Now that Mitch Haniger is a starter for the 2017 Mariners, what should we expect from the rookie right fielder? According to the manager, Scott Servais, maybe the former Arizona Diamondback is looking to make a bigger impact than most believe he will.
When the Mariners traded for Jean Segura in late November, many overlooked the addition of Mitch Haniger and rightfully so. Segura was the darling of the league last season and poses a potential threat at the plate close to the Houston Astros’, Jose Altuve.
But the Mariners knew they had received someone very gifted in Mitch Haniger, they just wanted to show off the sleeper pick up down the line, once they had a proper place to put him.
At the time of his trade, Haniger was slated as a backup in a fight for time in right with Nelson Cruz, Ben Gamel, and Guillermo Heredia.
As time went on and other moves were made, namely the trading of last year’s starting right fielder, Seth Smith, to the Baltimore Orioles, it became clear to Mariners fans that GM, Jerry Dipoto was looking to give the young outfielder a more prominent role with the team.
That confidence of being the man to beat seems to be pushing Haniger to be the best he can be.
Just a week into spring training, this tweet from The News Tribunes, Bob Dutton speaks volumes of what to possibly expect from Haniger in right this year.
In 34 games in 2016, Haniger blasted five home runs and drove in 17 RBIs, and, as our own, Colby Patnode broke down in our prospects watch list, he has shown plenty of speed, patience and defensive ability at the minor league ranks.
In his best minor league seasons, Haniger has stolen 12 bases, drawn 69 walks. He has also had a career minor league fielding percentage of .971% with a .977% in right field last season.
Yet, according to the ZIPS prediction from FanGraphs, they expect Haniger to continue his 2016 MLB numbers through a full season with 18 homers and 61 RBIs, 39 BB, and seven steals.
However, this admission from Servais makes me believe that he may be in store for 20+ home runs and 70+ RBIs, 50+ walks drawn, and 10+ steals.
Keep in mind, the predictions were made prior to spring camps, so it was unclear how any player would perform. Now that we are getting are first glimpses of everyone, it is becoming easier to judge what to expect.
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With Haniger not participating in the World Baseball Classic, he will have all spring training to continue to work on his skills that have already impressed the coaching staff.
So if he were to reach these slightly higher than expectation figures that I am laying out, where would that leave him in the American League Rookie of the Year vote?
He would very likely be top dog.
If he did reach the heights that I have laid out, he would be only the 16th rookie in either league -10th in the AL- to reach each of those statistical bars in a single season in modern baseball history. Eight of those men, including Mike Trout, Jose Canseco, Scott Rolen, and hall of famer, Joe Gordon, have won the ROY award.
If he continues to excel, impress more than he already than he apparently already has, and turn his practice efforts in the first 10 days into real MLB numbers, I would expect big things from AL ROY award winner, Mitch Haniger, in 2017.