Previewing the 2018 Seattle Mariners Outfield

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 09: Dee Gordon /

Safeco Field is an outfielder’s dream. Beautiful green grass to stride along. Wall dimensions that provide just the right amount of space to roam. An outfield that has seen some of the greatest defensive plays in the history of baseball. An outfield that has witnessed kids become All-Stars, and All-Stars become legends.

For the Mariners, one of those legends has returned in Ichiro Suzuki. During Ichiro’s original tenure with the team, he played alongside a wide cast of great (and not-so-great) Mariners outfielders.

Whether it be names like Ichrio, Griffey, Cameron, or Gutierrez, M’s fans have been lucky enough to see really good outfield defense. When Ichiro left for New York, however, the quality of defense dissipated.

In Ichiro’s homecoming, there appears to be a new set of outfielders ready to etch their names in Mariners defensive lore.

But let’s not forget — an outfielder is more than just his defense. The three outfield positions are also home to some of the marquee offensive presences in the MLB. For the likes of Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger, and Ben Gamel, they don’t just flash leather. They can swing that wood, too.

Now, we take a look at what to expect from the M’s outfielders in 2018, and start with their biggest overall   from the offseason:

Dee Gordon

The biggest headline looming over Dee’s head has been his transition to center field this season. Going into 2018, Dee had never played a single Major League game in center which has caused obvious doubt. Jerry Dipoto, however, has been very adamant that Dee’s speed will make up for his lack of outfield experience. So far, Dipoto has been right.

This Spring, Dee already has three outfield assists. He’s been taking great routes on balls and has made up a lot of ground with his natural quickness. I apologize for the cliché, but he looks like an absolute natural out there.

For the past few years, the Mariners have tried to find a steady solution in center field. They were rewarded with above-average defense from guys like Leonys Martin and Jarrod Dyson, but sacrificed offensive dynamism.

With Dee Gordon, they get the 2015 National League batting champion and an incredible threat on the base paths. Combine that with his early successes in center field and you have the potential for Dee to be Dipoto’s greatest acquisition as the Mariners general manager.

Offensive projection: 159 G, .302 AVG, .339 OBP, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 117 R, 54 SB

Nelson Cruz

Oh, you guys forgot that Nelson Cruz is an outfielder? That’s probably for the best.

Barring catastrophic circumstances, Cruz will likely only see the outfield during Inter-league play. However, Scott Servais was reluctant to even play him at all during Inter-league games last year.

Alas, he is still technically listed as an outfielder. If he does play in the field at all in 2018, it will likely be in right field. When that happens, he’ll be a liability, but that comes with the territory. He’s still one of the best overall hitters in the MLB.

Offensive projection: 150 G, .271 AVG, .362 OBP, 34 HR, 108 RBI, 91 R, 2 SB

Mitch Haniger

Initially considered an after-thought in the Jean Segura trade with Arizona, Haniger was one of the bright spots for the Mariners in 2017. Though he also fell victim to the historic injury woes the team suffered, Haniger was brilliant at the plate and held his own defensively in right field.

Haniger will never “wow” anyone with his abilities in the field or at the dish. He’s not a flashy player by any means. But if 2017 is an indicator of what’s to come, Haniger is an above-average role player and that’s exactly what the Mariners need.

The M’s have a nice amount of star power within their lineup. Players like Haniger lift the lineup’s floor and create consistency throughout. For Haniger specifically, he’s a bottom-of-the-order threat to leave the ballpark at any time or come through with a clutch RBI.

He also may save a game or two with a leaping grab over the wall.

Here’s to a healthy 2018 for Mitch Haniger.

Offensive projection: 158 G, .276 AVG, .348 OBP, 24 HR, 78 RBI, 92 R, 13 SB

Ben Gamel

When Dipoto traded for Gamel late in the 2016 season, there was an assumption that he would be a solid glove with a below-average bat. In 2017, however, Gamel flipped the script and succeeded at the plate while also providing highlight-reel defense in left field.

Despite slowing down towards the end of the season, Gamel still slashed .275/.322/.413 and accumulated a 1.6 WAR.

Unfortunately, Gamel is now sidelined with an oblique injury and may not return to the field until mid-May. When he does return, however, that’ll be a huge boost for a Mariners team who will surely need the fresh legs going into the Summer.

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Offensive projection: 101 G, .268 AVG, .315 OBP, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 43 R, 3 SB

Ichiro Suzuki

Due to Gamel’s injury, the Mariners turned to an old friend: Ichiro. At 44-years-old, Ichiro is obviously not what he once was. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer, however, isn’t just some decrepit old-timer looking to cash in on his reunion. Ichiro is still a wonder, has remained in great shape, and can still hold his own with the bat and glove.

