Since I started this little series, the Mariners looked a little better a couple of times and then lost a bunch a couple of times. At this point, the season’s pretty well over. USS Mariner just had a good post about 2011, and the gist of it is Dave Cameron counts only 10 positions where the team should have no worries for the 2011 roster. I’ve come to about the same conclusion through these posts. The last group to cover is the outfield and designated hitter, half of which is the strength of the offense, but the other half has as much instability as any part of the team.
I’m going to go into a little more depth on the minor leaguers this time, or at least until I get bored.
Currently at Triple-A Tacoma:
Greg Halman: The man with probably the most athletic potential in the system, it’s looking more and more likely he’ll never put it together. The quick overview: often compared to Alfonso Soriano, Halman has huge power but strikes out at an incredible rate. A really incredible rate. He could cut that rate in half and it would still be really high. Supposedly he’s solid defensively, at least in a corner, but not really a standout there.
Ezequiel Carrera: Came over in the Putz trade, probably a fourth outfielder-type. Very quick, but doesn’t quite have the game changing speed that might get him a full-time job in the Juan Pierre style. Solid defensively, as you might expect, and that should get him a reserve job at some point. Good on-base numbers, but no power, which has prospect watchers worried his OBP will drop when he moves up and faces pitchers who won’t be afraid to throw him strikes.
Mike Wilson: Former college football linebacker who remains solid muscle. Similar to Halman in the power and strikeouts area, but on a slightly smaller scale. Doesn’t hit for much average. Could probably come up and pop a few while taking a few walks, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever be a regular. Also has a habit of getting injured a lot.
Other guys in the minors:
Carlos Peguero: Double-A. Got everyone excited with a monster first month of the season, but has tailed off since. Again, similar to Halman, tons of power, strikeouts, contact and defense are an issue. He could pull it together, and the raw power is maybe the best in the system, but he’s still a longshot to ever help the big club.
Dustin Ackley: Double-A. See the infield edition of this series for more, because he’s currently playing 2B, and will likely stay there. Mostly thought of as an outfielder when drafted though, so he might end up back there if that’s where he’s needed. Unlikely though.
Ryan Langerhans: I assume he’s out of options or free agency eligible, but not a big deal either way.
Milton Bradley: He’s signed for next year, but if he slumps in the second half, I could see the team releasing him and eating his salary.
2011 Designated Hitter
I won’t go through the trouble of listing a bunch of guys here, because it could be anyone. See the Everidge, Nelson, Carp 1B group from the infield post especially. There aren’t any great options here though, outside of Bradley. Someone could surprise, but there’s no legitimately huge bat knocking at the door.
Ichiro and Franklin are obviously the offensive/defensive strength of the team right now and will continue to be so. A lot will depend on what Bradley and Saunders do the rest of this season. I’m sure the Mariners would love to have them starting next year at DH and left, respectively. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if that happens, either. Saunders is showing flashes. His story wouldn’t be the first of a talented but not elite prospect struggling mightily and then putting it together over the next couple of seasons. It’s hard to say what his upside would be at this point. He reminds me of Shin-soo Choo, both in career path and the skillset he offers. I’d say he’s definitely worthy of a near-regular role the rest of the season, unless the Mariners can get a really high level outfield prospect for Lee or something.
Everyone kind of knows where Bradley stands. Personally, I don’t think he’s done and I see him improving throughout this year after that horrendous start. If that happens, he’s a good option for DH or left, preferably DH. Whatever the case with those two, the Mariners have to find a big power bat for either first, DH, or left. Maybe it’s a young blue chip prospect, or maybe they go all in after a Prince Fielder type. I’ll leave that up to Jack Zduriencik to figure out. But with this team’s current make-up, I don’t think they can win anything without a true middle of the order bat at one of those spots.