We all have our favourite Mariners that really excite us. For some, it’s the big hitting of Nellie Cruz that really gets us fired up, while for others, it’s the sizzling fastball of the Big Maple that sends us wild. They are both great leaders to the team and for some they might be the obvious choice. But for me, it’s the all-round athleticism of Mitch Haniger that gets me excited for what is to come this season. He is the key piece in the trade that made the deal with the Diamondbacks such a big win for the Mariners.
On Thanksgiving 2016, I was giving my thanks to Jerry Dipoto who made the big decision of dealing away Taijaun Walker and Ketel Marte for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis. While others were sceptical, after winning the Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Year in 2016, Dipoto thought Haniger was the ‘diamond’ in the rough that came from trade.
With high hopes coming into the 2017 season, Haniger started on an absolute tear. Through the 25th of April, he was hitting a slash line of .342/.447/.608 and a wRC+ of 186. Then Detroit happened. Diving back into first base, Mitch strained an oblique. He was sidelined until June 11.
When Haniger returned, he really struggled. In 152 PA he hit .203/.303/316 with a wRC+ of 74 which totally contrasts with his April stats. We thought once he got back into the swing of things he would return to his previous form, but then came a Jacob De Grom fastball to the jaw in which kept him out until 19th of August. This was shattering personally as my 3 week trip around the States ended in Seattle on the 13th of August. I missed my chance to see him live in action.
Once he returned to the team, Haniger finished the season the same way he started, red-hot, proving April was no fluke. Haniger finished the season with a .282/.352/.491 and a wRC+ of 129. This was a fantastic rookie season considering the number of stop/starts caused by unlucky injuries.
Overall, critics would agree that this was definitely a promising start to his Mariners career and a snapshot of what is surely to come.
Looking Forward into 2018
There are many reasons in which we have high hopes for Haniger in 2018. Mainly we are hoping for an injury-free 2018, although we aren’t off to a fantastic start on that front. Haniger sustained a hand injury early in camp. However, reports in the last day or two is that he has been cleared by a hand specialist. Hopefully will see him in more of our spring games in the coming week.
Much of the hopes of the Mariners faithful rest on the role and performance of Haniger this season. If he is able to stay healthy all year, he will provide a massive boost to the offence and will take some pressure off the big name players within the Mariners line-up, such as Cano, Cruz and Seager. However, it is his defensive skills that will have more of an impact on our season than anything else.
As Haniger has already experienced playing at Safeco last year, he has gone through the ‘teething’ process. This means with Dee Gordon getting acclimatised to Safeco as well as CF, having Haniger as a more experienced player it will take the pressure off Gordon.
Haniger will be one of the top 3 players on the roster if he can manage to stay healthy. I have massive hopes for Mitch this year and he is going to be one to watch this season for his offensive and defensive play. That is why he is ‘my guy’ for the 2018 season.
Peace out from Down Under!