Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and the Seattle Mariners

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Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Defense

While I expect a few changes along the way, the Mariners current defensive outfield is wide open. Michael Saunders will feature in 2014, but both Raul Ibanez and Franklin Gutierrez are free agents and are still unsigned. Dustin Ackley could make an appearance in the outfield too, depending on what happens to Franklin at second base…..the list goes on.

Essentially, there are a lot of decisions yet to be made by the M’s, but lets take a quick evaluation of Ellsbury and Choo with regards to their defensive abilities.

Over 2013, the Mariners posted a .985 fielding percentage in the outfield. Including only players with 100+ defensive chances, the Mariners ranged from 1.000 (Jason Bay) to .977 (Raul Ibanez). Raul also posted four errors on the season.

The Mariners defensive outfield is not a major liability to the team, even with Raul’s occasional slip-ups. To compare, both Choo and Ellsbury are also talented outfielders. Neither has had a fielding percentage below .980 in over five years, and Ellsbury was a 2011 Gold Glover.

Should they come to Seattle, Ellsbury and Choo would almost certainly take over center field. While it’s still far too early to determine a defensive lineup, I wouldn’t be too upset to see Dustin Ackley take up left field, Choo/Ellsbury in center, and Michael Saunders in right. It’s a very solid trio to field against the AL. Comparing their 2013 stats would look like this:

2013 Fielding Chances Putouts Errors Fielding %
Dustin Ackley 136 134 1 .993
Jacoby Ellsbury 353 347 3 .992
Michael Saunders 263 255 1 .996
 
TOTALS: 752 736 5 .994

 

With Choo it would look like this:

2013 Fielding Chances Putouts Errors Fielding %
Dustin Ackley 136 134 1 .993
Shin-Soo Choo 366 353 4 .989
Michael Saunders 263 255 1 .996
 
TOTALS: 765 742 6 .992

 

The difference appears to be negligible. When calculating the fielding percentage, there was only an infinitesimal difference between substituting Choo or Ellsbury. Historically, Ellsbury has been more consistent in the field. Choo had a stretch of time in Cleveland where his fielding was a little worse, but that was 5+ years ago.

Again, it’s difficult to determine how the defensive lineup will look, but if this is the case, either one of these players will add significant defensive value to the Mariners.

The way I have it lined up eliminates Franklin Gutierrez, but he could very easily be substituted for Ackley or Saunders. On the down side, Gutierrez is not as good of a fielder as the other two (.987 Fld % over an injury plagued 2013).

The Verdict:

Defensively, both Choo and Ellsbury bring a lot to the table. Ellsbury has a history of strong play and a Gold Glove. The Mariners really need to decide how things are going to progress in the outfield before we can see how the defensive lineup will be affected. Either of these players will be a huge asset to the outfield.

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