The Seattle Mariners expected Mallex Smith to be the team’s centerfielder. The Mariner’s acquired Mallex Smith during the off-season along with minor league outfielder Jake Fraley for catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia.
Mallex Smith had a late start to spring training because of a strain in his right elbow. He started spring training drills only a few days before the Mariners headed to Japan in mid-March. Smith stayed back to get ready for the season. He began his season on March 28 against the Boston Red Sox.
Mallex Smith began the season as the Mariners leadoff hitter. Nothing seemed wrong because on April 1 he was hitting .294. It was Smith’s highest average of the season. Everything was Ok through April 12. Though his batting average dipped down, he was still hitting .255. In fact, he had four games where he had multiple hits, including two hits against the Houston Astros on April 12.
Mallex Smith problems got even got worse at the plate. In his last nine games from April 19 through the 28th, he didn’t have a single hit in 23 at-bats. He struck out nine times in 6 starts, In three games, he came in for defensive purposes.
Even before Mallex Smith was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma, manager Scott Servais and hitting coach Tim Laker figured out his problem hitting but thought best he go down to correct it where there isn’t so much pressure. We should see Mallex Smith back when he does hit correct things.
The Mariners brought up Braden Bishop from Tacoma to play center field. He bats right-handed, unlike Smith who hits left-handed. Bishop started his first two games against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs started Cole Hamels and Jon Lester in both games as they are lefties. It is hard to know how much Bishop will play against right-handed pitchers.
There is a chance that once Mallex Smith returns that Braden Bishop could stay as well. This will depend on how he hits or whether the Mariners are able to trade either Edwin Encarnacion or Jay Bruce, or both.
The future looks bright for center field, whether Mallex Smith and Braden Bishop are included or not. Jake Fraley, whom I already mentioned at the top, could patrol center field. Or top prospects Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, or Dom Thompson-Williams. They are all at least a year or two away.
Outside of Jarred Kelenic, who looks like a superstar in the making at the ripe old age of 19, the other prospects could be traded for help. They could play in left or right field as well. One thing I do know there isn’t room for all of them. However, it is a good problem to have and something the Mariners haven’t had to work with ever.
So whether Mallex Smith or Braden Bishop works out in the present time or not, the future in center field looks pretty bright. Go M’s.