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Okay, this is it. The end of the line for this series. I wasn’t even going to include Mitch Haniger in this thing, but I feel like wrapping this up on a Friday has a nice feel to it. I can start next week fresh, writing about something else.
Mitch Haniger is an unknown at this point. He’s a lottery ticket for this team. He came over in the Taijuan Walker/Jean Segura deal, and certain pockets of Mariners fandom are pretty high on Haniger’s prospects in ways that are baffling to me. Yeah, it looks like he’s more or less mastered the upper minors and is ready to get his shot in the Big Leagues, but we’ve seen billions of those guys and how many actually pan out?
Haniger got his first call-up in Arizona in August of last year and played more or less every day. That having been said, obviously there’s not a lot you can learn from 34 games. If he earns his way onto the Mariners’ Opening Day roster, that likely will mean he’s the best of a pretty mediocre group of Quad-A outfielders. Ideally, with his feet wet last year, it all won’t feel so big to him anymore and he can just come up here and play like he always has.
The thing is, the Mariners need SOMEONE to play right field. For the time being, Haniger has the inside track, but it could be anyone’s job to lose, from Ben Gamel to Guillermo Heredia to Taylor Motter to Boog Powell to who knows what. I think everyone’s in agreement that Haniger has the best pedigree, and therefore the best opportunity to blow up, so in that sense he gets the majority of the focus.
If he fails, the team can always fall back on Danny Valencia moving to right field on a more permanent basis, but that move would also hinge on Dan Vogelbach panning out at first base, which I feel is as much of a given as it is for Haniger to lock down the right field spot.
There are two unproven guys on this team getting real shots at Major League careers: Haniger and Vogelbach. It’s concerning, particularly for a team looking to break a long playoff drought, but it beats the hell out of what we’ve had around here since forever. Usually, instead of two of these guys, it’s six, and all of them stink. We’ll see I guess.
I’m going into the season banking on right field being an offensive black hole whenever Nelson Cruz or Danny Valencia aren’t starting there. So, if I get anything out of Haniger & Co., it’ll be gravy.