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Originally published Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 8:01 PM

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Meet the 2012 Mariners: starting lineup

Seattle Times staff

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Gone are veterans Jack Cust, Milton Bradley and Jack Wilson, and in are young prospects Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley as the Mariners look to get out of the American League West cellar for the first time since 2009.

9 | Chone Figgins, LF

Age: 34. HT: 5-8. WT: 180

Bats: Switch

Best case: He returns to the form he showed as a leadoff hitter with the Los Angeles Angels, scores 100 runs, steals about 40 bases and no one questions why he was selected to replace Ichiro in the leadoff spot.

Worst case: He's the same guy he was the past two years, when he couldn't hit, sulked and nearly got into a fight with his manager in 2010.

What's likely: Figgins will be moved out of the lineup sometime in May when he is hitting around .200, and the Mariners will have a tough choice to make: carry a very expensive 25th man or eat the rest of his contract.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .188 24 54 1 15 11 .241 .243
Career .280 682 1,255 33 391 333 .352 .368

13 | Dustin Ackley, 2B

Age: 24. HT: 6-1. WT: 190.

Bats: Left

Best case: He makes a natural progression from his solid rookie year, adapts well in the No. 2 spot, and hits better than .300 with 15 to 20 home runs. Meanwhile, his defense continues to improve at a relatively new position.

Worst cast: The September slide last year (.219 in 96 at-bats with 32 strikeouts) wasn't just a blip, and he struggles to adjust to major-league pitching. He gets shifted to the bottom of the lineup.

What's likely: He will hit about .280 with 15 home runs, and play adequate defense, which will be a decent improvement over his rookie season.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .273 39 91 6 36 6 .348 .417
Career .273 39 91 6 36 6 .348 .417

51 | Ichiro, RF

Age: 38. HT: 5-11. WT: 172.

Bats: Left

Best case: He hits near his career average of .326 and is near his season-high numbers in home runs (15) and runs batted in (68) while batting from the No. 3 spot all season.

Worst case: He gets off to a miserable start and the city will be focused on, "What are they going to do with Ichiro?" It becomes a huge distraction, not unlike the situation with Ken Griffey Jr. in his final year.

What's likely: Ichiro, determined to prove that last year's down season was a fluke, will hit a shade over .300. But after showing little pop in the No. 3 spot, he will move back into the leadoff role when Chone Figgins is replaced there in May.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .272 80 184 5 47 40 .310 .335
Career .326 1127 2428 95 605 423 .370 .421

17 | Justin Smoak, 1B

Age: 25. HT: 6-4. WT: 230.

Bats: Switch

Best case: He stays healthy, gets off to a hot start and avoids prolonged slumps. He provides excellent power, with more than 25 homers and drives in about 100 runs.

Worst case: He spends more time on the disabled list, his average remains in the low .200s and his power numbers lag well behind other first basemen in the American League.

What's likely: This is an important year for Smoak. He needs to show signs that he is the top-line player the Mariners thought they were getting when they traded ace Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers. Look for him to hit close to .250 with 20 to 25 homers and 85 runs batted in.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .234 38 100 15 55 0 .323 .396
Career .227 78 176 28 103 1 .316 .385

63 | Jesus Montero, DH

Age: 22. HT: 6-4. WT: 225.

Bats: Right

Best case: He gets off to a hot start and stays hot. He hits about .300 with 30 homers and 100 runs batted in. He hits so well that no one seems to care if he can ever become a full-time catcher.

Worst case: He starts slowly and has trouble making the full-time transition to the major leagues. He strikes out way too often, hits for a low average, all while the player he was traded for, Michael Pineda, stars for the Yankees.

What's likely: He struggles at times, but hits 25 home runs, drives in 80 to 90 runs and is among the top contenders for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .328 9 20 4 12 0 .406 .590
Career .328 9 20 4 12 0 .406 .590

30 | Miguel Olivo, C

Age: 33. HT: 6-0. WT: 230.

Bats: Right

Best case: He has another season like last year. Olivo was the Mariners' most consistent run producer and led the team with 19 home runs and 62 runs batted in, all while staying healthy and playing solid defense.

Worst case: He doesn't improve on last year's .226 average and he hits half as many home runs.

What's likely: He has been pretty consistent the past six years, averaging just more than 17 homers. Olivo turns 34 in July, but it seems reasonable to expect him to put up similar offensive numbers to last year while doing a decent job behind the plate.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .224 54 107 19 62 6 .253 .388
Career .243 399 815 129 450 50 .279 .421

55 | Michael Saunders, CF

Age: 25. HT: 6-4. WT: 215.

Bats: Left

Best case: His excellent hitting of the spring carries into the regular season. He hits near .300, provides occasional power and steals some bases, giving the M's a tough decision when Franklin Gutierrez is healthy enough to return to center field.

Worst case: Saunders gets off to a slow start, and he begins to look like the 2011 version of himself, when he hit .149 in 161 at-bats.

What's likely: It's hard to believe Saunders could hit as poorly as he did last year, but it's also hard to believe he has completely turned things around in less than a year. Look for him to hit about .250 and go back to the bench when Gutierrez returns.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .149 16 24 2 8 6 .207 .217
Career .196 58 112 12 45 16 .263 .306

15 | Kyle Seager, 3B

Age: 24. HT: 6-0. WT: 195.

Bats: Left.

Best case: He moves into the starting lineup when Chone Figgins fizzles, and proves he is ready to play every day.

What's likely: He won't get many at-bats early, but will prove valuable in the later months and will hit for a good average.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .258 22 47 3 13 3 .312 .379
Career .258 22 47 3 13 3 .312 .379

26 | Brendan Ryan, SS

Age: 30. HT: 6-2. WT: 195.

Bats: Right

Best case: He continues to emerge as one of the leaders of a young team. Ryan gets healthy and remains injury-free, hits about .280 and continues to play solid defense at shortstop.

Worst case: He struggles to hit better than .250 and is bothered by nagging injuries all season, giving the team no continuity at a key position.

What's likely: Ryan will play in about 130 games, hit about .260 with no power, and provide solid, and sometimes spectacular, defense. He will remain one of the prominent voices in the clubhouse.

By the numbers
Avg R H HR RBI SB OBP SLG
2011 .248 51 108 3 34 13 .313 .326
Career .256 216 420 12 134 52 .313 .339

22 | Eric Wedge, manager, second year

Best case: Wedge gets much-improved years from veterans Ichiro and Chone Figgins, Felix Hernandez dominates and the youngsters prove as good as Mariners' management has hoped. If that happens, the Mariners should finish around .500 and Wedge will be a contender for manager of the year.

What's likely: The Mariners will be out of the race with a few months remaining and will be battling with the A's to avoid the cellar in the AL West. It won't be Wedge's fault, but fans will begin grumbling.

By the numbers
Year, team W-L Finish
2003, Cleveland 68-94 4th
2004, Cleveland 80-92 3rd
2005, Cleveland 93-69 2nd
2006, Cleveland 78-84 4th
2007, Cleveland 96-66 1st
2008, Cleveland 81-81 3rd
2009, Cleveland 65-97 4th
2011, Mariners 67-95 4th
Career 628-668

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