Conor Glassey points out that out of the players that have had at least 500 Plate Appearances over the last 3 years in the Majors Mariners’ Michael Saunders has the worst OPS at .569. Saunders has played at absolute replacement level (0 WAR) since arriving in the big leagues. His struggles have not been a by product of Safeco Field either, as he has a slightly lower OPS on the road than at home (his OBP is the same at both places). He has really been chewed up by left-handed pitching, with just a .477 OPS against lefties.
When the pitcher gets ahead in the count, his OPS is just .376 (as opposed to having an OPS over .900 when he is ahead in the count). He has been in a 2-2 count 122 times and has yet to draw a walk in that situation, striking out 66 times (and having an Batting Average of just .107). Saunders was once a top prospect, climbing all the way to 30th in Baseball America’s rankings in 2010. Saunders spent just over a full season in AAA, putting up a .372 OBP and .821 OPS in the PCL. He is a great glove, but unless his offense improves (there isn’t much evidence that it will), he simply isn’t going to be a player you want on your big league roster.
There are, of course, the normal spring training articles about how Saunders has done something with his swing or trained with a new coach that gives some optomism for improvement. Every newspaper has article like this on young players on their respective teams who have been bad so far. These things rarely prove to actually have any real impact.
Here is a video of Saunders using a 60 ounce bat in batting practice.
Greg Johns reports that Eric Wedge intends on giving prospect Vinnie Catricala a look at third base and the outfield. Despite nothing being mentioned about first base, Catricala also has minor league experience at first.Vinnie (or Vincent) wasn’t a big hitter in college, with just a .876 OPS at Hawaii. However, after being drafted in the 10th round by the Mariners, Catricala developed power (Baseball Cube rates his power at 75, Justin Smoak’s is rated at 77) with a slightly better batting average, equal on base, and better slugging in the minors than in college. Catricala was downright dominant in 62 AA games with 66 Runs Created (an average player would “create” about 31 runs in that time), .420 OBP and .285 Isolated Slugging. His BABIP was an extremely high .389, but that is actually not too far higher than his averages, as he has averaged about a .356 BABIP in college and the minors. So we can expect some kind of regression but perhaps not as much as one would expect. Adjusting his AA OBP and OPS for his career norms for BABIP, and running it through the average regression a player sees from AA and MLB, one can project 101 Runs Created in 600 Plate Appearances, or about 23 to 24 runs more than an “average player” (I use .323 OBP and .400 SLG as an average player). ZIPS projection system is also very optimistic on Catricala, projecting a .321 OBP, 100 OPS + (which is league average) and 78.65 Runs Created. Defensively, he is under average at every position he plays.
George Sherrill has still not thrown his first bullpen, Johns also reports.
Baseball America (specifically Conor Glassey again) released a video of draft prospect Byron Buxton who has been linked to the Mariners in the first round. The video doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know, we didn’t see his speed (which is reportedly amazing) , but he looks like a good athlete, and has a big arm (he was a high school quarterback). The final minute is batting practice, and in my opinion watching batting practice is pretty unhelpful as the only thing it tells us about is brute power (he has that). It tells us nothing about his patience or pitch recognition (which is Buxton’s big question).
Speaking of Mariners draft prospects, Fernando Perez now has a .341/.391/.561 line in 10 games (41 at bats). Junior college players who were drafted in the 2010 draft averaged a .445 OBP in JUCO, and then a .315 OBP in Class A. In the same amount of games, his teammate Cameron Harper has a .353/.439/.500 line. Harper spent 2011 in Southern Nevada with a .347 OBP, so it seems this may be fluky, but he may be a guy to keep your eye on.