3. Shed Long Jr.
It didn’t take Shed Long much time to become a fan favorite in Seattle. Of course, when you come up and immediately produce in your first taste of Major League Baseball, it isn’t difficult to understand how it happened.
Long hit .263/.333/.454 in 169 PAs in his first go at MLB pitching with 5 home runs and 12 doubles in 2019. But these numbers only point to a small part of the reason for the excitement fans are feeling for Long.
Long started his big league career by going 0-12 and being sent back down shortly after. But Long was recalled a few weeks later and the rest of his time in Seattle went remarkably well, slashing .280/.344/.483 in 157 PAs.
Long appeared to be more comfortable the more he played and now he enters 2020 as the assumed every day second baseman, despite the presence of Dee Gordon on the roster (for now). Unlike Crawford, for whom we are looking for changes, the questions surrounding Long are about whether or not he can repeat his success over the course of a full season.
Most believe Long will hit enough to carve out a role as a bat-first utility option, similar to that of Marwin Gonzales. The questions about whether or not Long can be an everyday player revolve mostly around his defense.
Long showed some versatility in 2019 and played a decent left field for stretches. Ultimately, it appears the Mariners see his future at second base, where he has some serious question marks surrounding him. The question as to whether he will be able to stick at second should be easy enough for most to see and that process for fans will begin early in Spring Training.
Long isn’t a lock to be a bad defender. He is a good athlete and has the skills required to be good with enough time. If he can be even a fringe-average defender, his bat should carry him as an everyday player. But of course, we would love to see him be better than that. And he very well could get there.