The Mariners of the Future: Third Base

I’ll dispense with the lengthy preamble for this one.  Like every other position for the Mariners, third base has good options, questions, and lots of guys with something to prove.  Not sure when I’ll get to the outfielders or how I’m going to tackle that many guys, so you might have to wait a bit for that.  Plus, I’m heading on a long vacation in a couple of days.  Sorry.  Maybe the Mariners will make a trade and clear things up for me in the meantime.

The Rundown

Think of Kyle Seager‘s pro career up to this point as a reverse on the football field.  Unexpected, exciting.  Everyone’s paying attention now, where a few seconds ago the game was a bit on the boring side.  He’s just turned past the line of scrimmage, so that danger of being caught in the backfield for a big loss is avoided, but now he has to make that defensive end who held his gap miss, or else it was just a pretty three yard run.  Seager was a bit unexpected as a third round pick in 2009.  He was the second baseman on Ackley’s UNC team, and most thought that Ackley would move to the outfield in the pros and Seager would stay at second.  Instead, Ackley moved to second, and eventually, Seager to third.

Seager’s hit more than anyone expected.  Early on, he was termed Ackley-lite, but that doesn’t seem so accurate now.  He has surprising power without quite having the eye that Ackley was supposed to have.  He started 2012 on a tear, and despite tapering off some, he’s still been one of probably the three best position players for the Mariners this year.  Right now, he’s an average or slightly wose hitter and a good defender who should only improve.  The player he is now is valuable.  The Mariners could do and have done much worse at third base (see below).  The question now is whether Seager can make that defensive end miss and go for a big gain.  To be a star, he needs to make adjustments and become a constant power threat.  He’s not likely to ever be a huge power hitter, but home runs in the 20s with 40 doubles and a .340 OBP is realistic and would make him one of the best third basemen in the league.

Chone Figginsis still here and under contract for another season, but let’s pretend that’s not the case.  I don’t want to talk about him and I’d be extremely surprised if he’s here next April.  This long nightmare is nearly over.

Tacoma has two players sharing time at third inAlex LiddiandVinnie Catricala.  Liddi is familiar given his time in Seattle early this year.  He plays a moderately competent third base and has excellent raw power.  His problem is making enough contact to put that power to use.  As I’ve written before, he’s one of my favorites because of his Italian background.  He’s actually developed surprisingly quickly for his background.  Now the question is whether he can take the next step to be a contributor at the major league level.  It’s a tough jump to make, but considering his power, athleticism and progress thus far, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it.  I’m not betting on it, but it’s possible.

Catricala has had a strange season.  2011 was a huge breakout and he was the Mariners’ minor league player of the year.  This spring he came to camp and made a pretty good run at the big league roster, but was sent to Tacoma.  At that point he pretty well fell off a cliff offensively and has only started to put it together in the last few weeks.  He needs to continue to hit in the second half if 2011 is to look like anything other than a fluke.  His defense is not so competent at third, and he’s been seeing more time in left of late.  He’s not likely to be great anywhere, but he should be passable if the bat rebounds.  He’s not a monster power guy but has a good all-around offensive game when he’s going good.  Think Edgar Martinez, but obviously nowhere near as good.  He could be starting somewhere in Seattle this time next year, or he could be off the prospect map.

Francisco Martinez is in Double-A, or will be once he finishes a rehab assignment.  He has lots of tools but little production.  There’s been talk of him moving to center, and he’s played it a bit while on rehab.  Right now he’s all potential.  I have doubts he ever becomes more than that, but he’s worth watching.

There aren’t too many others worth mentioning right now.  Brad Miller could end up at third; so could Nick Franklin, for that matter.  Joe DeCarlo‘s another recent draftee who is years away but fun to talk about.  He’s a high school guy, maybe a little underscouted by some, and he’s making an impact in the rookie league so far.  Check back in five years to see if he can make it through the ringer that is the minor leagues.

Conclusions

This is Kyle Seager’s show.  If he’s not traded or moved to second base, he could be the Mariners third baseman for a long time. Or, he might fall apart like every other Mariner seems to.  I’m a little tired of this team, if you haven’t noticed.  Let’s win some games, guys!

-Matthew

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