Turn Right: The Mariners’ New Right-Handed Power Surge


== If RH sluggers are a hot commodity, the system is heating up too ==

In the prior post, we looked at the emerging “supply and demand” problem with right-handed power hitters.  They were rare before the steroid era, but now it seems that they are even more rare than ever.  The average SLG for a right-handed hitter was just .394.  And Sports Illustrated reports that even one-dimensional guys like Mark Trumbo have become coveted.

And it does seem that the Mariners — after initially restocking the organization with left-handed and switch-hitting guys who were (supposedly) high on the “plate skills” dimension (Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Brad Miller) — have also shifted course in the last couple of years.

At the MLB level, Corey Hart was added, and there was much casting about for another right-handed bat.  Ultimately rookie Stefen Romero got that role — now joined by fellow ex-Oregon State Beaver Cole Gillespie.

Hart, in his best years, certainly meets the profile of the right-handed basher, which, except for Richie Sexson‘s brief interlude, the M’s haven’t had since Jay Buhner.  Hart was available after missing the entire 2013 season with knee surgeries.  If he stays healthy, Seattle will no doubt offer him a longer-term deal, but it’s not clear if he’ll be interested.

Romero (2013 HR% 2.5%; ISO .166) and Gillespie (2.5% HR-rate in his best years) aren’t quite the basher types, but there are plenty of interesting things percolating in the minors.

D.J. Peterson (2013 Draft)

  • 2013: HR-rate 5.7%, ISO .250
  • 2014: HR-rate 2.53%, ISO .148

The Deeej hasn’t really launched yet in 2014 (he missed more than a week and has only 83 plate appearances; and missed much of the winter after a broken jaw last fall), but neither do I expect that he will be quite the HR beast he was coming out of the draft last year.  Still, Peterson will have plenty of power, and won’t be a one-dimensional basher.

Jesus Montero (2011 Trade)

  • 2013: HR-rate (AAA) 0.9%, ISO .146
  • 2014: HR-rate 8.0%, ISO .325

Montero also missed a week (baby duty), but he’s made up for it and finished April with 7 HR in 20 games.  Obviously, 2013 was a total writeoff.  But tough love seems to be having the desired effect on Montero’s bat.  I plan on a full post on Montero soon.

Jabari Blash (2010 Draft)

  • 2013: HR-rate 5.5%, ISO .263
  • 2014: HR-rate 4.55%, ISO .250

Mr. Blash Splash has taken off right where he left off after a sizzling second half of 2013.  He’s the Virgin Islands version of Michael Saunders (late to focus on baseball, struggles to match talent to results), but when he “gets it” baseballs fly all over (and he’s got solid, improving plate skills).

Jabari Henry (2012 Draft)

  • 2013: HR-rate 2.5%, ISO .176
  • 2014: HR-rate 10.6%, ISO .474

Of course, Henry won’t continue to hit like he has in his first 12 games at High Desert, but don’t sleep on how good the other Jabari might be.

Patrick Kivlehan (2012 Draft)

  • 2013: HR-rate 2.9%, ISO .162
  • 2014: HR-rate 6.6%, ISO .286

Until now, the football guy has been more “potential” than realization, but he’s off to the races in High Desert and has two triples to boot.

Austin Wilson (2013 Draft)

  • 2013: HR-rate 2.7% (but 6.3% in August), ISO .173 (but .310 in August)
  • 2014: HR-rate 2.2%, ISO .158

Wilson learned to dink-and-dunk at Stanford, where they don’t play for the longball.  But his NFL body finally cranked out the power late in 2013.  It hasn’t reappeared yet this season, but the potential remains.


And that’s not even mentioning Tyler O’Neill or Daniel Paolini, who are more all-around hitters (one younger, one older), but with power potential.  Or Gabriel Guerrero, whose upside has yet to be tapped but is still there.  Or Corey Simpson, who’s very young and raw but flashed some power in rookie ball.


4 thoughts on “Turn Right: The Mariners’ New Right-Handed Power Surge

  1. It’s hard to hit home runs in the MWL in April. The league leader has 5, Tank O’Neill has 4, Wilson has 2 (and 5 doubles). Tank is more impressive because of his age: there are only 2 teens in the MWL with more than one homer, and O’Neill is one of em. Tank is actually the 2nd youngest player in the MWL, by a couple weeks. Definitely keep an eye on him. If he can make good contact, the ball will fly.

    I’m really looking foward to Wilson starting to crush balls as the weather heats up there. Fingers crossed that the Mariners coaches can undo the Stanford Experiment carnage.

    Blash has tantalizing tools – I really hope he can put it together for long stretches and not just 3-week splashes of brilliance. Kivlehan is a powerful dude. I still worry about his contact skills (he’s expanding the zone again and hasn’t walked in about 2 weeks) but power… that he’s definitely got.

    Gabe Guerrero can crush em when he gets em, but I’m still in the doubter column at this point. He’s only 20, though, and hasn’t had his Wlad Balentien moment yet where he realizes walks are a good part of the game. Corey Simpson still hasn’t walked in full-season ball, has he? Looks great in BP tho, and another really raw guy.

    We’re definitely TRYING to find RH power. Here’s hoping we succeed. Thanks for the two-parter, Jim!

  2. What do you guys think about some of the “surprises” from the first month of the milb season? On that list I would count J Montero (I’d written him off), Ji-Man Choi, Chris Taylor and Cole Gillespie from the Tacos, Nathan Melendrez and Ketel Marte at JAX, Brock Hebert and Jordy Lara and Aaron Barbosa at HD, and Marcus Littlewood and Ian Miller at Clinton. I wasn’t expecting any of them to deliver the kinds of results we’ve seen in April (SSS acknowledged!)

  3. Plus there could be a few more coming, when you consider where they are playing versus 2 years ago… like Tyler Smith (who skipped Everett and Clinton) and Tim Lopes (who was in high school and also is now at High Desert) and Jamal Austin ( who skipped Everett and is now in Jackson) and Jack Marder ( who skipped Everett and Clinton, now in Jackson) and lastly John Hicks (who skipped Everett and Clinton, now in Jackson)…

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