A ban on defensive shifts requires more range from the Seattle Mariners infielders
Moving your second baseman into short right field is going to be a thing of the past starting next season. With only two infielders allowed on each side of second base, that will greatly change how defenses approach each batter.
Teams will still be able to move their infielders; for example, the Mariners could put J.P. Crawford barely to the left of second base, and move Eugenio Suarez to the traditional 6 position. But J.P. won’t be able to start on the right side of second base which ultimately leaves a gap that used to be closed between the shortstop and second baseman on a pull-heavy left-handed hitter.
With that being said, I think defensive-minded infielders will be a premium asset moving forward. Infielders with great range will especially be prized.
Fans are excited about the potential of signing a top infielder this offseason but their defensive capabilities will highly be considered. Players such as Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa are all options people have been raving about signing this offseason. But, the big question mark is whether any of them would be willing to move to second base.
Having any of these players in the infield would be great from an offensive perspective but a few of them lack in the range department. Trea Turner posted a 2.8 range runs; also known as RngR measures the number of runs above of below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity. That was the second highest among shortstops lasting year according to FanGraphs.
The next best would be Dansby Swanson who posted a 0.2 RngR, quite the stark gap. Carlos Correa posted a 0.1 RngR and Xander Bogaerts posted a -0.4 RngR.
Ultimate zone rating (UZR) is also a useful metric to measure a player’s defensive impact. Among the shortstops just mentioned, Xander Bogaerts posted a 4.9 UZR, Dansby Swanson posted a 1.1, Carlos Correa posted a 1.0, and Trea Turner posted a -0.7.
And where does J.P. Crawford fall under these two metrics? Crawford posted a -0.3 and a -1.2 RngR. So, is J.P. Crawford not our best option at shortstop? If we are able to sign one of the top free agent shortstops, I might rather have them be our everyday shortstop instead of Crawford.
I recently analyzed Crawford’s numbers and I think he might be a suitable second baseman, especially when considering the free agent market and the ban on shifts. J.P. ranks on the lower side of arm strength and his range numbers are a bit worrisome from 2022. But, we know J.P. can pick it so why not make his job easier by moving him closer to first base?
Besides the potential of signing a shortstop and moving J.P. to second, not a whole lot will change at third and first most likely. Ty France was tied with Paul Goldschmidt with 2 DRS and posted a decent 0.2 RngR.
Eugenio Suarez didn’t have the most glamorous defensive metrics but he was alright. He posted a -2 DRS and a 0.6 RngR. Plus, I think the Seattle Mariners will keep the designated hitter spot open for the likes of Jesse Winker and others. Keeping Suarez and France on the field isn’t a major liability by any means.
But now with infield defense in mind, is there potential for Evan White to make an impact? Moving on to the last piece, let’s take a look at running numbers from the Mariners and if steals can be an area they can take advantage of.