Mariners Insider

Mariners infield vs. the best of AL West

Post by Larry Larue / The News Tribune on Jan. 31, 2012 at 9:14 am with 4 Comments »
January 31, 2012 9:18 am
Albert Pujols

A National League scout once told me a shorthand way to see where a team ranks entering a season is to compare it position by position against its most serious competition.

Some teams, he said, are built around pitching and defense, others around thunder – but few teams win when their overall talent simply doesn’t match up with teams in their own division. Exceptions? Sure, just look at teams like Minnesota, San Francisco or Tampa Bay.

Still, in the jittery lead up to spring training, it’s interesting to match the  Seattle Mariners and the two best teams in the American League West.  We’ll start with the infield today, the outfield tomorrow, then look at pitching staffs Thursday, and there will be plenty of room for debate along the way.

First base:
Texas – Mitch Moreland
Los Angeles – Albert Pujols
Seattle – Justin Smoak

OK, slam dunk. When the Angels signed free agent Pujols, they got arguably the best overall hitter in the game the past decade – a lethal combination of average, power and production. Moreland is a 26-year-old left-handed hitter who hit .259 with 16 home runs and 59 RBI a year ago and is a complimentary piece for the Rangers. Smoak’s number were close to Moreland’s, .234, 15, 55 – but Smoak was a middle-of-the-order switch-hitter. Both Texas and Seattle expect more from first base in 2012. The difference: the Mariners won’t approach .500 unless it happens.

Second base
Texas – Ian Kinsler
Los Angeles – Howie Kendrick
Seattle – Dustin Ackley

A much closer call. Kinsler is a career .275 hitter who last season erupted for 32 home runs and 77 RBI as a leadoff hitter. Kendrick has a .292 lifetime average with a knack for big hits and does everything well. If you were asking which second baseman had the brightest future, you might go with Ackley, whose rookie season last year flashed .300 potential with a little left-handed pop and a .348 on-base percentage. For now, Kinsler and Kendrick are proven, and more dangerous. Nod to Kinsler.

Third base
Texas – Adrian Beltre
Los Angeles – Alberto Callaspo
Seattle -  Kyle Seager

Yikes! Another slam dunk, this time for Beltre, the former Mariner who has returned to big numbers at the plate – .296, 32, 105 – while playing the AL’s best defense. Callaspo  doesn’t have much power, but is a consistent hitter and adequate third baseman. As with so many young Seattle position players, no one is quite certain what Seager can be. He more than held his own defensively, batted .342 in August, then /210 in September.

Shortstop
Texas – Elvis Andrus
Los Angeles – Erick Aybar
Seattle – Brendan Ryan

Andrus is a defensive star who drove in 60 runs, Aybar is solid if unspectacular and had 59 RBI – but at this position, the key is playing defense first, then contributing offensively. Ryan holds his own on defense, capable of making the routine and the marvelous play. At the plate, he batted .184 in April, .384 in May and .235 for the season. Three tough shortstops, but the edge here belongs to Andrus.

Catcher
Texas – Mike Napoli
Los Angeles – Chris Ianetta
Seattle – Miguel Olivo

Ianetta is the best defensive catcher, Napoli had a breakout season in 2011, hitting .320 with 30 homers and 70 RBI in 113 games.  Olivo is a journeyman with a little right-handed pop who has played for five teams since 2005. Clearly, Napoli is the impact hitter of the group, but Seattle’s outlook could change considerably if rookie Jesus Montero turns out to be their catcher instead of their designated hitter. Figure Montero starts a third of the time behind the plate this year. If Napoli’s bat comes to earth and Montero catches and hits … well, that’s a lot of ifs.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. Sigh……….. we suck.

  2. Skysport says:

    Aw shucks it ain’t so bad. Things never look good on paper for young teams. Once they hit the field things things will work themselves out. Seager will hit.290 and steal 30 bases….Smoak will hit .275 and 27 homers…..Ackley will hit .305 wand 17 homers…Ryan will play spectacular defense. It ain’t so bad as it seems at first glance. The kids are alright.

  3. Good breakdown Larry. If possible, save this somewhere and revisit it at the end of the season.

  4. jchawks08 says:

    If this was Facebook, I would ‘like’ Skysport’s comment.
    Those numbers sound pretty spot on. Throw in .280, 28, and 90 for Carpy. Maybe .285, 20, 75 for the Jesus.
    All of a sudden we’re 92-70. Wild Card baby!

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