Being able to select the circumstances of your death is a final kindness afforded to few. The Mariners have had no such fortune in my lifetime, nor will they ever. Juan Gonzalez sent me to bed with a hole in my heart and a Jamie Moyer fastball deep into the night sky just four times in his career, but it felt like a thousand. Rafael Palmeiro and Darin Erstad stalked my psyche throughout elementary and middle school, with swings and sneers that sank my Mariners’ hopes. I don't care that B-Ref tells me Coco Crisp has hit worse against the Mariners than he has against eight of the eleven teams he's had at least 300 PAs against in his career. Every at-bat he seems to put a ball right through a gap in the infield and in my spirit. We did not choose Ryon Healy to be our next foil, but here he stands nonetheless.
Mike Trout can decimate anyone, of course, so it feels almost impersonal when he, or another rival’s star, delivers a crushing blow. No, the most reviled players in my heart are the average starters who seem to pack a month’s production into a three-game series. I fear Healy will follow their toxic path, as a horrible amalgamation of these prior terrors. His profile matches up well with the ghosts and the living who have haunted Seattle for years.
The third baseman was a third-round draft pick in 2013 from the University of Oregon. After a slow two seasons in the minor leagues, Healy has been dragged by his powerful bat up through the A’s system like a toddler clinging to the leash of a hungry Great Dane. He posted an ISO well over .200 split between AA and AAA in the first half of 2016, before being called up to the big league club. Despite not being ranked in the Top-20 prospects since 2013 for an unremarkable Athletics organization, Healy’s continued improvement won him the third base job at the MLB-level last year. Unheralded, hungry, and with a dangerous penchant for dingers. A deadly combination.
Mariner Killer Comp: Luis Valbuena
As Eno Sarris expertly outlines here, Healy’s swing has gone through an overhaul in the last year. By incorporating a slight uppercut and lowering his hands, Healy has seen an increase in power. As Sarris notes, former Mariner Killer turned World Killer Josh Donaldson is one of several hitters who have made a similar adjustment in recent years, and have seen their power spike. Healy’s value is going to come with the bat, and unfortunately he seems ready to deliver.
At 6’6, 230, the size is there to devastate baseballs. A 4.2% walk rate is nothing to write home about, but his 21.2% strikeout rate fits right in line with fellow young 3B Jake Lamb and elder statesman Evan Longoria, and if his 2016 power surge is for real, he can hang with them in ISO as well. Hitters like to use the phrase “don’t get cheated” when talking about an at-bat, and Ryon, the bane of my spellcheck and my phone’s autocorrect, lives that mantra. He explicitly has spoken about his willingness to swing and miss, saying “I’d rather swing through pitches I don't like than establish weak contact.” That is quintessential nu-slugger speak, and slotting Healy in next to Khris Davis may result in some uncomfortable Bash Brothers flashbacks.
Mariner Killer Comp: Hank Blalock
Here, at last, we have made it to safety. The power peak has been crested, and the view of the rest of the journey is not so bad. Consider how the lumbering Healy stacked up defensively against other players with at least 500 innings played.
Woof. While it's not particularly pleasant to see new Mariner Danny Valencia’s name front and center on this chart, Healy is not far behind Lamb in overall Def (a counting stat) despite playing just more than half as many innings. For those wondering about his more traditional defensive stats, Healy was 10th worst on fielding percentage among 3rd basemen, just better than some chump named Kris Bryant and right behind a Kyle Seager. If you don't trust advanced stats for defensive evaluation, that ain’t gonna bother me, but I implore you: don't just go by fielding percentage and errors.
Even if it’s oh so tempting.
Mariner Killer Comp: Oakland A’s Coco Crisp
He’ll get there eventually, don’t rush him.
Mariner Killer Comp: Yankees’ Mark Teixeira
Now you have the name of the man, but that may not be enough. Steel yourselves, for it will feel like for every 3rd inning strikeout there will be an 8th inning game-tying homer. Cover your TV screen with garlic and rosemary, hold your loved ones close, and pray Zunino calls for a slider.
Ryon is here to stay.