Projecting the M’s Lineup 1.0

 The Seattle Mariners signed or acquired via trade three new lineup pieces over the offseason and while I think most agree that more is needed — whether that be Kendrys Morales in March or April or a pre-summer trade — the offense is better, on paper at least, than it was a year ago.

While there are a lot of scenarios that makes sense, such as Kyle Seager batting anywhere from second to fourth or fifth, to the leadoff spot where Brad Miller and Abraham Almonte could both make some sense, here is one potential lineup versus right-handed starters and one versus left-handed starters.

Almonte, who by no means has a roster spot sewn up just yet, could get some starts versus right-handed pitching — he’s a much stronger hitter from the left side — and there will likely be games, mostly versus southpaws where Corey Hart remains in right field, Almonte starts in center and Saunders plays left for Ackley or Saunders sits in favor of Ackley. That could occur just as much as Saunders in center versus lefties, with Almonte sitting and Ackley playing left. It’s truly a mix-and-match four-man rotation where ultimately the top performers earn the most starts.

I like Seager in the No. 2 spot, but it could make some sense to use him down a few spots, too, depending on how well Ackley, Almonte and Saunders — the other candidates to bat in the top two spots — are swinging the bat. From the outset, it should be Miller-Seager batting 1-2, but Lloyd McClendon and Trent Jewett may decide otherwise.

Projected M’s Lineup vs. RHP
No. Player
1 Brad Miller, SS
2 Kyle Seager, 3B
3 Robinson Cano, 2B
4 Corey Hart, RF
5 Justin Smoak, 1B
6 Logan Morrison, DH
7 Michael Saunders, CF
8 Mike Zunino/John Buck C
9 Dustin Ackley, LF
Projected M’s Lineup vs. LHP
No. Player
1 Brad Miller, SS
2 Abraham Almonte, CF
3 Robinson Cano, 2B
4 Corey Hart, DH
5 Kyle Seager, 3B
6 Justin Smoak/Logan Morrison, 1B
7 Michael Saunders, RF
8 Mike Zunino/John Buck C
9 Dustin Ackley, LF

As you can see, I’m by no means ready to anoint Almonte a regular and there’s no chance I pigeonhole Miller as a hitter that needs to be platooned, at least in terms of where he bats in the order, versus left-handed pitching. He was terrific versus southpaws in Tacoma last year and posted a better batting average and on-base percentage against them in the bigs than he did versus right-handers. Prior to 2013, he’s more than held his own versus lefties, and Almonte hasn’t had much success as a right-handed batter, anyway, suggesting that swap is rather insane.

As I stated above, there are a lot of ways this can go, especially if Nick Franklin is traded for a piece the big club can use right away, or if Stefen Romero makes the 25-man roster somehow and is used versus left-handed pitching.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

17 Comments

  1. It seems McClendon is leaning towards having Smoak bat behind Cano in cleanup. I think Seager has earned a spot near the top of the order, so that would likely mean #2 hole. Almonte and Miller will probably split lead off, though I think Ackley is actually the best player of the three to lead off. Hart’s health will be important in determining where this offense goes. It’ll be interesting to see what type of production we get from Logan. Our bottom of the order certainly looks productive. Unfortunately, the question marks remain with the 4-5-6 hitters.

  2. This team is damn difficult to project.

    Cano will be the #3 hitter. Seager will be between 2 and 6. Thats about all we have in terms of high-probability predictions.

    The team has a huge degree of variability in terms of possible outcomes.

    Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Logan Morrison, and Michael Saunders are all guys who have talent, but are just as likely to completely flop as they are to be really good. If someone were to tell me that Ackley will hit .320/.400/.425, I wouldn’t be absolutely shocked. If someone told me he won’t finish May as a starter, I also wouldn’t be shocked. Saunders and Smoak don’t have as much upside, but both could be solid average players. Or they could be using up their last opportunities. We don’t know if Miller or Franklin will be the starting SS (although Miller is the most likely guess), nor what we can expect from them. Morrison is basically Smoak with a change of scenery factor added to the equation.

    Plus, we have Cory Hart as a guy who could either be a .280/.350/.500+ guy or someone who gets less than 100 ABs.

    And Zunino and Almonte have the talent to be solid to above average players (more for Zunino), but who knows if they will put it together this year.

    Basically, everyone in the starting lineup is a wild card to some degree besides Seager and Cano.

    We also have a lot of potential variability on the pitching staff. Felix will likely be good, and Iwakuma should be at least solid, but Walker and Paxton both have huge variability in terms of potential outcomes, and Ramirez, Maurer, Baker, and Wolf could be anywhere from solid average to complete non-factors. If Felix and Iwakuma approximate their 2013 levels, Walker emerges as a good #3 pitcher, and some combo of Paxton, Baker, Wolf, Ramirez, and Maurer are close to league average, this is a pretty damn good rotation. But thats a lot of ‘ifs’. The best thing about the rotation is that we do have improved depth, at the very least.

