Well, I suppose it's getting to be about that time. With football pretty much over and Fan Fest going on this weekend, we might as well jump threads and focus on the new year (Another new year with new hope!) I'll give my annual, completely boring, most likely wrong, outlook on the 2012 M's.
It's interesting that in a matter of months we went from a HUGE weakness at Catcher with Miguel Olivo and Adam Moore, to an actual surplus with Montero, Jaso, Olivo, Gimenez, Moore, etc.
This will be an interesting development for many reasons, but for starters: I don't expect to see Moore or Gimenez on the team. They aren't very good and we have no need for depth anymore. The only way I see Gimenez making it, is if they decide they want some extra outfield depth, but in that case, I don't see why they wouldn't call up an OF who is better than him.
A lot of the boneheads in the Seattle media have been trying to figure out who is the starter and who is going to be the "guy". Well, it's not going to work like that IMO. Montero will catch games. Point, blank, period. Wedge, Jack Z, etc. have all stated that Montero WILL get his shot at catching. Wedge said that many catchers don't really blossom as a defensive catcher until later and that it would be foolish to not give him a chance. However, I think anything beyond a third of the starts at catcher would be a stretch, especially in his true rookie year. I'd expect something like 25% of his ABs to come at catcher, while the rest (maybe a little at 1st) go to DH.
That leaves about 75% (again, this is all just guessing) or so to split between Olivo and Jaso. Wedge seems to really like Olivo, but Jaso is probably the better catcher between the two. I still expect to see Olivo get the majority of the reps. Let's just hope he's done swinging at pitches that are so far outside they're hitting the grass...doh!
On one hand, there's not much to say here, as there's no debate/doubt on who our 1st baseman is, but on the other hand, there's a lot to say about WHO that guy is.
Who is Justin Smoak?
Is it the guy who cranked out 10 homers or so in the first 2 months and was using all parts of the field from both sides of the plate? Or is he the guy who swung at every single curve ball in the dirt for 3 straight months, couldn't stay healthy and regressed defensively?
The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but make no mistake, this is a put up or shut up year for Smoak. Fair or not, it's time for him to start producing. Reports are that he's come in down 17 pounds at 220 and he's completely healthy. You guys know how I feel about Smoak: not a big fan...I really like him as a person (met him before a game last year, really nice guy and he has the best intro music on the entire team) and I know he's gone through a lot in his first couple years with his dad passing and the freak injuries, but he's going to have to make a significant adjustment at the plate if he wants to become the kind of power-gap hitter that he was projected to be. He gets himself in bad counts which ends up with junk balls that he swings at. I'm being optimistic with Smoak, as he is still a young hitter, and I hope this is finally the year he puts up a .850+ OPS like he's capable of.
I think Montero will get a couple looks at 1B throughout the year and Carp will fill in whenever Smoak is out/day off.
I have no idea what we're going to do here...we need some serious reinforcements. Oh wait, we have Dustin Ackley. Sorry, I was reminiscing about going into a 3rd straight year with either Adam Kennedy, Jack Wilson or Chone Figgins as our second baseman.
Not much to say here...I have no doubt that Ackley will continue his ascension into stardom. He was amazing defensively for someone who just picked up the position and although he cooled down at the end, he showed at the plate why he was the #2 pick overall. I'm not even going to name his backups because I hope he plays every game, every at bat. Ok, not really. He'll be backed up by some combination of Kyle Seager and Chone Figgins I would guess.
Hustle-team hero Brendan Ryan will be back here as Nick Franklin isn't near ready for the big leagues yet. I like Brendan Ryan. He plays defense, he hustles, he plays the game hard, he plays alert (still love that infield triple) and he's a good clubhouse guy. The only problem: he sucks at hitting (gee, that's a shocker). I believe this is his final year of the deal, and he's a good stop-gap guy that can hold the position for Franklin in 2013.
Munenori Kawasaki will also be on the team, I would assume. Don't know much about him, other than the fact that he seems to have the same kind of sleep-inducing hitting skills as most of the team.
Hello, weakness. Yikes, could this position be any more dreadful. Let's see: we have the choice between a guy who does everything wrong, a guy who can't hit for any power, or a guy who can hit the ball a mile but strikes out a ton (Figgins, Seager and Liddi there for anyone who was wondering). I'm not going to pretend like I have a favorite for who wins the job, well I kind of do, none of them. I hope it's some kind of platoon or rotation between Liddi and Seager. Figgins sucks and I don't want him to ever hit the green grass or dirt infield of Safeco field ever again. Alas, I know that's not likely and we'll get some kind of dreadful mix of the three. Like I said in the 2011 thread, I really wish the Mariners would go after David Wright whenever the Mets make him available. He'd be a nice fit for the team.
Pretty clear that this position will be mostly Mike Carp. Enemy of USS Mariner and saberarrogance, Carp had a surprising rookie season that started by him absolutely destroying anything in sight at AAA. After he had to be brought up out of mercy, he turned out a pretty nice season hitting .274 with 12 homers and some timely hitting. Yeah, he sucks at defense and his peripherals suggest a possible reduction, I think he's a good LH fit for our lineup that could certainly use all the pop it can get.
Mike Carp will probably get a decent amount of run at 1B when Smoak gets the occasional day off. Casper Wells will play LF on those days, I'd assume.
Just like first base...make it or break it season here. We all love Guti's defense, but another .220 season won't be tolerated. He's too good and our team is too poor for that crap. Not much to say other than that. Another gold glove season is in the works, so hopefully he can get his bat going again.
Sleeper-alert-that-will-make-everyone-hate-me: Michael Saunders. Apparently he's been working with a new hitting coach in the offseason and has looked miles better. I don't think he's going to ever be the guy we wanted, but I think he will be a servicable 4th OF who can play CF and hit adequately. Let's see how wrong I am. :)
Well, looks like this could be the final season that we see Ichiro Suzuki play for the M’s. It’s time to part, but I absolutely love what Ichiro has done for the last 10 years. Take away last year and you have a guy who is unconventional and quirky, yet consistent and durable. No player in M’s history has hit for average the way this guy did and he did it while playing very good defense. So if this is truly his last year…I hope he goes out with a bang. .330 average, 6 HRs, 35 SB. Calling it now.
Ichiro will certainly be depended on less this year IMO, which makes Casper Wells even more valuable as he can play all 3 OF spots.
So regardless of how we all feel about Montero being limited (for now) to mostly DH, isn’t it at least nice to say that our DH is going to be someone other than Jose Vidro, Milton Bradley or Jack Cust?