Mariners' Top 5 right fielders: Johns' take

May 11th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Greg Johns’ ranking of the top five right fielders in Mariners history. Next week: designated hitter.

Mariners’ All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF

1. , 2001-12, 2018-19
Key fact: Posted a .321 batting average over 1,861 games with Seattle

This is another position with little debate over who should be No. 1, as Ichiro became a franchise icon and likely first-ballot National Baseball Hall of Famer over a sterling Mariners career.

Though he didn’t arrive in Major League Baseball with the Mariners until he was 27 years old after nine outstanding seasons in Japan, Ichiro quickly made his mark by winning American League MVP and Rookie of the Year honors while hitting .350 with 56 stolen bases for Seattle’s 116-win team in 2001.

Ichiro wound up being named to 10 straight AL All-Star teams and earning 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards until finally slowing a bit at age 37 in 2011. But while he never earned another All-Star bid and was traded to the Yankees midway through 2012, the ultra-fit Ichiro wound up playing five more seasons with the Yankees and Marlins, then returned to Seattle and appeared in 17 games in 2018-19 before retiring at age 45.

In 1,861 games for the Mariners, he posted a .321/.365/.416 slash line with 2,542 hits and a 56.2 bWAR, third in franchise history for any position player behind only Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. (70.6) and Edgar Martinez (68.4). He led the AL with a .350 batting average in 2001 and led all of baseball at .372 in ’04, when he set an MLB single-season record with 262 hits.

Fans from around the world followed Ichiro closely both in Seattle and everywhere he went, and he racked up the 23rd-most hits of any player in MLB history despite not coming to the U.S. until he was 27.

"To do what he did and as big as he's been on the marketing front worldwide, it's not just a baseball career,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said when Ichiro finally retired in Tokyo after the Opening Series in 2019. “He's a baseball personality. He's become a worldwide celebrity."

Ichiro continues to work with the Mariners as a coach and special advisor.

2. , 1988-2001
Key fact: One of nine members of the Mariners Hall of Fame

Before Ichiro, Buhner dominated the right-field position in a much different fashion as he provided both a big bat in the middle of the lineup and a strong presence in the clubhouse during the best stretch of baseball in franchise history.

Buhner ranks third behind only Griffey and Martinez on the all-time Mariners charts in home runs (307) and RBIs (951) and posted a career line with Seattle of .255/.360/.497 with a 23.1 bWAR in 1,440 games.

The man known as “Bone” finished fifth in the AL MVP voting in Seattle’s historic ’95 season, when he clubbed 40 homers and collected 121 RBIs in 126 games, then earned AL All-Star and Gold Glove honors in '96 while batting .271 with 44 homers and 138 RBIs.

He became the first player in franchise history to hit for the cycle in 1993 and will always remain a fan favorite in Seattle, where his bald head and bold statements stood out for a team that reached the playoffs four times in his final seven seasons.

3. , 2017-present
Key fact: AL All-Star in 2018

Haniger’s 6.2 bWAR in '18 is third best in franchise history for a right fielder, behind only a pair of Ichiro seasons in 2001 and ’04. He displayed his outstanding all-around game that year, hitting .285/.366/.493 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs while playing strong defense as well.

But that is the only season in which Haniger has been able to stay fully healthy, as he missed several months in ’17 with a strained oblique and lacerated face after getting hit by a pitch and played just 63 games last year before a ruptured testicle from a foul ball led to further issues that wiped out his final 3 1/2 months.

Even with his limited playing time, Haniger has already accumulated 10.6 bWAR in 316 games with Seattle, which ranks third behind only Ichiro and Buhner among Mariners right fielders. Now he just needs to get healthy again to add to that total with a young club that still hopes to build around his considerable talents.

4. Leon Roberts, 1978-80
Key fact: Hit .301 with 22 homers in his first season in Seattle in 1978

Roberts was acquired from the Astros in a trade in December 1977 and immediately made his mark with his best season in an 11-year MLB career, posting a .301/.364/.515 line with 22 homers and 92 RBIs in 134 games in Seattle’s second season.

Roberts was voted the team MVP that year for a club that went just 56-104, but he couldn’t maintain those numbers in two more seasons with Seattle and was traded to Texas after the 1980 season. His final Mariners totals were .276/.349/.458 with 47 homers, 179 RBIs and a 9.6 bWAR in 393 games.

5. , 2007
Key fact: Hit .290 with 99 RBIs in his lone season in Seattle

Guillen provided a big bat for the Mariners in 2007, when they went 88-74, and his 99 RBIs rank as the fourth-best total in franchise history for a right fielder behind only a trio of Buhner seasons.

The well-traveled veteran played for 10 teams in his 14-year MLB career, but he made the most of his time in Seattle by hitting 23 homers and posting a 3.5 bWAR with a 116 OPS+.

Honorable mentions
Al Cowens
ranks third among Mariners right fielders in games played (545) and posted a .255/.301/.422 line with 56 homers and 266 RBIs as the primary starter from 1982-85. … Danny Tartabull hit .270 with 25 homers and 96 RBIs and finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in ’86, but was traded to the Royals after that season. … Leroy Stanton hit .275 with 27 homers and 90 RBIs at age 31 in the Mariners’ inaugural season in ’77, when he was voted Seattle’s MVP by the local Baseball Writers' Association of America. … Michael Saunders teased the Mariners with his five-tool potential while playing all three outfield spots from 2009-14 and just missed a 20-20 season in ’12, when he hit 19 homers with 21 stolen bases in 139 games.