This 2021 season has been great for the Mariners to identify players who can become a part of a winning core moving forward. Perhaps the best development of them all has been Ty France solidifying his place in the Mariners infield, as a first baseman.
When the Mariners signed Evan White to a six-year deal before the 2020 season it seemed certain White would become the long-term plan at first base. Although he won a Gold Glove in 2020, White has struggled mightily with injuries and poor production at the plate. These struggles have opened the door for competition at the position, and France has seized the opportunity.
Ty France has seized an opportunity to become a long-term cornerstone for the Mariners infield.
In the top of the ninth in Friday night’s thrilling win against Toronto, France made a terrific catch and throw to cut down the go-ahead run at the plate. This was the play of the night, and just another example of the player France has turned himself into since being traded to Seattle in August of 2020. His work with Perry Hill has clearly paid off.
To this point in the season, France leads all MLB first basemen who have played 500 innings at the position in Defensive Runs saved with 3. According to Fangraphs he also leads the league in UZR/150, which is the number of runs above or below average a player is per 150 games. His reliability in turning doubles plays and handling picks has been a huge boost to the Mariners Infield defense.
France’s defense had always been in question, with his struggles and lack of range at second and third base. Many wondered if he would have to be the Mariners full-time DH moving forward. His emergence defensively at first base allows the Mariners to be flexible when filling the DH spot in the years to come.
For all the value he has provided defensively, France has been even more valuable at the plate this season. He is slashing .285/.358/.430 on the season, and an even more torrid .316/.376/.482 since being activated from the IL on May 24. France also has a WRC+ of 135 over this period of time. Although he doesn’t walk a lot, he leads the Majors in hit by pitches this season as well.
In addition to his strong slash line, France does a great job controlling the zone. According to Baseball Savant, he ranks in the 80th percentile in Whiff% and the 82nd percentile in K%. Ty was coached at San Diego State by the late great Tony Gwynn, who would be awfully proud of France’s production so far in 2021.
During his time in a Mariners uniform, all Ty France has done is hit and make plays. He has taken a stronghold on the first base job that has been a black hole of production in Seattle for most of the last 20 years. However the rest of the infield shakes out, it looks like the Mariners have found the first baseman that has eluded them for so long.