Mariners manager Eric Wedge made an interesting comment about his team in the hours prior to yesterday’s 13-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys that have a good chance to be good ballplayers,” Wedge said. “I don’t know if we have any superstars. That’s probably a reach. But I think we’ve got volume, if that makes any sense. More so than in the past. We’ve got a number of players — probably more players who’ve got a chance to be good, solid big league players — than maybe other organizations. So, that’s what we’re trying to develop.”
Wedge meant the comment as a compliment more than a shot at his own team. But his unsolicited words echo what we were discussing in this space a couple of days ago when it comes to Kendrys Morales and his future with the organization. As was mentioned, the Mariners do not appear to be a team with any true, elite-level talent. Mike Zunino is not Buster Posey — at least not yet. Dustin Ackley has not morphed into another Chase Utley, or Aaron Hill. Justin Smoak is not Mark Teixeira. Nick Franklin hits the home runs that a young Adam Kennedy once did, but his defense isn’t as good and no one ever called Kennedy a superstar even though he did hit three homers in a decisive ALCS game back in 2002.
Brad Miller gets compared to Kyle Seager a lot for his intangibles, but again, nobody is confusing Seager with Adrian Beltre. Seager is a guy who has worked his tail off to get where he is today — possibly the best all-around player on the Mariners right now.
But if he’s your best, it likely won’t be good enough. You look down the list of first place teams and playoff contenders and all have at least one player who ranks as truly elite on the hitting side. Many have multiple guys who can do that. The Mariners, right now, don’t really have that game-changer. And as hard as Seager has kept on working to improve his game, he may never attain those levels and certainly is not expected to by those who make their living forecasting these types of things.
But even if Seager does work his way up to surpass all expectations and become a top-10 hitter in the American League, it helps to have more than one. And right now — five years and counting into this rebuilding plan — the Mariners are lacking that key element that teams they supposedly aspire to emulate do have.
Which is why the Morales question becomes so important.
As mentioned before, Morales right now isn’t putting up elite level numbers. But he has put up good numbers. And the last full season before he broke his ankle early in 2010, he put he put up a .924 OPS in 594 at-bats. Not protected against certain-handed pitchers, or buried in spots No. 7-through-9 in the order to ease pressure. In nearly 600 at-bats, most of them in the No. 6 spot or higher up.
So, there’s still that expectation that Morales can do more than he’s done this year or last season coming back from a devastating two-year injury. And if that’s right, then the team having him will benefit tremendously. If it’s wrong, that team still gets a good hitter.More
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