Filling the Outfield from Within
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
As it stands right now, the Mariners have Corey Hart (paired with Logan Morrison, maybe) penciled into right field, and Michael Saunders in center or left. While the idea of trading or signing another big bat is still rattling around in everyone’s heads, there are still plenty of options to build an outfield from within the Mariners organization.
Now that Robinson Cano is taking over duties at second base, it seems only logical that Dustin Ackley will be a) traded, or b) moved to the outfield. If the Mariners don’t make any other moves this off-season, I find it highly probable that we’ll see Ackley in the outfield on opening day.
Ackley, who spent time in center, left, first and second in 2013, always seems to polarize fans. Now that Cano is in town, at least half of the Ackley argument has been put to rest. Besides, it’s not like he’s a terrible defender in the outfield.
Overall in 2013, Ackley posted a UZR of -7.0 in the outfield. Granted, that’s not very impressive, but it’s a sample size of only one year. The worst of his ratings stem from his range UZR (-6.0). However, over his time at second base, Ackley was able to post two consecutive seasons with a RngR of -0.5 or better, and a third season of 4.2. Yes, I understand that second base is very different from the outfield, but he does possess the skills to improve on his 2013 numbers.
Sliding Ackley into the outfield would see him at either left or center, with Michael Saunders picking up the other. Again, Hart/Morrison would be in right. It’s not a horrible suggestion for those guys to take up the bulk of 2014 in the outfield. Even though Corey Hart is still a big question mark going into next season, he’s still better than seeing Raul Ibanez back out there. (Don’t get me wrong, I like Raul, but let’s not pretend like he’s a defensive powerhouse).
Even if you don’t like Ackley, there were a few pleasant surprises during the September call-ups last season too. Abraham Almonte made a particularly impressive splash when he batted .264/.313/.403 in 25 games last year. His .895 fielding percentage over that same time is a little bit discouraging, but it’s a pretty short time period to get any kind of prediction on how he will mature.
Almonte’s Tacoma fielding stats are more reassuring. Where he held a .983 fielding percentage over 91 games in the outfield.
The downside is that Almonte is another one of those Mariners players who isn’t really a left fielder. Almost all of his time in Tacoma has been at center, with a sprinkling of starts in right field. Again, this isn’t to say that he can’t play left, but the Mariners are surely in the market for someone who can play over there.
Stefen Romero might also fit that bill, he put up a 1.000 fielding percentage over 73 games in left field last year. Rick Randall thinks he has a legitimate shot at making the Mariners roster next season if he can manage to figure out his bat and stay off of the DL. I’m inclined to agree that we will see him in Seattle on a few occasions to fill injury holes.
There’s still four months left until spring spring training ramps up, so there’s plenty of time for the Mariners to wheel and deal some more talent. I’m fond of the idea of bringing in Choo. For now he’s asking for more money than most people want to pay, but it may come down. Signing Choo allows for a bit more flexibility in the outfield with regards to Hart/Morrison and Saunders. Signing Choo also frees up Ackley for a trade if the opportunity arises. Choo fits the Mariners lineup pretty well.