Category: Japan

Seattle Mariners Position Battles Answered

Seattle Mariners Position Battles Answered

With a week left in spring training, questions that Seattle Mariners fans have been asking have been answered. Two position battles have left fans curious as to who is going to be chosen. The Mariners were in need of a fifth starting pitcher, as well as a right handed hitting first basemen. The battle turned out to take place between familiar faces, and new ones. Should fans really be surprised in who was chosen?

New general manager Jerry DiPoto brought in what seems like thousands of new players to the Mariners organization. 31 of the 60 players in Mariners were spring training were new to the organization. DiPoto was on a mission to retool the roster in a way he saw fit.

The fifth spot in the Seattle Mariners pitching rotation came down to James Paxton and Nathan Karns. Paxton has been a part of the Mariners organization, but has never lived up to his potential. Paxton has worn a Mariners uniform in three seasons, but those seasons have been broken. Paxton has never pitched more than 75 big league innings. I considered the fifth starting pitcher job to be Paxton’s to lose, which he did. Paxton boasted a 10.80 earned run average, which is never great when attempting to win a job on a Major League roster.

Nate Karns was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Karns completed his first major league season in 2015 with the Rays, pitching 147 innings, striking out 145 batters and only walking 56. Manager Scott Servais has said that the M’s want to control strike zone both offensively and defensively. Karns did that last year, striking out 89 more batters than he walked. Karns has posted a 6.75 earn run average in the spring of 2016. Theres virtually no difference between a 6.75 ERA, and a 10.80 ERA. If a pitcher on your favorite team has either of those ERA’s, your favorite team loses.

The other position battled that had fans intrigued took place on the infield. DiPoto traded for first baseman Adam Lind. Lind is a proven, left handed hitting first basemen. The team needed a right handed bat to possible platoon or be the designated hitter while facing left handed pitching. The battle came down to three players. Those players were Jesus Montero, Stefen Romero, and the free agent signing Dae-Ho Lee.

Romero has spent his career as an outfielder, however he was added the first base mix as a guy with versatility. Romero had a hot spring, batting .357 while learning a new position. Romero had a minor league option, making him the odd man out, and the easiest to send down to triple A Tacoma.

Jesus Montero sent Mariners fans on a roller coast throughout his career with the Mariners. Montero was brought over in a trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees. Troubles with performance enhancing drugs as well as his weight fluctuation kept Montero from the Major Leagues. Montero batted an incredible .355 with 18 doubles and 18 home runs in triple A Tacoma in 2015. However that success did not carry over to the spring of 2016 as Montero hit a poor .237 in 38 at-bats. Having no minor league options forced the Mariners to place Montero on waivers. Montero was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays a day later.

That leaves Dae-Ho Lee, the mystery man from South Korea. Lee was a superstar in Japanese and Korean Leagues. Lee was the Korean Baseball Organization’s MVP in 2010, a three-time batting champion, and a two-time home run king. Lee hasn’t played much better than Montero, registering a .239 batting average with just one home run. So why did Karns and Lee win jobs with the new-look Mariners roster?

Karns and Lee are both hand picked by Jerry DiPoto. Neither of those players truly beat out those who they were competing with. DiPoto has choses to ride with the guys he brought in himself. The only of remanence of former general manager Jack Zduriencik are players the new GM would be an absolute fool to give up. It makes you wonder if these so called ‘battles’ were ever really that to begin with. Fans, it’s no surprise that players who were chosen by Jerry DiPoto have made the opening day roster.

Dae-Ho Lee: Who Are You?

Dae-Ho Lee: Who Are You?

On Wednesday the Seattle Mariners signed Korean first basemen Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league contract. The contract includes a spring training invite. Jerry DiPoto has tried to add four new first basemen to the roster. The deal with Travis Ishikawa fell through, leaving three players competing for one spot. One of the new players is Adam Lind, who we know will be on the opening day roster. With the acquisition of Lee, the back up role is still a question.

Jesus Montero had fans begging for a call-up in 2015. Montero batted .355 with 18 doubles, six triples and 18 home runs. Jesus Montero’s roller coaster career now has fans cheering for him. Montero started the 2013 season as the Mariners primary catcher, but received a 50 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. When Montero arrived to spring training in 2014, he was 40 pounds over weight. Montero cut the weight in 2015, and his performance for the Tacoma Rainiers was beyond impressive. Montero seems like the perfect fit to play a platoon role at first base with Adam Lind.

Earlier in the offseason, Jerry DiPoto signed Gabby Sanchez to a minor league deal. In his seven-year career, Sanchez has hit .254 with 126 doubles and 61 home runs. Sanchez played the 2015 season in Japan as a member of the Rakuten Eagles. Sanchez hit .226 with an on base plus slugging of .720. Sanchez hit 12 doubles, seven home runs and drove in 18 runs. By the numbers, Montero has a much better chance of playing in Seattle in 2016 than Sanchez. However another player has been added to the mix.

Dae-Ho Lee was signed to a minor league deal on Feb. 3. Lee turns 34 in June, and provides a right handed power bat to the Mariners organization. Last season for the Fukuoka Softbank, Lee posted a .282 batting average, with 31 home runs, 20 doubles, 98 runs batted in and had an OPS of .892. In four seasons in Japan, Lee hit .293 with 98 home runs, 112 doubles and 348 RBI’s in 570 games. Lee was the league’s most valuable player in 2010, and is a three-time batting champion. Lee is a huge human being, standing at 6 feet 4, and weighing more than 280 pounds. The Korean exchange student who lives with my family described Lee as a Korean Prince Fielder. Like Montero, Lee has struggled with fluctuating weight, but his statistical numbers make up for the numbers that appear on a scale.

What separates the two? Jerry DiPoto and Scott Servais are in love with the walk. Offensively, the club wants to draw as many walks as possible. Defensively, the philosophy is to avoid giving the opponent a free base. Montero has struck out 172 times and drawn 48 walks in 865 plate appearances in five seasons at the MLB level.  Lee has been to the plate 7,103 times, striking out 998 times, while drawing 711 walks in 15 seasons in Korea and Japan.

Lee’s ability to draw walks may put him over the top in comparison to Jesus Montero. However Montero is out of minor league options. If Dae-Ho Lee does beat out Jesus Montero for the back-up first basemen job, the club would have to designate Montero for assignment. Montero being out of options makes the job Montero’s to lose. Spring training begins in just two weeks. The acquisition of Dae-Ho Lee has increased the questions surrounded the back-up first basemen role. The only question answered, is who Dae-Ho Lee is.