There are now just 17 days until Mariners Opening Day! So, today we preview the season of the current Mariners number 17, Mitch Haniger.
The last full season that Haniger played was 2018 and he was fantastic, hitting a line of .285/.366/.493 with an .859 OPS, 26 home runs, a 6.2 WAR, and receiving his only All-Star Game selection. However, in 2019 Mitch only played in 63 games and had a .778 OPS which was just a 108 OPS+. He only played in 63 games because he suffered a ruptured testicle in June, and then over the next few months would have to undergo multiple surgeries for his back and core.
When the pandemic hit, many thought that the delay of the baseball season would mean that Haniger could play in 2020 but even with the season not starting until July, Mitch missed the entire 2020 season.
How’s the Mariners Mitch Haniger doing so far in Spring Training?
Now, Mitch Haniger is finally playing in competitive baseball games for the first time in 21 months and is looking great. In 18 at-bats this spring, Haniger has 5 hits, 2 doubles, a home run, and 2 walks. This adds up to a .278/.350/.556 batting line and a .906 OPS. Despite sitting out one game due to slippery field conditions, there have been no signs that Haniger’s health is an issue.
In fact, before Spring Training started Jerry Dipoto met with the media last month and said that Mitch Haniger looks great and that when he is healthy he is Seattle’s best player. He also said, “If we can get some version of (2018) Mitch Haniger back on the field it really changes our arc.” 2018 Haniger of course references what I discussed earlier which was a 6.2 WAR form of the 4-year MLB veteran.
If that 2018 form returns, then the Mariners will have an interesting decision on their hands. Haniger will be a free agent after the 2022 season and will be 31, so if he performs this season a trade could be in order if Seattle can get a sizable return. Or, they can keep him and Haniger could be a key part of what we all hope will be some competing Mariners teams, as he was in 2018.