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4 factors impacting Mariners' outfield in '20

@gregjohnsmlb
July 9, 2020

SEATTLE -- The Mariners will open intrasquad games on Friday with an interesting situation in their outfield. The club only has six full-time outfielders in camp and one of those -- 19-year-old prospect Julio Rodriguez -- was just cleared to join the workouts on Thursday. Needing to field two teams

SEATTLE -- The Mariners will open intrasquad games on Friday with an interesting situation in their outfield. The club only has six full-time outfielders in camp and one of those -- 19-year-old prospect Julio Rodriguez -- was just cleared to join the workouts on Thursday.

Needing to field two teams for the intrasquad action, that means youngsters like Jarred Kelenic and the just-drafted Zach DeLoach figure to get tons of playing time, while several utility infielders will see action in the outfield in the coming weeks to provide depth.

Here are four factors affecting the outfield as the regular season sits just two weeks away:

1. Haniger may well miss the whole season
Any thoughts of 2018 American League All-Star Mitch Haniger rejoining the club at some point this year appear to be dwindling. The 29-year-old right fielder was placed on the 45-day injured list and isn’t part of the 60-player pool working out at T-Mobile Park, as only those 60 players are allowed to be at the facility.

Haniger is rehabbing at home in California, but still hasn’t been cleared to begin baseball activities. While he’ll be eligible to come off the injured list in mid-August and potentially play the final six weeks of the season, general manager Jerry Dipoto indicated that appears a long shot.

To add Haniger to the 60-player pool, one of the current group would need to be released, and the Mariners are using many of the extra spots to get experience for their top prospects.

“Right now we feel like, for obvious reasons, those spots are gold,” Dipoto said. “And, if our understanding is with Mitch that, minimally, he's not going to play for an extended period, and there's a very good chance that he doesn't play at all in 2020, we want to use that spot on a player who is either developing or has the opportunity to help us here in Seattle if a need arises.”

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2. Mallex not in the mix initially
Haniger isn’t the only missing outfielder. Starting center fielder Mallex Smith, the only other veteran in the group, is one of five players from the 60-man pool who’ve yet to be seen at camp.

Per MLB policy, the Mariners have only announced that three people tested positive on their initial COVID-19 tests prior to camp. The league will not announce which players haven’t cleared the COVID protocols due to privacy laws regarding individuals’ health.

Players may address their status if they wish, though they are not required to. Players do not need to test positive to be placed on the COVID-19 list. Potential exposure to a person who has the virus can be sufficient cause.

With Smith and Rodriguez absent, that left Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop -- three rookies with a combined 57 games of MLB experience -- along with prospects Kelenic and DeLoach as the only outfielders in camp the first week. Kelenic has never played above Double-A ball and DeLoach was a second-round Draft pick out of Texas A&M last month.

Rodriguez, who finished last year at Class A Advanced Modesto, played catch on Thursday and figures to join that group now that he’s in camp. But like Kelenic and DeLoach, the preference is to keep him with the extra players working out in Tacoma once the regular season begins.

3. Utility men to the rescue
Utility infielders like Tim Lopes, Sam Haggerty and José Marmolejos will give the Mariners needed versatility in the outfield. Another utility man, Dylan Moore, is among the group that hasn’t arrived yet, but he showed well in his outfield time last season.

Marmolejos, 27, is a former Nationals prospect who signed a Minor League deal in spring and impressed the Mariners with his left-handed power. He’s primarily a first baseman, but played some left field in Cactus League play and has been taking outfield reps in Summer Camp.

Lopes, Haggerty and Moore are more versatile -- able to play any of the infield spots -- and offer more speed and defense in the outfield. Lopes had a huge spring with the bat and appears the early favorite there, while Haggerty has recovered from an arm injury in Arizona and spent a lot of time at shortstop in the initial week of Summer Camp.

4. Lewis could play center if needed
With Smith missing, Bishop is the only true center fielder. But don’t be surprised if Lewis slides into center for a long look. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder continued working on his speed during the shutdown and has impressed the Mariners with his improved agility.

"I love what Kyle Lewis has done since he's been here, on both sides of the ball,” Dipoto said. “I think he looks tremendous running around in the outfield and is giving us every opportunity to put him out there in center field on occasion, if not more than occasionally, and see what the future holds for him.”

Lewis played primarily center field in the Minors, but was viewed more as a corner outfielder in MLB after hitting six homers in his first 10 games playing right field as a September callup. That outlook could be changing, however, particularly if Smith remains out for long. Kelenic remains the likely center fielder of the future, but Lewis’ versatility would be an added plus.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.