I am, through nature and experience, extremely skeptical of unproven Mariner prospects. Poor Mariner fans are annually put in a situation where every team is excited about someone or something, and as Mariner fans until recently could not convince themselves of the team’s overall quality, we desperately cling to the hope of a Justin Smoak here, a Clint Nageotte there, a Mike Ford seemingly everywhere.
So it’s with that background that I rolled my eyes at Mitch Haniger. He was too old, too little minor league track record, no major league track record. I did what I do with these things; watch the tape, talk to some people, look at the numbers, and said no. This was not the guy Mariner fans wanted him to be. This was more false hope.
I was loud about my doubt last Spring Training, and have been largely paying for it ever since. Last night, in a miserable loss to a miserable White Sox team, Haniger homered for the fourth straight night. He now has a wRC+ of 197. His line of .324/395/.716 looks like something from the Kingdome.
I’m going to double down slightly, and say that Haniger isn’t this good. Hell, almost no one is this good. A month of hitting with a 197 wRC+ is about the peak of even a great player’s ability. But Haniger’s numbers don’t show anything screaming for regression. His BABIP is .313. His K/BB percentages are in line with previously established norms. The only real question at this point is if Haniger can continue to hit the ball as hard as all damn hell when he makes contact. If he does that, and the slugging stays above .600, the Mariners may finally have the under 30, cost controlled six+ win player they haven’t had since Franklin Gutierrez in 2009, and easily their most exciting position player talent since Kyle Seager.
Mitch Haniger is not all that much fun, when he’s not hitting the ball like Mike Trout. Actually now that I think of it neither is Mike Trout. Anyway, Mitch’s next interesting character trait shown will be his first. His uniform sleeves flap around in the breeze like he’s in Little League, and his defense is…….fine? It’s fine. Maybe it’s better than that. The numbers say it is, but I’m a stubborn man and don’t feel like being 100% wrong this morning.
It’s important with this stuff to own up when you’re wrong. I think at this point I got Mitch wrong, and I owe him an apology. He has very politely and blandly stuffed the crow down my gullet. Mitch: I am sorry. You are a good baseball man.
Overall the 2018 Mariners appear to be in a tough spot. They do not have a good starting pitcher, let alone many necessitating an entire rotation. But where Jerry Dipoto’s eyes for arms has largely come up snake eyes, he pried a good player out of the desert in Mitch Haniger. At worst he is a cheap, slightly above average corner outfielder for the next 3-5 years. At best, he’s a hitter the likes of which the Mariners haven’t had at this point in their career in decades. Sucks I had to be wrong, though. I’ll hold that against him for a bit.