Morosi: Why Wong and Julio should be ‘connected’ in Mariners’ lineup

Feb 10, 2023, 1:22 PM

Mariners offseason Kolten Wong...

Brewers 2B Kolten Wong rounds third base after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

(AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

The question of where Julio Rodríguez should hit in the Mariners’ lineup has been one that Wyman and Bob have discussed on their Seattle Sports show of late.

And on Thursday, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Rodríguez can hit leadoff “as long as he wants to” and explained that since the young outfielder is their best hitter, they want him getting the most possible at-bats.

Related: Dipoto talks Crawford’s offseason, Ray in Year 2, Julio leading off

During their weekly conversation with MLB Network insider Jon Morosi, Wyman and Bob brought up Rodríguez and the Mariners’ leadoff spot. That led Morosi to bring up one of the Mariners’ newest additions and what that player’s role should be in 2023.

“I think it’s something where if we’re having this conversation in two years, I would be really surprised if Julio was not their their cleanup hitter or three hitter or two hitter … The notion of where your best hitter bats is evolving,” Morosi said. “I am of the mind that Kolten Wong should bat first or second.”

The Mariners traded for Wong, a 32-year-old left-handed-hitting second baseman, earlier this offseason. Wong isn’t a high on-base percentage player like some think should be in the leadoff spot, Morosi said, but he does fill an important need for the Mariners after last season.

“The point is that, especially if you look at Game 3 against Houston, which I think is sort of a good barometer for to go back to and say, ‘OK, that was when the season ended, but also that was a very, very illustrative time were against a good pitching staff, the Mariners just could not get any offense going.’ And yet, that’s the team they’re gonna have to eventually beat to be able to go where they want to go,” Morosi said. “And where I landed on that game is that by the end of it, a lot of the at-bats were looking alike. There was maybe a bit too (many) right-handed (hitters) and a bit too ‘all or nothing’ for my liking.”

Some aspects of offense in baseball will change with the new rules in 2023, Morosi said, such as the shift. But when looking at the Mariners’ lineup, Morosi sees a path where the first four hitters are all right-handed, and that’s not something he wants to see.

“If the top four hitters are all right-handed, I don’t love that. I want there to be more balance,” he said.

Rodriguez needs to “have the ball in his hands” as much as possible, Morosi said, be that him being on base or batting with runners on.

“You’ve got to optimize the lineup for him.”

And that’s where Wong comes in to play.

“I just think that surrounding him with a veteran like Kolten, who can just have different kinds of at-bats,” Morosi said. “I want Kolten Wong connected in some way to Julio, if that makes sense. Maybe that’s batting Kolten second and it’s keeping Julio first, or maybe it’s flipping them. I want Koletn to be able to impact Julio’s at-bats with his patience, his ability to take a different sort of at-bat to get Julio over. That’s what I want out of Kolten Wong in 2023.”

Listen to the full discussion with Morosi, which includes a lot of World Baseball Classic talk, at this link or in the player below.

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