2009 Review: Michael Saunders


Michael Saunders made his professional debut on July 25, 2009 and while this was his rookie campaign I’m surprised to see the amount of criticism displayed around Seattle about his play.

Those of you that are not new to the site should know of my love of this young left fielder, and for those that are new, understand now how much I believe in his abilities to perform and that he has it in him to become an all-star caliber baseball player.

Prior to this All-Star break this year he was rated the 25th top prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America.  All of that said, this is a review of how he performed this year and just some things to think about.

While Saunders only saw in 46 games (129 PA), he has shown us a few things going into next season.

  • He can play defense; his UZR/150 is 11.5 in 39 games (312.1 innings)
  • His speed rating (6.7) was the highest on the team, and he stole 4 bases on 5 attempts (he also was second on the team with 3 triples, kid’s got a set of wheels) .
  • He has one of the lowest O-Swing% (swinging at pitches outside of the zone or pitches that would otherwise be classified as a ball) on the team at 22.0%. For someone so young and showing such patience is very encouraging, and shows you yet another reason why the team wants to keep him around.

And now some things to grow on:

  •  While with the major league club, his ISO (.057) is almost .100 points lower than anything he had previously posted. While this may scare most people, he has four years of statistical data saying he can hit for some power – once he makes the adjustments to big league pitching the power will return. 
  •  His 4.7% BB is also lower than anything he had posted in the minors and it should return to around league average or above with more experience.
  • His K% has continually dropped at each professional level as he gains more experience at each level of play.
  • After about 100-120 plate appearances at each specific level of play his performance has dramatically improved at every professional stage.

Saunders has 20/10+ HR/SB capabilities along with being a +defender as a corner outfielder. Safeco caters to his tools and abilities, not to mention he is still very young and has time to improve in a lot of areas of his game. I’ve noticed that some posters on various forums have hinted or even suggested that Saunders is just another stop gap or failed prospect ala Wladimir Balentien.

I do understand the apprehension and I know what it’s like to see (yet another) new left fielder year after year after year. I grew up watching Griffey, Bone and ? in the outfield. I’m not even going to start rattling off names but there were a lot.

Give Saunders more time, is all I ask. Is he the starting left fielder come 2010? I don’t know, who knows with all the different moves to be made during the off season? And the general feeling that I get that the front office doesn’t seem to be head over heals in love with him – not to mention there is a lot of organizational depth as well as several available outfielders being shopped around. Maybe he gets dealt for either a starting pitcher or some other piece of Jack’s amazing puzzle, we just don’t know yet.

I do think that if he is around (and I believe he will be) come spring training, he should be at least given a shot at the starting job.