means that it will be time to look for better answers. There are a few options from within the organization including Mike Carp, Alex Liddi, Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Luis Antonio Jimenez, Vinnie Catricala, Rich Poythress, and Taylor Ard.
I’m not sure what we can expect from Carp. Following an impressive 2011 campaign, Carp has hardly produced and has been constantly bogged down by injuries.
Liddi, who is just 24 years old, has flashed power in his stints in Seattll. Through 144 professional at bats, Liddi has 6
homeruns which averages out to a homerun every 24 at bats. That’s not fantastic, but that should give you a 20-25 homerun season with a starting job. Liddi’s real problem is his strikeouts. While his plate selection and ability to make contact have improved with experience, he still has a contact% of 69.2% and K% of 36.8 in limited time with the big club in 2012.
As soon as Mike Zunino is a catcher, there is a decent chance that Jesus Montero will no longer be given catching duties. When this happens, he will have to either move to DH or first base. Montero could be a good fit at first considering that his bat will profile well there.
Dustin Ackley is another potential first baseman who is already in the system. I would prefer to see Ackley at second since his bat doesn’t provide enough pop to be a good offensive first baseman. Nevertheless, he is a solid last resort.
At the ripe age of 30, Luis Antonio Jimenez could also receive consideration for the MLB job. After demolishing AAA pitching this year, he earned a place on the 40-man roster and a September call-up. Sure, his glove isn’t anything to write home about, but his bat speed and natural power is impressive. I believe that his ability to hit for power is similar to that of Carlos Peguero. The difference between the two players is that Jimenez can actually put the ball in play. Jimenez’ 18.1% K% in AAA isn’t great, but it’s acceptable if you can get good power production in return, and his ISO in AAA was not a big step down from Peguero. The 30 year-old also had a higher OBP and wRC+ than the Peguero. Jimenez becoming the first baseman for the Mariners is certainly a long shot, but it’s also an idea to keep in the back of your mind.
At this time last year, I was convinced that Vinnie Catricala would be a starter on the Mariners in 2013 or 2014, but his 2012 campaign in AAA saw his batting average and OBP drop around 120 points and his SLG% nearly get cut in half from his 60 game stint in AA the previous year. Even worse, his wRC+ went from 184 in AA to 65 in AAA. This drop off is certainly discouraging, but he certainly should not be given up on yet. If “Cat the Bat” can create an assemblance to his 2011 minor league season, he will be a legitimate option at first base in Seattle. He could also play at third base, left field, or right field as well. Last spring training, Catricala challenged for a MLB roster spot, so perhaps he will do the same this year.
Rich Poythress and Taylor Ard were both high level draft picks that play first base as well. Both of them are a ways from being major league caliber hitters, but they are still names to remember in the long run.
Seattle could also look outside of the organization for a first baseman. There are several options which have been discussed in several different articles on this blog, but some of those names are Billy Butler, Ike Davis, Nick Swisher, or Justin Morneau. I am not hugely in favor of dumping lots of money or prospects on anyone right now, but Billy Butler and Ike Davis, who are 26 and 25 years old respectively, could be good trade acquisitions for the right price.
As JJ said in this article, he expected that acquireing Butler would take, “LHP James Paxton, OF/3B Vinnie Catricala or SS Brad Miller, and Erasmo Ramirez and/or Stephen Pryor for Butler and a reliever/AAA throw in.” I’m not willing to give up that much, especially since Butler will end up being a DH. If there was a way to avoid trading Paxton, I would be in, but I don’t think that that is possible.
In the twenty games Justin Smoak has played in AAA Tacoma since being demoted, he has shown little improvement. He has hit .242 with no homeruns and a 19.5 K%. With the exception of his impressive .390 OBP, Smoak has been completely unimpressive during his minor league stint.
Despite Smoak’s struggles, he has stumbled upon another chance in Seattle due to an injury to Mike Carp. Because of the open spot, Smoak has been recalled to the Mariners where he will try to turn around the .189 batting average he had when he left Seattle for the first time.
Although undeserved, the next few weeks could be Smoak’s last chance with Seattle. His performance may determine his future in the Mariner organization. Smoak’s contract with the team will expire at the end of the season, and if he doesn’t show signs of improvement, the Mariners may choose to move on without the Smoakamotive at first base.
