With O’Malley Out For Now, Who Takes The Mariners Infield Utility Spot?
The Mariners likely infield utilityman, Shawn O’Malley, has undergone an appendectomy surgery after he felt a pain over the past few days. He may have come through the operation smoothly, but he will still be sidelined for some time. With O’Malley out, he appears to have lost his spot as the go-to utility infielder, at least for the start of the campaign. So, who will take the spot?
In 2016, Shawn O’Malley was the Mariners go to back up in the infield with his 89 game appearances. Only Franklin Gutierrez played in more games, appearing in 98 contests.
Towards the end of last year, the M’s gave opportunities in the infield to guys that are still on the roster: Mike Freeman and Daniel Vogelbach.
As we now know, Vogelbach will be platooning at first base in 2017 with Danny Valencia. Freeman is still battling for the utility spot -and with O’Malley out- the battle for the position to begin the season as the lead infield backup is between him and Taylor Motter.
Both candidates for the utility spot have had plenty of reps -at least 15 games- already this spring to make their case to be on the 25-man roster, but we are seeing one stand out above the other.
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Freeman is having a decent spring with his .286 batting average, 10 RBIs, four doubles, three runs scored, and two stolen bases. However, his strikeout to walk ratio is 9/2 which isn’t something to write home about.
Motter, on the other hand, has a K/BB ratio of 10/7, which is more of what you want to see. And for his other numbers? His batting average is slightly higher at .300, a home run, six RBIs, two doubles, nine runs scored, and five stolen bases.
What stands out for Motter is his K/BB ratio, his OBP. which is 140 points higher than Freeman’s. Most importantly though is their fielding percentage. Freeman already has seven errors on 44 chances (84%) while Motter has committed just one error in 49 chances (97%).
Sure, Motter’s speed grabs your attention, especially with his flowing locks, but his patience at the plate will be extra valuable this season with the hitting ability of Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager poised to be better than ever. Plus you get the glove and the hair.
Related Story: O'Malley Having A Great Spring
This Freeman/Motter battle should only be a temporary fix while O’Malley is recovering. Servais has had great things to say about O’Malley’s game, telling The Seattle Times:
"“He’s played very well (this spring),’’ Servais said of O’Malley who has hit .278 in 36 at-bats. “Done a nice job at shortstop and wherever we’ve put him. We all know what Shawn brings. It’s the high energy, great effort every time he’s out there, whether it’s a spring training ‘B’ game or we put him in late in a game in a big-league game. We understand what he brings and we value it. Hopefully he can get healthy and back on the field as soon as possible.”"
O’Malley is the most tenured player of the three, but he also is the most versatile utility player, having experienced in the infield and outfield.
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Thankfully, Motter and Freeman are fine replacements for Motter while he quickly tries to get in good health, but don’t expect whoever is chosen that isn’t O’Malley to stay on the 25-man roster to stay up in the big leagues very long even if either of them are playing well.
And once O’Malley does come back if the rest of the lineup stays healthy, I wouldn’t expect him to play more than 75 games because Valencia can also play a utility infield role, Heredia will sure up the outfield, and the rest of the infield all has experience playing 150+ games.