Wait ‘Til Next Year- Infield

Yes, Griffey just retired.  See Andrew’s post below, and I’m sure we’ll have more coming later.  I’ve had this almost finished for about a week and finally have a chance to finish it, so here you go.  There’s a good chance Carp or one of the other first base guys gets called up replace him, so pay attention there.  Or it could be Hannahan or a reliever, I guess. 

And poor Armando Gallaraga.  That was absolutely terrible.

The Seattle Mariners infield is a mess.  There’s really no way around it.  I’m going to spare everyone any preamble here and jump right into analysis.  Again, current 25-man roster guys signed for next year in bold, minor league depth below that.

2011 Catcher

Rob Johnson

Adam Moore

Josh Bard and Eliezer Alfonzo are the only other catchers currently on the 40-man roster.  Despite their recent power outbursts, these types of guys are a dime a dozen.  You call them up when your regular catchers are hurt, and they can probably do fine for a bit.  If you’re lucky you get a hot streak.  I’ll take Bard over Alfonzo, if anyone’s asking. The closest thing to a prospect in the minors is probably Travis Scott, but he’s not much of one and is still at High-A ball.  No help is on the way, in other words.

Potential Losses

Josh Bard:  Unless he has some monster year the rest of the way and there are a lot of teams interested in him after the season, I’m sure the Mariners could resign him for a major league minimum deal or close to it if they wanted.  All of the same goes for Alfonzo.

Analysis

This position is in bad shape, as any Mariner fan could tell you.  Bard looks like the best of the bunch right now (assuming his injury doesn’t keep him out long), but he’s nothing incredible.  I’ve pretty well written off Johnson at this point, and I get the feeling that the Mariners aren’t too far behind, judging by their comments before Moore got injured.  If only he could learn to catch the ball, he’d probably be a fine back-up/half-time starter.  Moore is still the big hope here.  He’s looked terrible until the two games before he got hurt, but I wouldn’t rule out some progress over the second half of the season.  Within the organization, he’s really the Mariners only chance at finding a catcher better than Bard anytime soon.  A lack of progress from Moore and a bad showing from Bard could very well lead to a new starting catcher in the system, whether a free-agent veteran or a younger guy coming in a trade.

2011 First Base

Casey Kotchman

Mike Carp: Carp, who came over in the Guti-Putz deal, could probably provide similar offense to what Kotchman’s currently doing, probably better.  (In fairness, Kotchman will probably get better too.)  His defense would be worse.  Some people still think Carp could do something with a chance, but I’m not so sure.  I think a Kotchman-esque career is about the best I would expect.  If Kotchman doesn’t improve this year, I don’t think it’s out of the question Carp gets some big league at-bats in the second half.

Filler Depth: Tommy Everidge, Brad Nelson.  Big-bodied mashers in Tacoma, they could probably come up and hit some home runs, but they’re nothing to be too excited about. 

Prospect Depth:  Rich Poythress, Dennis Raben.  The real first base prospects in the system, both are currently at high-A.  They’re both recent high draft picks, but Poythress is in his first year and Raben is in his first full year back from microfracture surgery.  Good potential with the bat for both of them, but to expect a contribution next year is probably stretching things.

Potential Losses

Really no one.  They could non-tender Kotchman if they don’t want him around, but that would be by choice.  I would probably make that choice.  I’m not sure of the option status for Carp and the others.

Analysis

They have to find another guy.  I guess Kotchman could go crazy the rest of the way, or they could give Carp a shot and he solidifies the job, but I personally don’t give either of those a chance of happening.  The way this team is built, it might be worth going after Fielder or Gonzalez.  A big bat with power is necessary here because of the lack of power in the infield and right field, but the price is probably too high, both in what they’d give up and how long they’d have them.  I’m not sure of others in free agency, but Carlos Pena might fit, if you don’t think he’s done.

2011 Second Base

Chone Figgins

Jose Lopez

Filler Depth:  Jack Hannahan, Matt Tuiasosopo

Prospect Depth:  Dustin Ackley.  There’s a good chance he’s ready sometime during the season, but it’s hard to say right now.  He’s started very slowly (at least if you go by batting avg.), but no one expects that to last.  I’d bet we see him in July or later next year.

Potential Losses

None.

Analysis

For as bad as Figgins has been, I’m still not worried about him going forward.  If Lopez doesn’t start hitting though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Figgins slid back to third, with either Lopez or a stop-gap guy taking second until Ackley’s ready.  This position is in better shape than the rest of the infield though, mainly due to options and Ackley.  Edit: both Figgins and Lopez seem to have heated up since I started working on this a week ago.  Hopefully that continues.

2011 Third Base

Jose Lopez

Chone Figgins

Filler Depth:  Jack Hannahan, Matt Tuiasosopo.  Tui’s still on the border of being a prospect to me, but he needs to show something in the majors soon.

Prospect Depth:  Alex Liddi, Matt Mangini.  Liddi is having a good season at AA after one of the best years in the minors last year at high-A.  I doubt we see him before 2012 though, and he has a lot still to prove.  He’s one of my favorite prospects, personally, mostly because, uh… he’s Italiano!  Mangini was the 52nd pick overall in ’07, but wasn’t too great the last couple of years.  This year he’s OPS’ing .907 in Tacoma so far, so maybe he’s turned things around.  I haven’t really heard much about him from the prospect guys this year, so I’m not really sure.  I always heard he was more likely to end up at 1B, but I’m not where his defense is right now, either.  I’m a wealth of information.

Potential Losses

None

Analysis

Due to the interchangeability of Figgins and Lopez, much of what I wrote about second also applies here.  The main difference is the lack of an Ackley-level prospect, although Liddi’s on the verge of the next level down.

2011 Shortstop

Jack Wilson

Josh Wilson

Filler Depth:  Ramon Vazquez, Chris Woodward.  Josh Wilson was in this group before, so you never know what could happen.  What Wilson’s doing right now is about as good a scenario as you could hope for, though.

Prospects:  Carlos Triunfel, Nick Franklin.  Triunfel’s in AA and doing okay, but he’s looking at contributing in late 2011 at the very earliest, and that’s a fairly long shot.  It’s also up for debate whether he can play short in the bigs, especially in the long-term.  Franklin’s more likely to stick at the position, and he’s having as good a debut (at low-A) as you could want, but he’s at least 2-3 years away, probably more, and anything can happen in that time.

Potential Losses

Both Wilsons.  Jack is under contract, but he’s talked about retirement.  Josh is similar to Bard: not under contract, but probably fairly easily retained if they want to.

Analysis

I’m not sure how this could be any worse.  Josh W. is doing a solid job, and if he can keep it up all year, I guess he’s a good stop-gap for a while.  I don’t know what to expect from Jack.  I love watching him play, but his bat is clearly in decline, and we don’t even know if he’ll play anymore.  I honestly don’t know whether to cheer for him to come back or retire.  If I had to guess, I’d say Josh Wilson or a free agent is the Mariners 2011 starting shortstop.

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