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40 in 40: Adam Lind

Adam Lind could be the best first baseman the Mariners have employed in seven years.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

To understand the full significance of Adam Lind’s potential impact in 2016, the historical context must be presented first. Since 2009, Jack Zduriencik’s first year as GM, Mariners first basemen have accumulated just 2.7 fWAR. In total. That’s last in the American League and the second worst mark in all of baseball during that time period. Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Casey Kotchman, and a handful of others just haven’t gotten it done for the Mariners at first base.

After Jerry Dipoto shipped Morrison and Mark Trumbo off to Tampa and Baltimore, respectively, the Mariners found themselves looking for a new first baseman. Enter Adam Lind. The 32-year-old will be beginning his eleventh year in the major leagues this year and the Mariners will be the third team he’s called his own. While he certainly has his warts, it shouldn’t be hard to improve on the dismal performances we’ve seen recently from Seattle’s first basemen.

The Profile

Lind has established himself as a reliable source of offensive firepower with one major caveat: he simply cannot hit left-handed pitching. The gap between his ability to hit right-handers and his struggles against southpaws is one of the largest in all of baseball. Against righties, his career wOBA is a very good .369; against lefties, it plummets to .259. The Mariners will need to get creative to limit Lind’s exposure to lefties. Whether that means rostering a dedicated platoon partner like Jesus Montero or a rotating cast of bench pieces is still to be determined. Montero seems like the natural fit but his spot on the 25-man roster should not be considered a lock. If he washes out, finding a way to spell Lind against lefties could get complicated, with some combination of Steve Clevenger, one of our outfielders, or some Triple-A filler as possibilities.

Lind rebounded from an injury-plagued year in 2014 to post a productive .351 wOBA and 2.2 fWAR in Milwaukee. His power numbers bounced back closer to his career norms and he significantly improved his walk rate. His ability to reach base has improved slowly over the last five years, and last year his walk rate peaked at 11.5%. There doesn’t seem to be any major changes in his plate discipline peripherals, it looks like he just decided to be more patient at the plate. We’ve already seen how Adam Lind exemplifies Dipoto’s "Control the Zone" philosophy, showing an ability to take advantage of favorable counts while also demonstrating resilience when behind in the count. Perhaps additional walks are the culmination of better pitch recognition and greater situational awareness.

In the field, Lind is just an average defender at first. He was slightly above average last year per UZR and DRS, though the advanced defensive metrics rate him as a subpar fielder over his career. Lind might also see some time as the designated hitter on days where Nelson Cruz is playing the outfield. That could go a long way towards keeping him healthy. In his career, Lind has hit slightly better as the DH than he has in the field. Some players suffer a loss of effectiveness when used as the DH, but Lind seems to be an exception to this principle.

The Projections



























The two major projection systems are somewhat split on Lind's 2016 forecast. They're both believers in his improved walk rate but ZiPS is more pessimistic about his ability to continue to hit for power. Safeco Field's suppressive run environment is certainly a factor here but ZiPS calls for an isolated power of .144, which would be a career low. Lind's average batted ball velocity last year was 90.1 mph and his average fly ball distance was 303.1 ft., both well above league average. I'm just not convinced Lind's power is suddenly going to wane, suppressive run environment or not.

If Lind is able to surpass the 1.1 zWAR ZiPS calls for, it would be the highest mark for a Mariner first baseman since Russell Branyan accrued 2.7 fWAR in 2009. His injury history is a little concerning, especially the back injury he suffered in 2014. A fully healthy year in 2015 is reassuring but the threat of injury always looms. Still, if he's able to stay healthy, he should have no problem providing more value than any other Mariner first baseman since Avatar was #1 at the box office.

Lind is signed for just a single year and will be playing for a contract in what looks like a pretty sparse first base market next year. With D.J. Peterson knocking on the door and Montero hoping to salvage a sliver of his prospect luster, Dipoto did well to bring Lind into the fold without giving up too much talent in exchange. He's the perfect stopgap in a year where many of them were needed.