1. 3B FIGGINS
2. 2B ACKLEY
3. RF ICHIRO
4. 1B SMOAK
5. C MONTERO
6. DH CARP
7. CF GUTIERREZ
8. LF WELLS
9. SS RYAN
C: OLIVO/ MOORE
As of right now, the Mariners are almost forced to play Chone Figgins and his 36 million dollar contract. It appears that Figgins has the inside track at the lead-off position in Japan late next month. But I don't buy that being first in the order is suddenly going to revive his broken career. Ichiro was bad in 2001. But there's no reason to think he can't bounce back and have a year more typical of one of the best #1s in baseball history.
I would certainly trade one (and probably two) of Hultzen, Paxton or Walker for Brett Lawrie of the Blue jays. Like Smoak and Montero, he's a young, power-hitting position player (Third base) that would immediately give the Mariners the most potent power potential in baseball. The Mariners don't seem to have a lot of third basemen in the organization with power potential (save perhaps Alex Liddi). Last year, Lawrie played in 42 games, and posted 9 home runs with 25 RBI and a WAR up close to 3. Best of all, he's a local boy, a British Columbia product.
more after the break
Since we probably won't be obtaining Lawrie, bringing in Liddi at midseason when Figgins is hitting sub-Mendoza and ready to be cut would seem to be a positive development. Liddi has a lot of developing to do, but he is Seattle's best 3B prospect. And of course, at that point, I'd like to see Ichiro back at leadoff.
Ackley seems to be custom-made for the second position in the order. He has above average plate discipline and projects to be a great on-base guy, but also has enough power to drive the leadoff batter in. (Unfortunately, with Figgins hitting first, Ackley may not have that many chances).
I'm not sure it matters all that much what order Carp-Smoak-Montero bat in. All three have a lot to prove since Smoak was the only projected starter last year. Simply going off potential, it'd probably read Montero-Smoak-Carp. But Montero is a rookie, and Smoak barely a second-year player. The only no-brainer when it comes to those three are their positions. Smoak at first, Carp at DH, and Montero catching.
The reasoning is simple. As bad as Montero may be at catcher, he can't be much worse than Miguel Olivo, and his bat projects to be far better than the aforementioned Olivo. If you play Montero at DH, not only does he not develop his defensive skills, but it also forces Carp into left field, a position where the team can get more offensive production and more developmental starts for the likes of Casper Wells, Michael Saunders, and Trayvon Robinson. With a useless veteran already starting at third, the Mariners can't afford to play too many more dead bats.
The hope is obviously that Gutierrez can pick up where he left off in 2009, but that's certainly no guarantee. He started 2010 among the league leaders in a number of offensive categories through the first month and a half, after which I suspect his intestinal issues became a real problem. He wasn't the same player after that.
Wells had a promising stint with Seattle at the end of 2011. While he only hit .231 in his 31 games with the Mariners, he did manage an on-base percentage of .316 and 7 home runs, for a home run almost every four games.
Whether Brendan Ryan or Menenori Kawasaki starts at SS this year isn't important. What is of more interest is if/when Nick Franklin or Carlos Truinfel will be ready to take over that position. the organization has had a few SS prospects flame out defensively over the years, not mobile enough to play the position and being forced to move to 2nd or 3rd base. It's nice to have Ryan holding down the position for now, but it would be a great development for the team to see one of the young kids end up with the big club sooner rather than later.