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40 in 40: Shawn O’Malley

Will O’Malley’s steady performance snag him the M’s utility position in 2017?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Since being called up from Tacoma in September of 2015, Shawn O’Malley has appeared in 113 games and recorded 289 PA for the Seattle Mariners. Over that period his triple slash line is .234/.322/.325, good for a wRC+ of 84. These offensive numbers are far from world beating... but for a utility man who can field several positions? That seems pretty okay. (Recall that Ketel Marte posted a wRC+ of 66 in 466 PA with sometimes sketchy defense in 2016. Blech!)

Also, Shawn O’Malley was one of just two MLB players who made five or more appearances at RF, CF, LF, 3B, SS, and 2B in 2016. (Sean Rodriguez was the other.) Shawn certainly isn’t the best fielder at all of these positions, but his defensive performance tends to be far from cringe-inducing. There is a not small amount of value in having a player that is this flexible.

In addition to being a reliable backup, Shawn also recorded some pretty fun/spectacular plays last year. Like this one:

And this one:

And also this! (Warning: Goldsmith Grinder alert):

And even a go-ahead dinger in front of a sellout crowd:

What a fun dude. Going into 2017, the Mariners could do a lot worse than having Shawn O’Malley occupy the 25th spot on their roster.

That being said, Jake’s 40 in 40 piece on Taylor Motter was very good/detailed and discussed how Motter might have the advantage in the M’s utility man competition (largely because his bat has a surprising amount of power). This is true, and Jake is a wonderful and persuasive writer, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the following information:

During his time in Triple-A, Shawn O’Malley has slashed .298/.365/.413/.778 in 1067 PA. Alternatively, Taylor Motter has slashed .266/.338/.437/.775 in 945 Triple-A plate appearances. Over the past two seasons, Motter has a wRC+ of 123 in Triple-A, while O’Malley has a Triple-A wRC+ of 121 (since ‘14). These numbers seem like somewhat of a wash; Motter has more pop, but O’Malley has been better at getting on base. From an offensive standpoint, this could easily become a question of what Jerry Dipoto/Scott Servais value more in the bat of their utility man. Motter is almost two years younger than O’Malley, but O’Malley is much more of a known entity.

(I should note that Mike Freeman is also in the running for this position on the roster. Like O’Malley and Motter, he’s hit fairly well in Triple-A and has fielded multiple positions throughout his career. However, given the fact that he’s 29-years-old and has only seen 24 MLB PA, he seems like somewhat of a longshot. But crazier things have happened! That’s why fellas compete in the spring.)

At this juncture, I think I’d probably give the edge to O’Malley to make the M’s Opening Day roster. Motter’s sub-.300 OBP in MLB/Triple-A last year seems like it could be an issue, and Jerry and Scott seem comfortable with what O’Malley brings to the table; they definitely know what to expect from him as a utility man. Nonetheless, this will be something to keep an eye on during spring training. If Motter smacks the seams off of the baseball and flashes some leather, he could easily leapfrog Shawn and snag that utility spot. I look forward to watching them (and Freeman) battle it out.

Go M’s.