Looking at the question marks
By Shannon Drayer
Let’s continue looking at what we have learned about the young players the Mariners are evaluating this year. Again, I will state that there are 43 games to go and things could change for better or for worse in that time.
The Mariners’ goal this year was to put the kids on the field so they can see what kind of foundation they have and where they need to go from there. Some of you jumped the gun with some of your comments yesterday as this is a series and it is not all about the good. While I thought it was clear in the post yesterday, I want to clarify that by good I mean those players seem to be locks to be parts of that foundation moving forward. It doesn’t mean they are great players; it means that from what we have seen this year there is reason to believe that they can take another step forward next year.
To specifically address a couple of comments before we move on, New to NW, there is no doubt this team would be better with some proven veteran stars, but that was not what this year was about. The stated goal by Jack Zduriencik was that they needed to find out what they have in this organization in order to take the next step, which is to augment that foundation with established players.
Also, to say as you did that any of the players I talked about at best “will be able to produce mediocre results” obviously is nothing more than an opinion. You don’t know that. What we are talking about here is what we see right now. The hope is that Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders and Jaso Jaso can take another step forward and that Brendan Ryan is more of what we saw offensively in the second half than in the first. If so, then they most likely can be pieces of the “foundation” that the Mariners are trying to identify.
Newton, you are missing the point when you say, “This is the best worst team ever!” Although team building is important and how they play together as a team is important, this isn’t as much about team as it is about pieces and finding that team. There are a few areas to be encouraged about going forward and there are areas of concern that we will get to. Gun jumping.
Chris from Bothell, Munenori Kawasaki gets a pass because he is entertaining and shows spirit? One extra-base hit this year, questionable baserunning and defense that is OK at best? We saw a huge dropoff the last four games without Ryan. I wasn’t going to list Kawasaki in any of the categories because I don’t see him as young or part of the future. But no, he would not go into the “good” despite how fun he has been.
Jesus Montero is hitting just .221 against righties this season, but recent success suggests he might be turning a corner. (AP)
Yesterday we looked at the good. This weekend we will take a look at the alarming. Today, the question marks.
I mentioned yesterday that Jesus Montero would fall into a “question mark plus” category for me. There has been a good amount of good with him, particularly in hitting lefties, but the Mariners need him to be more than a platoon hitter. Ultimately they are going to need more than a .705 OPS from a guy that they got to be a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Against lefties, Montero is what they want him to be. Against righties, he is as bad as just about anyone in the American League. Some encouraging news on this front, however, is that over the last five games Montero has played, eight of his nine hits have come off righties. He has had a total of 54 hits off righties this year and eight have come in the last week.
Could he be turning a corner here? Eric Wedge believes his pitch selection has been better of late and we certainly haven’t seen as many wild swings. Something to watch for in the final month and a half.
The final question mark with Montero is the catching. I think when all is said and done he will not be anything close to a full-time catcher here. Wedge has been careful in spoon-feeding him catching responsibilities and at best he has been up and down behind the plate. He seemed to be making progress with some of his bad habits earlier in the year but recently he has gotten back to stabbing at the ball more, not holding (let alone framing) pitches long enough after catching them and not keeping his throwing hand behind his back or leg while receiving the ball.
One scout I talked to recently told me Montero flat out looked like he wasn’t terribly interested in catching at all. Take that with a grain of salt; it was the opinion of one scout but I have seen and heard enough to believe that he will ultimately find himself at another position. The Mariners appear to be prepared for this, having drafted Mike Zunino with their first pick and having a stockpile of catchers in the lower minors.
Another major question mark for this team is the outfield. Yes, the entire outfield. Saunders is on the good list but as I said yesterday steps need to be taken forward to keep him there. We don’t know what Eric Thames is but “fourth outfielder” has been attached to him by many. He will get his opportunities and we will see. Casper Wells has been streaky. After his return from Triple-A he put up a nice 12-for-20 streak only to follow it up by going 3-for-39. Things haven’t gotten much better since then, but of the few hits he has had, several have been key. We need to see more of him, hopefully in right field.
We haven’t seen enough of Trayvon Robinson to know what he is and behind him there aren’t prospects who are ready to step into the outfield at the big-league level. Franklin Gutierrez will find himself in the “alarming” post that will come up this weekend for obvious reasons. Going forward, at this point, the outfield has to be a major source of concern. It also is a huge area of opportunity in that if they can find an impact bat — be it by trade or free agency — it won’t be too hard to find room for him in the outfield. If they can’t do that then we have real trouble. Cross that bridge when we get to it.
The final question mark (and remember, I am leaving pitching out of this) is Mike Carp. The power he displayed last year was enticing but the consistency has not been there for the majority of this year. After getting off to a hot start in his last return from Triple-A he has settled down into a .264/.365/.361/.726 line. Small sample size, but we will see more in the final months that will hopefully give us a better picture of just what Carp is at the major-league level. The on-base percentage is encouraging and the defense, while not what Justin Smoak was at first base (plus), is better than what I thought it might be.
We will tackle the alarming this weekend.