The Seattle Mariners entered Spring Training 2020 with a lot of guys battling to be the primary utility player. After just 4 games of Cactus League play, we may have a front-runner.
Like it or not, it is an election year in this country. And while that arena battles it out for who can shout the loudest, the group of Mariners utility options are having a bit of a primary season as well.
Thankfully, unlike in the political sphere, actions will carry the day a lot more than words. Seattle entered the spring with a handful of options to crack the 26-man roster as the utility option. Dee Gordon, Sam Hagerty, Tim Lopes, Dylan Moore, and Donnie Walton all entered the spring knowing it was likely that at least 2 of them would make the team and have been jockeying for position over the past 2 weeks. Now, we may be ready to call this race early.
Tim Lopes has been the best hitter for the Mariners early in the process, going 5-5 with 4 doubles in the early goings. Lopes was always a strong candidate, building momentum off an impressive MLB debut.
In the said debut, Lopes hit .270/.359/.360 in 41 games, including and 11% walk rate and 6 stolen bases. In his few opportunities, Lopes posted a 0.4 fWAR, while spending most of his experience playing out of position in left field.
Lopes’s hot start only serves to highlight the strengths of his overall game. Lopes is a plus runner, capable of stealing bases off the bench. He is a better hitter than any other candidate, with at least as much, if not more versatility, than any other candidate in the field.
He’s not going to hit for as much power as Moore but does everything else better than his primary challenger. Lopes also has youth on his side. He will play about half the season as a 25-year-old and is the youngest of the group (albeit just barely).
Lopes is a plus second baseman, an able shortstop, an above-average third baseman, and as we saw last fall, a decent outfielder just on athleticism alone. It is still early in the process and a lot can change. But right now, Lopes has to be considered the front-runner. Or perhaps we should have called him the front-runner all along.