A while back I started a series on the future of each position for the Mariners. I took a bit of a hiatus from this series, but now I am back to complete it, starting with the Seattle outfield. Because of the high quantity of outfielders in the farm system, I will split the outfielders into two separate articles. The first will feature players that are close to or already in the big leagues, and the follow-up article will look mainly at prospects that are still a ways off.
The top of the Mariner organization has a bevy of pretty mediocre outfielders. Trayvon Robinson, Eric Thames, Mike Carp, Carlos Peguero, and Casper Wells all fit into the category of “sub-par major leaguers.” Now a few of these guys have shown promise and they all have some good tools, but none of them seem likely to have successful long-term MLB careers.
Trayvon Robinson is a guy that I like personally because he has a fun personality and a great skill set. He’s a switch hitter and brings good speed and can play passable defense in every outfield position. His hard nose approach and infectious smile bring a lot of joy to fans. In addition, he was the author of several spectacular catches last year.
Despite the upside, the main thing holding Robinson back is his tendency to swing and miss. His 74.4 contact% and 12.2 swinging strike% this past season were both noticeably lower than the league average and attributed to his 26.2 K%. His swing from the right side of the plate has a long ways to go as well; he hit just .178 against lefty pitchers during his time in the major leagues.
Eric Thames is like Robinson in many ways. He actually had a worse contact%, swinging strike%, and K% than Trayvon last year. Thames also walked less and is not a good defender. Power potential is what differentiates Thames from Robinson, as he has the ability to hit for power, although his pop is nearly all to his pull side.
If you think Robinson and Thames are bad at making contact, wait till you see Carlos Peguero’s numbers. He posted a
49.1 K% and 1.8 BB%. That turns into a .04 BB/K which would have been worse in baseball by 14 points had he had enough at bats to qualify. So basically, whenever Peguero steps to the plate, he has nearly a 50% chance of striking out and just a 1 in 50 chance of drawing a walk. Those aren’t great odds if you ask me. If you want even worse odds, just take a glimpse at his 54% contact rate and 25.5 swinging strike rate. Peguero also swung at half of the pitches outside of the strike zone that were thrown to him this year, which certainly aided the previously mentioned stats.
Despite these glaring problems, Peguero is still a relevant option for the future thanks to his ridiculous power. Even though he can’t make much contact now, he could be just one adjustment away from rising his contact rate just enough to truly tap into his unbelievable strength. I am not ready to just give up on Peguero. I am also not betting on him being able to figure out his swing, but I’m willing to wait a few more years just in case. I could easily stomach a 30 K% from him if he could turn in 30 homeruns which isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
The two guys that seem to be more prone to long-term MLB careers are Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez. Guti’s glove will keep him relevant for a long time regardless of his bat, but if he doesn’t produce at the plate, I think it will be time for the mariners to move on without him. He could probably fetch a decent prospect at the trade deadline if it came time to trade him.
Saunders is an interesting prospect. I’m not too sure what to make of him. Before the 2012 season, he was beginning to look like a bust. However, with this season came new hope for his future. Now that we know that he can make contact enough to utilize his power and speed, he could be a potential 20-20 or 25-25 threat down the road. In many ways, I can see Saunders turning into a player very similar to BJ Upton. I will expand upon this analogy in a later article. If the Mariners need to part with Gutierrez, Saunders could also play center field where his bat projects quite well.
Tacoma was mostly desolate of good outfielders last year besides Carp, Peguero, and Robinson whenever they were sent down. Darren Ford and Mike Wilson are both far past their prime and don’t bring anything of value. Vinnie Catricala is still an interesting option, but his swing seems to be deteriorating as time passes. He is currently hitting just .162 in 37 at bats in the Arizona Fall League. He does, however, have 8 rbis which trails just Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino for the team lead.
Still, things better turn around at the plate in a hurry for the man dubbed “Cat the Bat” or else he will just be “Cat.”
Considering the outfielders at the top of the organization I think that free agents will probably end up playing a key role in the outfield by the time this team is in the playoffs.