As for Carp, he has suffered from a strained left groin and has been placed on the 15 day DL with expectations to return later this month.
If Smoak has some success in Seattle, expect the Mariners to either demote Carp or an outfielder, likely Trayvon Robinson, once Carp recovers. If Smoak doesn’t earn his spot, expect him to be sent down to Tacoma again.
For Justin Smoak, this has been a huge break and a lucky opportunity. Let’s see if he takes advantage of it.
I took a break from Mariners Baseball and drove down to Tacoma tonight to try to get a break from the angst that goes with being a Mariners fan. As it turns out it was a win-win situation as the Mariners beat the Rangers 7-0 while I was 40 miles away enjoying a fun 16-9 win by the Tacoma Rainiers over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
I’m sure plenty will be written about the outstanding job Felix Hernandez did tonight shutting out the Rangers while fanning 12 and going the whole way, so I’m going to focus on my experience at Cheney Stadium which was delightful and entertaining both on the field and off as you can see above by none other than a dancing Rhubarb the team mascot for the Rainiers who was part of a fun overall warm night.
Things didn’t start out so well for the Rainiers who sent Hector Noesi to the mound as he tries to figure out what went wrong for him in the Bigs. Noesi looked terrible tonight and fell behind 6-1 by the time the Sky Sox had batted through the third inning.
Fortunately for Noesi and the friendly and jovial fans on hand tonight at Cheney, the Sky Sox didn’t seem to want to win this one as they let the Rainiers chip away thanks to a 19-hit onslaught by Darren Brown’s crew. It also helped that the Sky Sox committed 6 errors l but with the strong bats of Carp, Franklin and Triunfel I think the Rainiers would have won this one anyway even if the Sky Sox would have played decent defense.
Mike Carp looked like he was ready to take his place on the Mariners 25-man roster driving in five runs including a bases loaded double. Nick Franklin contributed with the bat and his glove playing second tonight while Carlos Triunfel went 4-5 including a homer while playing short and drove in five runs for his nights work. From my point of view after tonight’s game I would love to see both Carp and Franklin come up and send Ackley and Smoak down to replace them.
The atmosphere at Cheney stadium is so much more relaxed and fan-friendly than Safeco which coupled with the five dollar parking and reasonably priced tickets helped make the trip down there more than worth it and I highly suggest it to any of you Mariners fans who like myself need a break from the Mariners.
I also got to see old Rene Lachemann the former manager of the Mariners in the early 80′s stick his head out of the visitors dugout a few times as he is now the hitting coach for the Sky Sox and is finishing out a long career as a player, manager and now coach in AAA.
Sometimes it may seem that I’m a bit sour about the game of baseball in some of my posts, but the truth is I love the game and tonight I got to step back in time to a simpler era when baseball was a game that was enjoyable for both the fans and players, I feel rejuvenated! http://jeffsmariners.com
The all star break is always a good time to stop and evaluate a season. It’s easy to just see at the 36-51 record and call it a bad season, but let’s look at the specific goods and bads from the season thus far. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many goods, so I will start with them.
Felix (most of the time)
Other than June, when he posted a 4.45 ERA, Felix has been phenomenal. Our only all star has an ERA of 2.67. Sure, his fastball hasn’t lit up radar guns like he used to, but Felix is still a great pitcher with electric stuff. I wouldn’t worry about our king.
Wells and Saunders
Going into the season, most people didn’t want to give Michael Saunders a chance, but a Franklin Gutierrez injury opened up a spot for Saunders, and he has done well. His 20.9 line drive rate has far exceeded previous seasons, and his .320 BABIP has been stellar as well. Saunders has also tacked on eight homeruns and thirteen stolen bases.
Wells started off slow, but since heating up in July, he has hit .340 with three homeruns in 20 games. He has also been one of the few guys who have hit better at home than on the road. Both Saunders and Wells have performed beyond expectations, and will hopefully continue to do so in the second half of the year.
Justin Smoak’s month of May
Smoak’s year has been very discouraging, but the month of May was bright. In that month, he hit .255 with six homeruns and eighteen rbis. A year at this pace would amount to 36 long balls and 108 runs batted in. May was the only month that I felt we were seeing what Smoak is actually capable of. I know the other two months of the season for Smoak was abysmal, but at least we have seen a glimpse of Smoak’s capability.
