Mariners Spring Training Preview: The Infield
Sep 1, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) fields a ground ball during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Smoak mentioned that Lloyd McClendon told him the starting first base job was his to lose. This was last week on MLB Network Radio’s Inside Pitch.
Whether or not that statement is true, do expect Smoak to be the starting first baseman for the Mariners come Opening Day.
The depth chart says he is flanked by Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. I think Hart will find himself primarily in the outfield rotation. And Logan will be Smoak’s backup, and team/platoon specialist.
There are three reasons I think Smoak will be the starting first baseman:
1. He looked like he might be figuring it out to end last season. He was hitting for more power, and looked more comfortable at the plate– especially as a lefty. Which is why I think he should altogether abandon switch hitting, but that is for another day.
2. He is kickass defensively. In 256 games the last two seasons Smoak has committed only 9 errors, good enough for a .996 fielding percentage. Likewise, he shows great range and instinct at first, providing a solid target and a steady mitt for the other guys around the diamond.
3. Seriously, who is going to take his job? The Mariners didn’t bring in anyone this offseason who looks to be a competitive replacement for Smoak. Sure Hart and Morrison are here, but they look to be platoon guys, or outfield guys, or who-really-knows guys. If the M’s re-sign Kendrys Morales it is another story entirely, but unless Smoak blows it in Spring Training, first base is his for the time being.
That being said, though, this is most certainly Smoak’s last legitimate chance to be an everyday major leaguer in the Pacific North West.