In 2016, Ichiro was actually good enough to post a 1.4 WAR. He saw 365 plate appearances and slashed .291/.354/.376 for the Marlins. For a 42-year-old at the time, that’s pretty incredible. In 2017, he was allowed significantly less playing time and at-bats (215) and thus fared poorly somewhat due to inconsistent action.

With the injury to Gamel, and Guillermo Heredia starting to work his way back from a shoulder injury, Ichiro will see more playing time than he did in 2017. If that increase in workload helps him reclaim the success he found in 2016, then the Mariners and their fans are in for quite a treat.

Personally speaking, I can’t see Ichiro being on this team for an entire season. Therefore, my projection will reflect that notion.

Offensive projection: 49 G, .246 AVG, .302 OBP, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 13 R, 1 SB

Guillermo Heredia

As I mentioned, Heredia is returning from a shoulder injury. Though he has played for the last couple of weeks in the Cactus League, he still has a bit of rust to shake off. Consequently, the Mariners may ease him back into his role early on in the season.

Don’t get me wrong — he’ll make the 25-man roster, but he just might not see his regular workload right away.

Overall, Heredia is an average-to-below average outfielder with solid defense and poor offensive capabilities. He’ll hit a handful of homers and beat out a few throws here and there, but he’s mainly on the team for his defense, and that’s fine.

Expect Heredia to be the same player that he’s always been in 2018. Not spectacular, but he gets the job done in certain areas.

Offensive projection: 121 G, .243 AVG, .312 OBP, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 42 R, 3 SB

Cameron Perkins

Called up by the Philadelphia Phillies last year, Perkins didn’t fare too well in his cup of coffee at the MLB. However, Perkins has been an above-average hitter at every level in the Minor Leagues and could see a turnaround with more experience in the Majors.

While Perkins was officially optioned to AAA Tacoma last week, the 27-year-old slugger had a solid Cactus League campaign by hitting .308 with an RBI and a stolen base.

Perkins will likely be the first outfielder called up when the inevitable injury occurs. At best, he will serve in a very minor role with the team. If it’s anything more than that, the Mariners will have bigger issues.

Offensive projection: 28 G, .229 AVG, .275 OBP, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 9 R, 1 SB

Ian Miller

The best part of Ian Miller’s Spring Training campaign has been the development of his friendship with Dee Gordon. That friendship may make its way to the Major League club some time in 2018.

On the field, Miller can kick it into high gear and outrun anyone. He’s a nightmare to deal with on the base paths. He can also use that speed to run down a ball in the gap to rob extra bases.

Splitting time in AA Arkansas and AAA Tacoma in 2017, Miller notched five defensive assists while playing all three outfield positions.

In the box, Miller has shown the ability to get on base and, as mentioned, create havoc with his legs. On the downside, Miller struckout at a high 18.3% clip in the Minors last year while only walking 5.6% of the time. Thus, his OBP suffered once he reached the AAA level.

Miller has been having a solid Spring performance, however, and should be expected in Seattle in the later months of the season. If anything, is speed would be a great weapon to add during a potential playoff run.

Offensive projection (in Minors): 100 G, .279 AVG, .303 OBP, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 73 R, 39 SB

Braden Bishop

One of the better prospects in an otherwise abysmal Mariners farm system, Bishop has won over the hearts of M’s fans for his work off the field. On it, he’s not too shabby either. The 24-year-old Washington alum impressed in his stint with the big league club this Spring, and could very well find his way back come September.

Bishop has hit incredibly well at every level in the farm. In 31 games at AA Arkansas last year, he slashed an incredible .336/.417/.448 while walking the same percentage as he struck out (10.3%). Despite the small sample size in AA, this is what Bishop has done his entire collegiate and professional career. In the 2018 Cactus League, he continued to dominate at the plate with a .400 average.

Defensively, he’s a stud. In 2017, Bishop tallied 11 outfield assists while impressing fans with his ability to cover a lot of ground. That will translate really well to the Major League level.

While it’s still uncertain he will make his MLB debut in 2018, Bishop is definitely on his way to getting involved.

Offensive projection (in Minors): 120 G, .321 AVG, .362 OBP, 4 HR, 48 RBI, 82 R, 27 SB

This is an exciting time for the Mariners in terms of their outfield. There is a lot of youth and a lot of speed not only at the Major League level, but waiting in the wings as well. Headlined by Dee Gordon, this outfield has the chance to be one of the best in the league, especially once Ben Gamel returns.

Next: Mariners Should Look at Goodwin for OF Depth

For as many star outfielders Safeco has seen, here’s to this crop of men shining bright in 2018.