Jaso came over from Tampa in return for a AAA reliever in Josh Lueke, but he has turned out to be much better than a seventh reliever. He has provided a solid bat off the bench and also a good option behind the dish. He is hitting .267 in 135 at bats, has drove in 21 runs, and has nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Considering what the M’s gave up for Jaso, he has been a quite pleasant surprise.
The struggles of Brandon League forced Tom Wilhelmson into the closer role where he has excelled. In 39 appearences, the former bartender has earned a 2.44 ERA, seven saves, and seven holds. His curveball has also provided some comical reactions from batters.
Furbush and Leutge
Furbush didn’t start on the major league roster, but when the lefty got his chance, he turned into a reliable option in the bullpen. In 36.2 innings of work, the southpaw has posted a 2.21 ERA, .148 opponent average and, more impressively, a .818 WHIP. Unlike most Mariner pitchers who excel at home and struggle on the road, batters are hitting just .114 off of Furbush in visiting ballparks.
Luetge’s role in the bullpen this year has been very specific, and he has become an excellent lefty specialist. Left-handed batters are hitting just .140 off of Luetge this season. 52 lefty batters have stepped into the box against Luetge, and only six batters have gotten hits off of him, none of which were extra-base hits, while sixteen have struck out.
The Big 3
The trio of young prospects have had a great first half of the year, and Hultzen and Walker were both invited to the MLB Futures game where they each made appearances. In AA, the three have posted a 16-10 record and ERAs of 1.19, 4.50, and 3.46. They each have also struck out an average of more than one batter per inning. Hultzen has been the only arm to be promoted to AAA Tacoma, but the other two aren’t far behind.
Time to take a look at the countless bads of this season.
It didn’t matter if Ichiro was batting third or first, he hardly hit at all. His .288 OBP was miserable and he didn’t show any of the power that Wedge had hoped to see in the middle of the order. There is nothing more to say than that Ichiro’s 2012 campaign has been a major disappointment.
As discussed earlier, Justin Smoak had a phenomenal month of May in which he showed the ability that Jack Z thought he was getting in the Cliff Lee deal. However, the other two months of the year have been discouraging. In March, April, and May, Smoak has batted a mere .171 with 5 long balls and 14 rbis. That’s production deserving of a demotion to AAA. If the Smoakamotive doesn’t figure out his swing in the second half of the season, he will quickly find himself out of a spot in the future of the organization.
Beavan and Noesi
2012 is the first full season for each of these two young pitchers. They each earned spots in the starting rotation out of spring training, but they have each had horrible first halves and have been sent back to AAA. Beavan’s ERA was 5.92 until he was demoted to Tacoma. He also had an average of 1.73 homeruns per game which is a shocking number considering how many games he pitched in Safeco Field.
Noesi’s record this year is 2-11. He has lost eleven games in seventeen starts. While this can be blamed on Seattle’s inadequate offense, Noesi has still had a miserable season. His ERA is fifth to worst in baseball, his FIP is worst, xFIP third to worst, and HR/9 the worst as well. Just consider that; a pitcher who has the luxury of throwing in Safeco Field has given up homeruns more consistently than any other pitcher in baseball. THAT’S EMBARRASSING. That’s Hector Noesi.
Ackley set high expectations for himself hitting .273 in his rookie season, but his sophomore campaign has been drastically worse. His average has dropped 40 points, his OBP 37 points, and his slugging percentage has dropped 92 points. Even Ackley’s line drive rate has also fallen a bit. Unlike Smoak, Ackley has plenty of time to become a good hitter, but this year has certainly been a major setback in the course of his career.
The injury bug has been everywhere in the Mariner’s locker room. It started in the spring training with Franklin Gutierez and continued in the opening series when Mike Carp went down. Even the young players like Stephen Pryor and Erasmo Ramirez have been struck by injuries. Kevin Millwood was pulled from a game in which he was throwing a no-hitter due to a muscle strain.