    Due to that volatility, this team could be a very good one if lots of things fall their way, or we could see huge turnover in personnel between now and late season. Honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if this team won 65 games or 90 games.

    Who knows. Its not all that unlikely that James Jones and Steffen Romero are in the OF by August, and Jesus Montero could freak out and grab the DH spot.

  3. He’s talking about Jesus Montero. That’s his batting line against LHP in Safeco.

  4. Paul you can get the projections you were looking for on the Fangraphs depth chart at: http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=Team
    According to Jeff Sullivan a team with 0 WAR will win 47-48 games, so just add the projected WAR for the players on the depth chart to that base number and the M’s should win about 84 games.

    Skymaster if you go check the Batting Leaders on the MLB home page you will see Ackley is 2nd in batting average at .478 and tied for 3rd in RBI with 9. It seems to me they handed the LF job to the right guy.

  5. He just turned 25 this week, so he has a bit of upside. Thats the main thing that Viciedo has going in his favor.

    Plus, he won’t cost us a draft pick, and is under team control for the next few years.

    On the minus side, he’s not a very good player right now. He’s fat, brutal on defense, and swings at everything. He’s basically Jesus Montero with the ability to play shitty OF defense.

    He’s the type of guy I wouldn’t be surprised to see flip the switch and turn into a good hitter. But he’s not there right now. Adding him to the roster only makes sense if the M’s scouts thought there was untapped upside.

  6. Yes, we paid more for Bloomquist than we probably needed to, but he isn’t taking up some huge amount of payroll. His asset is that he can play multiple positions in the IF/OF as a reasonable level. He is the kind of guy you want for flexibility and you don’t need to hit “homers” to fill a role. There is no way they should keep Franklin on this roster unless he wins the SS job, which I don’t think he does. He would be best served to continue to work on his game at AAA, provide insurance, and you could always move him down the road if the right deal came around.

  7. Why do people like Viciedo yet didn’t like Nelson Cruz? Doesn’t he actually profile as a worse version of Cruz? Of course he is younger and cheaper but not sure what makes him so desireable to M’s fans. I do think he has some value as a RH option for this team in a platoon.

    In regards to Nick Franklin, can we drop the put him in the outfield stuff yet? The guy has never played even one inning in the outfield so he sure isn’t gonna just slide out there. His value is as a middle infielder and if he isn’t going to play nearly fulltime, which he likely isn’t, he should go to AAA as insurance or be traded for a piece that improves this team.

  8. I didn’t miss a thing pal, just answering your question,

  9. What does everyone think about the Dayan Viciedo rumor? Is there any truth to this Jason? What would we have to give up? Could be interesting.

  10. I don’t want Z to trade Franklin, in case you missed it.

  11. I would love to hear what kind of offensive numbers we can realistically project for each player? Will Zunino hit better than .240? Will Ackley continue what he did in the second half and hit around .280? Is Seager going to rebound after an ugly offensive finish, does he put a full season at the plate together and hit around .300? Morrison and Hart, how many at bats do they see and what do their numbers look like? Do those two guys stay healthy? Can Cano hit above .300 in Safeco with no lineup protection? What will Smoak do from behind the plate, how short is his leash? So many questions and I can only GUESS what these guys will do…

  12. Your lineups do look better than last year, esp. if a couple players show some improvement. Still hoping for that one more bat.

  13. His trade value won’t increase by experimenting with him in the OF.

  14. The M’s right-handed bat issue has to be addressed outside the org. Fact. Everything else is wishing upon a star.

  15. I really wish they’d find a way to use Franklin, such as let him play the outfield as well. I hate that Ackley is just handed the regular left field spot when he’s done ZERO to earn it. Saunders too for that matter. And I really like Miller as the starting SS. We just can’t afford to continue to trade promising young bats. Especially switchhitting bats.

    Why haven’t they tried Franklin in the outfield? At the least we should hang on to him to back up Miller and Cano, instead of old man Bloomquist who hasn’t even hit a homer in something like 400 AB’s. Oh, I forgot. We paid Bloomquist WAY too much and now we’re forced to keep him. Thanks, Z.

  16. jemanji at Seattle Sports Insider (who is fast becoming one of my favorite
    baseball reads) seems to have found a solution to our RH lefty-mashing bat
    need. He points out that at ages 21, 22, and 23, he has hit .320/.371/.455
    against them, this being in Safeco Field. There are some people around
    here who haven’t. He’s got 732 plate appearances in the bigs. Justin
    Smoak has 1,942, and he’s got a 150 Power Index and is a very gifted contact
    hitter. Unfortunately Jesus Montero has a self-induced image problem.

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