Three weeks ago my co-contributor Colby Patnode wrote a piece on Tim Lopes making the Mariners as one of the team’s utility players. Today we check-in.
When spring training began, Tim Lopes was one of the guys trying to make the ball club but he was someone who had to make a statement to do so. Last season, he hit .270 in his brief time with the Mariners being called up in August.
Before spring training was suspended because of the coronavirus, Tim Lopes was batting .440. That says a lot right there. The Mariners likely will have three backups that can play the infield plus will see action in the outfield too.
Dee Gordon, who started most of the games last year at second base, will see action at second and shortstop primarily but could see action in the outfield as well. Dylan Moore, the primary utility player last year, showed he could play the outfield well as the infield. Lopes was like Moore where neither had played in the outfield until last season. They both played well enough to be expected to spend time in the outfield.
At this time we are not sure when the major league season will begin. There is speculation it could be in mid-May but at this point, we don’t know that as the case. If so Mitch Haniger likely won’t be ready by then.
Why does this matter? The Mariners outfield starters likely will be Jake Fraley, Mallex Smith and Kyle Lewis which would give each Lopes and Moore some playing time in the outfield. Fraley and Smith are both left-handed hitters so if either one is struggling at the plate Lopes could carve out a platoon role with one of them.
Lopes, along with Moore, are right-handed hitters and could see action against left-handed pitching. While one is in the outfield the other could be the designated hitter since the Mariners will use Daniel Vogelbach against right-handed pitching for the most part.
Dylan Moore is the better two defensively between him and Lopes. Though Dee Gordon will see action at shortstop we might see Moore there as well. Lopes the better hitter between the two could start over Moore than have Moore come in later in the game. This will depend on how well the Mariners are offensively over the most part. The Mariners could struggle scoring runs over the season.
Depending on other players this could be a hard decision but I do see Lopes on the Mariners opening day roster whenever that is. Go M’s.