Mike Carp (when healthy)
Carp has only been able to play in 32 games because of injuries, but when he has played, he has been horrible. His average is just .157, he has struck out in over a quarter of his at bats, and his LD% is 15.5%. The only good thing about Carp’s season at the plate has been his 14.3% walk rate which has escalated his OBP to just two points below Ichiro’s.
In 2011, League was an all-star closer. In 2012, he has been a save blowing machine. He has blown six saves and has five losses in 39 appearances. Not only has League lost several games for the Mariners, but he has erased a once great trade value.
Here are just a few of the highs and lows of the first half of the season. I may have forced a few of the goods and ignored many of the bads, but sometimes you have to do that as a Mariner fan. Let’s hope we have more good things to talk about when the season ends.
Tags: Blake Beavan, Brandon League, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Danny Hultzen, dustin ackley, featured, Felix Hernandez, Franklin Gutierez, Hector Noesi, Ichiro, james paxton, John Jaso, justin smoak, kevin millwood, Lucas Luetge, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, Popular, taijuan walker, Tom Wilhelmson
Here we are again, sellers at the trade deadline. The deadline is now less than a month away, and it’s time to start looking at what the Mariners will be selling and what they might get in return.
First on the block: Jason Vargas
Vargas may be the biggest piece the M’s have to offer this trade season. Despite his respectable 4.31 ERA in 117 innings of work, his value isn’t as great as the stat line indicates. Safeco Field is the perfect conditions for a left-handed pitcher. Vargas lacks tremendous tools on the mound, but the spacious outfield at Safeco combined with the marine layer makes a perfect combo for him. Take a look at these splits.
While there is still value for Vargas, he would be a 4th or 5th starter on most playoff-bound teams, so the Mariners wouldn’t get more than bottom of the rotation value. A comparable trade could be the Jerrod Washburn deal in 2009 when the M’s sent him to Detroit for Luke French and Mauricio Robles. Vargas and Washburn share the similarities of being crafty lefties, but Vargas’ age and contract will raise his value a bit over Washburn’s. The Mariners would likely get one or two mid level prospects in return for Vargas on the market.
Next up: Kevin Millwood
Millwood has had a respectable season posting a 4.00 ERA in 83.1 innings of work, but teams trading for him would be getting no more than a 5th starter/long reliever and veteran presence in the locker room. This skill set can be valuable to a playoff ballclub. Still, I wouldn’t expect to get any more than a low-level prospect and maybe some cash. A Millwood trade would also open a rotation spot for quickly progressing prospect, Danny Hultzen who has three starts in AAA currently. If Seattle can get a decent offer for Millwood, I would expect them to accept considering they will have no use for him next year.
How about dealing Miguel Olivo?
Like Millwood, Olivo is a veteran presence, but he can also pitch in a little power. A team with a suspect catching situation may be interested in him to add some depth and pop at the position. The Rays, Angels, and Mets are a couple of playoff contenders that may be interested in a guy like Olivo. Again, Seattle wouldn’t get much in return, perhaps a minor prospect or two. John Jaso could probably get a bit more in return, but I don’t see the Mariners being willing to part with him.
Of Course, Brandon League
League is no stranger to trade rumors; his name has been mentioned for the last couple seasons. Unfortunately, his stock is at an all-time low due to his demotion from the closer role. Nevertheless, an organization with an unstable closing situation could still see him as a potential closer. It would be interesting to see what a team would sacrifice for League. Some teams may be willing to pay a typical price for a closer who is one year removed from an all-star year, and some teams may pay the price of an average reliever. I could see League fetching anything from a plus prospect to a low A pitcher.
Believe it or not: Chone Figgins
Yes, I said it, Chone Figgins has trade value. Very little value, but value nonetheless. An article from a while back
indicated that the Rangers might be interested in our disaster. There is a market for the pinch runner/utility man mold that Figgins fits, and I don’t think any Mariner fan would object to ridding themselves of the most hated man in the Mariner organization. The M’s would likely have to eat most of Figgins’ salary and get little in return, but if that’s what it takes to make sure he never wears a Mariner uniform again, then I wouldn’t hesitate.
Mike Carp and Casper Wells
Depending on the team, both of these players could be a 3rd or 4th outfielder or even a pinch hitter which is basically a position of its own in the national league considering that pitchers need to be pinch-hit for in late innings. One guy is a lefty, and the other a righty, but I could see teams showing interest in these two guys, especially Wells considering the year he is having.
