Mariners Fans New Favorite Player: Right Fielder Mitch Haniger

Feb 28, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Mitch Haniger (17) bats against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Mitch Haniger (17) bats against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

New Mariners right fielder, Mitch Haniger was acquired Nov. 23 from the Diamondbacks along with Jean Segura and Zac Curtis for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. Haniger very well may end up being the best player involved in that trade.

The big names in this trade were Walker and Segura, but Haniger could end up being the most impactful pickup when it’s all said and done. The right-handed outfielder has an impressive repertoire that will translate successfully in the major leagues and with this Mariners squad in 2017.

“Haniger last year, by the numbers, was able to show that he was the best offensive player in the minor leagues,” Dipoto said. “You put the numbers together and he produced more runs … than any other hitter in minor league baseball.”

Who Is This Guy?

Haniger was originally drafted by the Mets out of high school as a 31st round pick in 2009. He opted to play at the collegiate level with Cal Poly, boosting his draft stock by 2012 where he was then drafted in the first round by the Brewers. He eventually was traded to Arizona in 2014 before coming to Seattle this past offseason.

The Mountain View, California native played 455 games in the minors over four and a half years, posting a slash line of .290/.370/.490 over that time. In 2016, before getting the call to the majors, Haniger spent 74 games in AAA, slashing .341/.428/.670.

Related Story: Is Haniger Aiming For AL Rookie Of The Year?

At 25, Haniger made his debut in the major leagues with the Diamondbacks on August 16, 2016. He finished the year out with the club, playing 34 games and slashing .229/.309/.404. He had 25 hits in 109 at-bats while slugging five home runs and driving in 17.

Of those 34 games played, he was stationed in centerfield for 22 of those ballgames where he had a range factor of 2.36 and made no errors.

Now 26, the Mariners have a player ready to impact the club primed to make their first playoff appearance since 2001.  His athleticism in the outfield and ability to impact the lineup will make him an important piece of the 2017 team.

What Impact Will He Have In 2017?

In a speedy outfield that Jerry Dipoto has put together, Haniger fits in perfectly.

Covering right field, he should be able to defend the property that Leonys Martin can’t on that side of the field. In the lineup, he won’t be relied on as a big bat, but will still have plenty of opportunities to clean up after Cano, Cruz, and Seager do their thing.

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This spring, Haniger has been a pleasant surprise.

In nine games thus far, he is 10-for-25 with three doubles and two home runs. Spring training isn’t a case for projections, he won’t hit .400 with 36 home runs in 2017, but it’s certainly more promising to see him be productive than to not.

According to the Steamer projections on Fangraphs, Haniger is projected to slash .249/.315/.413 with 15 home runs and a WAR of 1.5. If he can do that, and he has the potential with the lineup he is in to do better that that, he will exceed expectations many have for him

“I feel blessed to be valued and that’s something that Jerry and Scott told me when I got traded over here, that they really liked me as a player,” Haniger said. “I’m not doing anything different now than I have in the past as far as work ethic. In my mind, I’m still fighting to make the team, to earn my spot.”

The Mariners Won The Mitch Haniger Trade

As far as the original trade goes, Segura will likely out-perform Haniger this year. But in the coming years, Haniger could become the better player. This year according to the same Fangraphs projections, they have Segura slashing a .273/.316/.395 with a WAR of 2.2.

Based solely on these projections, they will have fairly comparable seasons in terms of on-base percentage. Segura will have the better average but Haniger will provide more power which both will work well in their respective spots in the lineup.

Mitch Haniger will be one of the more enjoyable players to watch this season and will become a fan favorite to many along the way. He still has rookie status through this year and is under team control until 2023.

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Figuring Dipoto keeps him around the next few years, Mariners fans have the opportunity to watch one of the more exciting up and coming players in baseball. Keep your eyes on Haniger, and you just may see a blossoming All-Star in the making.