The Mess Moved Around the Mariners Infield

The Mariners infield situation stabilized quite a bit when Cano signed the deal to take over at second base for the mess left there last season. The infield is generally set and decent except for the huge nested IF THEN ELSE situation at first base. I will start with the known and move to the unknown.

Second base.

No more Dustin Ackley. No more Nick Franklin. It is Robinson Cano‘s job. Cano is a great healthy player. No problems here.

Third Base

Kyle Seager is going to play third and should do a good job. He started all but four games at 3B in 2013. Two notes on Seager. In shallow leagues with large benches, an owner may want to platoon him another 3B since he has hit .236/.287/.381 vs lefties and .272/.345/.439 vs righties. An additional issue with Seager is teams began to shift him more in 2013’s second half and he experienced the effects. In the season’s first half, he hit into six shifts and had a .319 batting average on balls in play. In the second half, he hit into 28 shifts and his BABIP dropped to .245.

Shortstop

It is pretty much Brad Miller‘s job to lose. He has Nick Franklin and Willie Bloomquist as backups, so not much there to push him. Projections have him hitting around .270 with double digit home runs and stolen bases while playing above average defense. He will really have to struggle to lose his plate appearances.

One note on Miller, if you have the roster flexibility, you may not want to start him against lefties if you want any power. All eight of his 2013 home runs came off of right handed pitchers even though his AVG and OBP were almost identical from each side.

Catcher

Well, the Jesus Montero experiment has finally ended. In 2014, Mike Zunino and John Buck will be the primary catchers for the Mariners. With the Mariners having more of a stake in Zunino’s future, I see him getting most of the catching opportunities. It really should not matter though. Here are the pair’s 2014 projections.

.225/.292/.384
.219/.297/.369

Why add their names and increase the embarrassment. The catcher position is going to hit around .220 with a total of 15 to 20 home runs.

First Base

What a mess. The key to this position is Corey Hart or more specifically, his knees. I expect Hart to move from DH to 1B to OF as he is physically able to. With Hart at DH, Justin Smoak will be given another chance to turn the corner and not try to hit like a catcher (.227/.314/.386 career stats). Once Hart becomes healthy, who knows. Will Smoak hit good enough to stay at 1B (doubtful)? Will Hart be healthy enough to play 1B (likely)? OF (maybe not)? Who will play 1B if Smoak or Hart can’t (Morrison probably)?

With the unknowns, I would go with a conservative playing time estimate for both Hart and Smoak. It would be tough for me to project more than 300 PA for each Hart or Smoak. I want to be on the conservative side going into the 2014 season. This is especially true in deep leagues where there may be few, if any, options available on the waiver wire. I would not want to pay for an entire season from either one and only get part of a season. Hart or Smoak should only be a part of a backup plan in 2014, not part of a main plan.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


13 Responses to “The Mess Moved Around the Mariners Infield”

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  1. Dan Greer says:

    One note on Miller, if you have the roster flexibility, you may not want to start him against lefties if you want any power. All eight of his 2013 home runs came from the right side even though his AVG and OBP were almost identical from each side.

    That paragraph literally contradicts itself. All eight of his home runs came from the LEFT side.

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  2. gump says:

    Where can we plebs find shift split information?

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      You probably can’t for now. FG recently got Inside Edge data on just 2013 shift data. I used it for my 2013 THT Annual Article. No one else has gone back and look at the data any more.

      I should probably right an article or two on the overall numbers.

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  3. Matt says:

    You said it, man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

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  4. Brett says:

    What do you see happening with Franklin? The most obvious move is trading him, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a market at this time which is a bit strange since was a top 100 prospect and still has a lot of potential. Would he just be a super-utility guy if he stays put in Seattle, picking up a few starts every week?

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    • Steven says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded. Maybe a package of Franklin, Paxton, + for a good position player?

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  5. spudchukar says:

    Your critique of Zunino is puzzling. He was rushed through the Mariner system after signing at 21 years of age. He posted OPSs of 1.137, 1.210, and .974 on his way to AAA. Then in 2013 he was moved to the Bigs after only 52 games in Tacoma.

    Maybe he was one of those guys who are only great in AA and below, but since he is only 22, has only 1 full year of minor league experience, and managed only 52 games and 193 PAs in the Majors, I am pretty sure it is a little early to decide that his ceiling is .220 with 15-20 HRs.

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    • majnun says:

      It wasn’t a ceiling, it was a 2014 projection

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      • SKob says:

        After crushing at AA, I am surprised his 1 off year while being rushed allows no projections where the kid hits .250? I’m buying him for this year. Crazy upside could come as soon as right now!

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  6. Rodney says:

    What about Logan Morrison? I’ve got to the he will be or could a part of the First Base equation.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      If Morrison gets involved, I expect it to be later in the season. Smoak and Hart will get most of the early time there.

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  7. SeattleSlew says:

    Last year Smoak, against right-hand pitching had 357 plate appearances with 18 HR, an .839 OPS (well above average for all 1st basemen) and 125 OPs+.

    If Mariners had any brains (which, unfortunately it appears they may not) he is clearly a solid platoon candidate for 1B. He also is much better defensively than he gets credit for. Soft hands, great scoops and save several E’s for Brendan Ryan and Kyle Seager last year. In fact, they might have him try batting LH against LHP and see what they get (see: Victorino)

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