Sept 2, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge (right) and catcher Jesus Montero (63) shake hands following a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

M's Projected Lineup

A few days ago, mlb.com released their projected lineups for all 30 teams. Now, we only have a couple days until Opening Day, but why wait when we can try our luck at predicting the lineup we will most often see? And on top of that, we can compare what we thought with what actually turns out.

Dec 6, 2011; Dallas, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge answers question for a press conference during the MLB winter meetings at Hilton Anatole. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In the case of the M’s, a lot of information has been “spilled” by Wedge, so for most people, projecting their lineup won’t be what most would call a shot in the dark. It should be fairly easy to guess what the lineup will look like. On the other hand though, Wedge will most certainly try out multiple different lineups as he likes to do, and has done in the past, so that may present a bit of a challenge, as the Opening Day lineup may not end up being the most common lineup.

Here is how the guys over at mlb.com saw Seattle’s lineup breaking down:

1. CF: Franklin Gutierrez
2. 3B: Kyle Seager
3. DH Kendrys Morales:
4. LF: Michael Morse
5. 1B: Justin Smoak
6. C: Jesus Montero
7. RF: Michael Saunders
8. 2B: Dustin Ackley
9. SS: Brendan Ryan

A lot of that has been either confirmed or implied by Wedge, so it seems like a safe bet that that is a lineup we will often see. Guti has seen a lot of time at the top during spring ball, and if he is healthy, figures to do the same during the season. I believe Wedge has also hinted at wanting Seager to hit in the two hole, which I agree is a good place for him. He is poised to increase his on base percentage, but possibly lose some pop, which makes him a solid top of the lineup guy.

In the middle we have Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, both of whom were brought in during the offseason. It can be a good thing when you see your two newest editions hitting in the heart of the order, where Morales and Morse figure to spend most of their time.

From there, it gets a little messier as Smoak, Montero, and even Saunders could trade spots here and there depending on match-ups and the like. Then, Ackley and Ryan will most likely round out the order in the 8 and 9 holes respectively.

The only problem that could lie within this projection is the righty/lefty changes. Wedge has also hinted at Saunders seeing some time at the top, stating, “We’ve been mixing more with Saunders and Gutierrez than anybody else. I like them both up there. We haven’t settled into anything, but those are the guys we’re looking at right now. Obviously, with the middle of our lineup being a little bit more solidified, that makes a big difference for us.”

I would assume that means Guti against lefties, Saunders against righties, which makes some sense. Guti thrives against left handed pitching, whilst struggling against right handers. However, at least last year, Saunders also hit better against lefties, albeit he wasn’t bad against righties either. I have a feeling Wedge either does not know that, or is just ignoring it. Either way, I see the reasoning behind it.

Moving down, the problem becomes less apparent. Morales may move down a bit against lefties, perhaps trading spots with Montero, but it seems like they want to take pressure off of Morales and let him settle into the 5 or 6 hole.

Now, all that being said, I disagree with the lineup a little bit. It is not bad by any means, but I would probably do things a little differently. For example, it would be really hard for me to not go with Ackley at the top because I love his potential, and think he could/should be the best leadoff hitter on the roster. However, with his struggles last year, it may be wise to let him start lower and work his way back up, which is why I am fine with Saunders up there. Other than that, there are just some minor tweaks based on right/left splits.

Here is what I would go with:

VS. RHP

RF Saunders
3B Seager
DH Morales
LF Morse
1B Smoak
C Montero
2B Ackley
CF Guti
SS Ryan

VS LHP

RF Saunders
CF Guti
C Montero
LF Morse
3B Seager
DH Morales
1B Smoak
2B Ackley
SS Ryan

As you can see, I would still leave Saunders at the top for the time being, but it wouldn’t take much for me to move Ackley up there, and try to work Saunders into the 2, 6 or 7 hole. Then there are changes in the middle for the righty/lefty situation I spoke of but nothing too dramatic, and it is all very fluid based on how guys perform.

No matter how things shake down though one thing is for sure, this lineup is much improved over last year’s. Guys who were forced to hit 3-5 are now able to move around to spots that, at this point, suit them better until they reach their potential and are ready to step up.

How do you see the lineup turning out to start the season? Oh and by the way, Opening Day is in two days!

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