After inserting a slew of young players into their lineup in 2011, the Seattle Mariners needed to see production from their youth in 2012. Many youngsters were given a taste of the majors in 2011 and manager Eric Wedge is now pushing for results. The plan requires above all else, patience. Early in the season the Mariners offense was as impotent as it has been in the past. Justin Smoak, who started the season as the cleanup hitter, struggled early and was batting 0.183 on Smoakamotive promotion night. As May was winding down, Michael Saunders was hitting 0.226, Dustin Ackley 0.242, Mike Carp 0.155, Kyle Seager 0.255, Jesus Montero 0.247. Things were so bad that the debate around Seattle was whether the team should pull the fences in at Safeco field.
At the same time, other rookies (Bryce Harper 0.287, Brett Lawrie 0.283) were successfully making their adjustments to the major leagues. More alarming, however, was that the resurgent divisional rival Angels were being led by youngsters Mark Trumbo 0.338 and phenom Mike Trout 0.306. For a Mariners team that is committed to rebuilding with youth, it looked like they were at risk of being passed by a team that was simply reloading.
With few signs of progress from their young position players, the Mariners limped into Texas and prepared to be shelled by one of the leagues best offenses. But then something funny happened against the Rangers. The Mariners young hitters found their feet.The team scored 35 runs over three games including one 21 run outburst that sent the team to a series win over the Rangers. The Mariners offense continued to click with Justin Smoak slugging his way to an AL player of the week award.
Since the Texas series, Michael Saunders has continued his hot streak batting 0.500. After carrying a league-worst 0.149 batting average in 2011, the talented outfielder is now contributing power, defense and steals. Saunders revamped a loopy swing in the offseason and adopted a much more aggressive approach at the plate that allows him to better dictate the at bat.
But the biggest revelation has been the ascendance of Kyle Seager, who has turned into a clutch hitter (23 two out RBI’s). Seager is now batting third, allowing for Ichiro to move back to his traditional leadoff position. The next obstacle is for the young players to continue hitting at Safeco Field, where fly balls go to die.