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Inbox: Who will lead off for Seattle?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from Mariners fans
January 13, 2016

It seems to me that the Mariners' starting lineup has three potential leadoff hitters in Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin and Ketel Marte. Where do you see them hitting in the 2016 lineup? -- Jon G., SeattleGeneral manager Jerry Dipoto said when he signed Aoki in December that the 34-year-old would

It seems to me that the Mariners' starting lineup has three potential leadoff hitters in Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin and Ketel Marte. Where do you see them hitting in the 2016 lineup?
-- Jon G., Seattle

General manager Jerry Dipoto said when he signed Aoki in December that the 34-year-old would be the leadoff hitter if all goes according to plan this spring. Aoki's career .353 on-base percentage and his ability to work counts and steal bases all make him a quality leadoff candidate. And he's filled that role in 415 of the 477 games he started in the Majors the past four years for the Brewers, Royals and Giants.
Martin led off in 90 of the 351 games he started with the Rangers the past five years and he definitely has the speed you like in that spot, but his career on-base percentage of .305 doesn't compare with Aoki and he'll likely hit at or near the bottom of the order. That was true with Texas as well, where he hit seventh, eighth or ninth in 228 of his starts. I suspect that Martin might hit ninth a lot, providing a nice speed tandem with Aoki as the lineup turns over in the later innings.
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Marte is an interesting case, as he produced extremely well in the leadoff role at the end of last season, putting up a .351 on-base percentage in 54 games after being called up. I think the 22-year-old will get a shot at hitting second behind Aoki, a nice spot for a switch-hitter who can handle the bat. But if the new regime doesn't think that Marte is quite ready for that role, he could start the season in the lower third of the order and move up later.
I think we can all agree that Robinson Cano is potentially a future Hall of Famer. If he gets in, what team would he represent?
-- Logan F., Seattle

Both those things will depend on what Cano does over the rest of his career. At this point, he'd clearly go in as a Yankee since he's played nine of his 11 years with New York and earned five of his six All-Star berths and put up the bulk of his numbers with the Bombers. But Cano still has eight years remaining on his Mariners contract, so that is a story far from finished.
Whatever happened as a result of the Justin Ruggiano and Austin Jackson trades last season? Did the Mariners just get cash or were players acquired?
-- Keith, Federal Way, Wash.

It was straight cash received in return for Ruggiano from the Dodgers and Jackson and Fernando Rodney in deals with the Cubs in those late-season trades.
Besides Jesus Montero, who else in the organization can compete for the first base position?
-- Randy C., Tempe, Ariz.

Adam Lind figures as the starting first baseman heading into camp, but certainly the Mariners will want a right-handed hitter to partner with him since his career numbers decidedly point to a platoon situation. He's put up a .293/.354/.509 line against right-handers, compared to .213/.259/.327 against lefties. At this point, Montero and non-roster invitee Ed Lucas -- a veteran who can play all four infield spots -- are the right-handed options. Catcher Steve Clevenger can also play first base, but he's a left-handed hitter.
When do you see D.J. Peterson making his first big league appearance?
-- John G., Puyallup, Wash.

No idea. The 2013 first-round Draft pick is going to need to take a big step forward in the Minors first, as he hit just .223/.287/.344 at Double-A Jackson and four games at Triple-A Tacoma last year, then batted .209 in the Arizona Fall League. That's not going to cut it for a guy whose bat is his ticket to the big leagues. But the 24-year-old is still the No. 3-ranked prospect in the Mariners' system by's Pipeline, and the new regime will give him a chance to develop. If Peterson takes off, he could be a right-handed complement to Lind at first base at some point, but that isn't even a conversation until he shows he can produce consistently at Triple-A.
In years gone by, it seems that top pitchers would throw more complete games in one year than most now throw in a career. Are the pitchers of today just not built for it or what?
-- George J., Winlock, Wash.

Two things have changed. There's a lot more money on the line in today's game and teams are more careful to protect the huge investments they make on pitcher's contracts. And the advent of the closer's role and heavy reliance on bullpens is a relatively recent development, historically speaking. In the 1800s and early 1900s, pitchers would often throw every pitch of both games of a doubleheader.
Will White threw a Major League-record 75 complete games -- in his 76 games -- with the 1879 Cincinnati Reds while putting up a 43-31 record and a 1.99 ERA. Different times, indeed. But even in the 1970s, pitchers were still throwing 20-plus complete games a year. Catfish Hunter was the last to throw 30, in 1975 with the Yankees. Fernando Valenzuela was the last to hit 20, in 1986 with the Dodgers.
This past season, no Major League pitcher threw more than four complete games for the first time in history. There are many old-timers who feel pitchers were better off being allowed to build their arms up by throwing deeper into games, but the current trend is clearly toward protecting those valuable starters with pitch counts and protecting leads with hard-throwing relievers and ninth-inning closers.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.