Once a Mariner always a Mariner? Well, no, probably not. Still I often like to check in on former M’s to see how they’re doing in their post-Seattle careers.
When last we left the future Hall of Famer, Ichiro signed a deal with the Miami Marlins to be a part-time outfielder. That the Marlins extended him before the 2015 was over was a pretty big surprise. But Ichiro is rewarding their faith with pretty Ichiro-like year in limited playing time. Though he’s lost most of his speed and almost all of his pop, Ichiro is slashing an incandescent .385/.444/.431 in 73 plate appearances. He’s walking a little (7) and striking out even less (3). Defensively, the Marlins have played him in all three outfield position, but he’s at his best in left field. He currently has 3 DRS and a cumulative 11.2 UZR 150 in the outfield. Ichiro’s seemed to be in decline in the teens, but he turned in a strong performance with Miami last year. He currently sports a .7 WAR, while last year he had a -.8 WAR. Good news for him as Ichiro steams toward the Hall of Fame “promised land” of 3,000 hits. He has 25 in 2016 and needs 40 more. Great story on Ichiro in Five Thirty Eight.
On April 22nd Chris Colabello was suspended for PED’s, insuring old friend Justin Smoak would be the regular first baseman. Smoak’s 2015 season was very Smoak-like, but with more thump.239/.299/.480. Lots of strikeouts, not a lot of walks. 16 doubles and 18 homers. Not bad, but not brilliant. Smoak was able to fit in very well with Toronto as a role player. He didn’t have to be the show. This year, the native of Goose Creek, S.C. is showing a different side of Justin Smoak. Not as much pop, but with a .282/.398/.417. His batting average is the highest of his career, and his OBP is the highest on a team of pretty good hitters. Only three homers so far, and the Jays have him hitting sixth.
Chris Young is one of my favorite former Mariners. He had a decent year with the world champion Kansas City Royal. Working as a swing man, Young posted an 11-6 record with a 3.06 ERA. But this year the 6’10” Princeton graduate stumbled out of the gate. Young started seven games and was pounded, going as deep as six innings only once. He assembled a dubious 1-5 record with a 6.68 ERA. In 32.1 innings, Young struck out 31, walked 13 and allowed an incredible 13 home runs. He was added to the fifteen day disabled list on May 10 with a right forearm strain. He is scheduled for a simulated game later this week.
Together with Smoak, Dustin Ackley might be the most polarizing figure of the Jack Zdurencik era. At the end of the 2015 season, he was traded to the Yankees, where he spun some pretty good numbers, .288/.333/.654. As the season ended, many Mariners fans grumbled about what happened to former Mariners when they left the team. Yankees fans wondered about where Ackley would play. But honestly, Ackley has not performed that well. He’s only played in 23 games and earned 47 plate appearances. His slash is a meager .163/.276/.163. That’s right, all of Ackley’s five hits are singles. Though his splits seem to show he may be getting off the snide, we’ve seen this kind of performance from Ackley before–sustained mediocrity, sprinkled with glimpses of something more. Nice to see it in pinstripes instead of teal.
After missing most of 2015 with a serious knee injury, Michael Saunders came back to the Jays with a vengeance. He is hitting a robust .314/.379/.556 with eight home runs. Saunders is in his age 29 season, and is leading his offense-heavy team in average. He’s also has more than a few strikeouts with 43. Saunders has managed to stay away from the disabled list, a chronic situation that has followed him around throughout his career. Always liked Saunders. I’m hoping he can use his health and talents to beat up some Yankees and Red Sox.