The Hot Stove season has been fast and furious this winter, but the Mariners continue following their plan by just making small moves so far. With the team not involved in rumors like the last off-season, it’s time to start looking forward to what a potential Mariners Opening Day Lineup could look like.
For the sake of this exercise, the focus is on constructing the best batting order 1-9 with the roster as it currently stands. On paper, this team right now looks like it might struggle to score runs without some big developmental strides from some of the rookies that will anchor the lineup. Looking at the lineup will hopefully show the holes the Mariners need to be focused on this season.
- Mallex Smith – CF
- Shed Long – 2B
- Mitch Haniger – RF
- Kyle Seager – 3B
- Kyle Lewis – LF
- Tom Murphy – C
- Daniel Vogelbach – DH
- Evan White – 1B
- J.P. Crawford – SS
Putting the lineup together wasn’t as easy as many might assume to be as there are many question marks heading into this season. I prefer speed and on-base ability at the top and bottom of the lineup so that’s why I constructed it the way I did.
The biggest issue for me, and maybe one of the bigger questions facing the team heading into the Opening Day lineup, is what to do with Vogelbach. His struggles have been well documented and I believe the team will have a short leash on him.
He needs to be moved down the order with the hopes of taking some of the pressure off of him. He also most likely needs to be part of a platoon so we will probably see players rotate through the DH spot when the team faces a left-handed pitcher.
I wasn’t sold on Smith in the leadoff spot, almost preferring Long there, but I believe the Mariners will shop Smith during the season and if he can rebound and show he’s back to being a capable leadoff hitter who gets on base consistently, that only helps his value.
Long hitting second might be the ideal spot for him. Theoretically, it will allow him to see a healthy diet of fastballs if Smith is on base as teams will want to limit his running ability. With the threat that Smith poses on the bases, it will open holes in the infield for Long to take advantage of. Long is one of the players that I’m most excited to see this season as he could really take off (in my mind Dee Gordon will be on the roster, but won’t be in the Opening Day lineup as he will have to serve as a utility man this season).
Haniger in the three spot is almost a no brainer for me, which means the Mariners will probably hit him anywhere but the three-hole this season. If healthy, Haniger is the best player on the team and is one of only two proven run producers in the lineup.
Seager in the cleanup spot was also tough. While I believe in Seager’s resurgence last year, I’d prefer him in the five spot in the lineup. I worry about Seager trying to do too much hitting out of the cleanup spot and regressing to his past pull happy ways. If Seager can continue his approach from the second half last season then he could be poised for a big year.
I’m not sure Scott Servais will put Lewis in the five spot in the Opening Day lineup, but I think that’s a great spot for him due to his power potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis and Murphy were flipped in the order, but I’d prefer Lewis in the five spot.
While there is still too much swing and miss in his game, Lewis holds tremendous potential. The Mariners need a few players to “pop” this year and exceed expectations and Lewis could easily be one of those players.
Murphy at six isn’t ideal, but for the Opening Day lineup, it’s where he fits. As the season and the young players’ progress, it isn’t hard to see Murphy sliding down the lineup a bit, depending on what happens with Vogelbach and White.
Like stated earlier, deciding what to do with Vogelbach was a challenge. I’ve been in the camp that moving on from Vogelbach is probably the best move as the team doesn’t have room for a bat only player on the roster, but the 2020 season is about seeing what the team has on hand and Vogelbach will be the number one case study for this season. If Vogelbach struggles out of the gate it’ll be very interesting to see what the team decides to do with him.
Count me as one that thought White would open the season in Tacoma, not Seattle, but after signing his new contract the road is cleared for White to be in the Opening Day lineup for the Mariners. White is an elite defender with an intriguing offensive profile. While the power numbers might not be there if he could turn into a John Olerud type of player, wouldn’t we all be happy with that?
Crawford at nine allows the lineup to have speed at both the top and bottom (White also adds speed to the bottom of the lineup). Crawford is another player that eyes will be on this season. While there aren’t many shortstop options for the Mariners right now, they really need Crawford to take hold of the job.
This is a lineup that could surprise people if a few players exceed expectations and Haniger and Seager are consistent producers in the middle of the lineup. Vogelbach is the biggest question in my estimation while the team will need to see development out of Crawford and Smith to cement them as part of the future.
The Mariners have been transparent about the goal of this season so the hope is that by the end of the season the team will know which players are going to play key roles moving forward and which holes they need to fill. Be excited about watching the development of Long, Lewis, and White as those three are big keys to what the team is trying to build.