A day after comparing the Seattle Mariners starting infield to the top two teams in the American League West, let’s look at how the starting outfield and designated hitters match up.
The theory behind the exercise? As one scout explained, it’s a shorthand way to evaluate – teams may win with various strengths, but usually it takes one with the most talent. How does Seattle stack up?
Start in left field:
Texas – Josh Hamilton
Los Angeles – Vernon Wells
Seattle – Mike Carp
Hamilton is a former Most Valuable Player coming off another marvelous season marred by injury, but most of Hamilton is better than 162 games of most others. The Rangers have installed him in left in hopes of easing the wear and tear of center field. Simply put, he’s a force of nature at the plate. Wells hit 25 home runs a year ago but also batted .218, and it’s not a stretch to think that Carp – or a loose Carp/Casper Wells platoon – couldn’t come close to matching the power while hitting for a better average. Carp’s defense won’t overwhelm anyone, but his ability to produce runs was evident last year when he drove in 37 RBI the final two months of 2011.
Texas – Craig Gentry
Los Angeles – Peter Bourjos
Seattle – Franklin Gutierrez
Gutierrez owns a Gold Glove, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another awarded to one of these three men in ’12. Gentry and Bourjos are young, fast, marvelous defenders, but Guierrez hasn’t committed an error since August of 2009 – a span of 284 consecutive games. Healthy again after a year of battling an irritable bowel, Gutierrez could return to the offensive form of ’09, when he batted .283 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI. Of the three center fielders, Gutierrez is capable of having the best season. Gentry and Bourjos may prove to be better, but they haven’t yet.
Texas – Nelson Cruz
Los Angeles – Torii Hunter
Seattle – Ichiro Suzuki
For the first time in his marvelous career, Ichiro might be the third best right fielder in the West. Cruz hit 29 home runs last year in 124 games, and Hunter had 23 while scoring as many runs as Ichiro (80). Going into spring training, the Rangers and Angels will use Cruz and Hunter as they have in the past, it’s the Mariners scrambling to find Ichiro’s role. Coming off the worst season of his career – at the plate and in the field – Ichiro may not return to the leadoff role. Problem is, if he doesn’t, where does he hit? Second, third? His skill set isn’t ideal for either of those spots, but batting him far down in the lineup probably isn’t an option for manager Eric Wedge. Make Cruz the division’s best right fielder for now. Mariners fans will be hoping for an Ichiro comeback.
Texas – Michael Young
Los Angeles – Mike Trumbo
Seattle – Jesus Montero
This could be fun. In Young, the Rangers have a career .300 hitter who last year batted .338 and drove in 106 runs at age 35. The Angels found, in rookie Trumbo, a bat that produced 29 home runs and 87 RBI. The Mariners? What, in fairness, can they expect from a 22-year-old with 61 major league at-bats? Well, to start with, the kid will probably bat cleanup in Seattle, which traded for what they saw as a combination of right-handed power capable of hitting .300 or better. The pecking order going into the year has to be Young, Trumbo, Montero but the Mariners young DH could change those standings – along with those of the division.
Tomorrow, the starting rotations of the AL West.