I had a nightmare last night.
I was watching the Mariners, they were playing the Rays. None of the players had faces, they were blank – lifeless. The score is 4 – 3 M's. The Rays are batting. Runners on first and second. The pitch comes in - a sharply hit line drive to left field. As the cameras switch, you can see the ball bounce on the AstroTurf, the left fielder coming on. He had a play on the ball, I thought.
I thought wrong.
Our left fielder comes in with a full head of steam, the slicing ball takes its second bounce and the fielder positions himself so he can field and throw in one swift motion. Something goes wrong. He has overrun it. As he tries to adjust, one foot slips, hitting the other. He falls to the ground, the ball bouncing past him. He gets back up to chase to it down. As his back turns, I can now read his jersey.
The past year the Mariner's outfield defense was awful, giving up 71.5 runs. Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse accounted for 39 runs allowed and defensive specialist Jason Bay only gave up 9.5, according to Fangraphs. Thankfully all 3 of these black holes are gone.
Now, who are we left with? Almonte came on strong after his call up, Michael Saunders is still an option and I’m sure Dustin Ackley is nice to his mother. We also signed Logan Morrison and Corey Hart and have a healthy(?) Franklin Gutierrez. Here is how I think the outfield could be filled.
Guti, Saunders, Ackley
Is this the year Gutierrez finally finishes the season? Probably not. Between the last 3 years he has played 173 major league games, 92 of which came in 2011. Poor Guy. This unfortunately means the Mariners will be running some sort of Saunders/Ackley combination after Guti gets hurt. According to UZR Saunders is not a good defensive center fielder and according to everything ever – neither is Ackley. Maybe Almonte gets to begin his future career as a 4th outfielder by going full on Jason Bay in spring training, or maybe he's pulled into duty when our outfield can't stay healthy. He seemed to look decent in the outfield when called up and HOLY CRAP I JUST REMEMBERED WE SIGNED ENDY AGAIN.
Saunders, LoMo, Hart, Ackley
Saunders can play some solid corner outfield and Hart, when his glass knees aren't shattered, can also go out there and fake it. Ackley and Morrison are both functioning human bodies with 4 limbs- so there's that, which is nice.
Saunders and Hart have both played Right Field but Hart said he will only play about half his time fielding with the rest coming from the DH spot. We will just have to see if they prefer Saunders in Left and Hart in Right or vice versa but these 2 seem like the best candidates to take over the corners. A Saunders/Gutierrez/Hart outfield seems pretty swell to me but let's see how often that will happen.
Left Field will be split between ½ of a Michael Saunders/ ¼ of a Corey Hart/ LoMo / Ackley. LoMo will be getting some time at DH and 1st base in the epic battle to remain relevant between him and Justin Smoak. Hart will be the 3rd head of the DH/ First Base monster while also jumping to the outfield depending on injuries / days of rest/ cycle of the moon. Ackley will have to get almost all his AB's from left/center with Nick Franklin and Willie Bloomquist taking up the backup infield spot. Ackley's inability to hit the broad sign of a barn past 20 yards also means that playing right is out of the question.
At this point, Ackley doesn’t seem like he will spend much time on the field unless Franklin is traded / sent to Tacoma. He could also learn how to use a straight razor and dedicate his time to keeping Cano's beard looking fresh.
All in all, Streamer gives us a projected 27.4 runs allowed in the outfield while Oliver takes pity on the M's and puts us at 9 allowed. It's not good, but at least I won't have to cry myself to sleep at night.