It’s no secret that the Mariners roster has been built upon a extremely young core.
This core is the foundation of the Mariners future, and while the season may not be cause for excitement, watching our young core grow is plenty of reason to tune … [visit site to read more]
Any day now, Mike Carp will be due to return from his short disabled list stint. At that time, the Mariners will have an extremely difficult decision to make. The organization is going to have to make room for Mike Carp…but how?
Carp may be … [visit site to read more]
Going into the season, it looked like Kyle Seager would be a bench player/AAA guy in the Mariner’s organization caused by Chone Figgin’s massive salary and Mike Carp’s 2011 resurgence. However, on the first game of the year, Mike Carp suffered … [visit site to read more]
Tags: Brad Miller, brendan ryan, Casper Wells, Chone Figgins, dustin ackley, featured, Francisco Martinez, kyle seager, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, nick franklin, Popular, Vinnie Catricala
The baseball season has finally started! The Mariners are now 1-1 on the season as they return home from the two game set in Japan. Here are some of my thoughts on what we saw in the first series of the 2012 baseball season.
Things I … [visit site to read more]
Tags: Chance Ruffin, Chone Figgins, Danny Hultzen, dustin ackley, featured, Felix Herandez, Forrest Snow, George Sherrill, Jason Vargas, justin smoak, kyle seager, Mariners General, Mike Carp, Opening Day, Popular, shawn Kelley, Steve Delabar
Just yesterday I was pondering how much longer the Mariners would wait to trim a few loose strings. Today those strings have been neatly trimmed…kind of.
Here is your Seattle Mariners 2012 Opening Day Roster.
Tags: alex liddi, Blake Beavan, Brandon League, brendan ryan, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chone Figgins, dustin ackley, Erasmo Ramirez, featured, Felix Hernandez, George Sherrill, Hector Noesi, hisashi iwakuma, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Vargas, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, justin smoak, kevin millwood, kyle seager, Lucas Luetge, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, miguel olivo, Mike Carp, Munenori Kawasaki, Popular, shawn Kelley, Steve Delabar, Tom Wilhelmsen
Well, A) I thought I’d have the first original thoughts on the first non-consequental game of the year. But I guess Bryant had be all tricky and slide in his pre-game thoughts yesterday to be all “on top” and total steal my thunder. Whatever… I … [visit site to read more]
The following coversation took place between me and myself during one of my long walks back from work yesterday morning/early afternoon. It’s kind of distrubing and it violates one of the things I recently said I wasn’t going to talk about but now … [visit site to read more]
So as you know I’ve had a lot about defense on the mind lately. Talking a lot about gathering fly ball data and that whole crappy project that I’m sure other people have done and will end up being another one of my more futile efforts. But it’s got my brain working and spinning and thinking of things that are fun and interesting. Such as did you know according to Fangraphs and UZR that the Mariners were saved 85 runs by their defense alone in 2009.
That’s a lot of runs. It’s the most by any team in the past decade going as far back as UZR goes all the way back to the simpler time of 2002. Yes, I remember those days. My baggy jeans, graduating high school, listening to the new and “popular” Bad Religion album while being over joyed by the latest Ben Afflect movie. Don’t judge me we all do stupid things in our youth.
The point is that the 2009 Mariners, led not just by Franklin Gutierrez (+30) but a whole cast of defensive wizards. Ichiro (+8), Adrian Beltre (+14), a left field that was solid behind a +21 combined run saving performances of Michael Saunders, Endy Chavez, Ryan Langerhans and even surprise Wladimar Balentine.
Tags: Adrian Beltre, brendan ryan, Casey Kotchman, Casper Wells, Chone Figgins, Darren Ford, dustin ackley, endy chavez, Eric Byrnes, franklin gutierrez, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, Jose Lopez, justin smoak, Mariners General, Matt Tuiasosopo, miguel olivo, Mike Carp, Mike Saunders, Ryan Langerhans, spring training
In my last article, I talked about the Mariner’s lack of power and dismissed the ideas of moving in Safeco’s fences or trading for a legitimate cleanup hitter. I believe that at this point, Seattle’s best course of action would be staying put … [visit site to read more]