Over the last few seasons, the Seattle Mariners have put up brutally bad offensive numbers and struggles at the top of the order have been a major contributing factor.
You knew Eric Wedge was really desperate to find some production at the top of the order last year when he decided to move Ichiro down to the third spot and put Chone Figgins at the leadoff spot. That experiment only lasted about two months before Figgins was summoned to bench for the rest of the year and was eventually released.
The Mariners tried to use second basemen Dustin Ackley atop the order, but that yielded no success as Ackley hit very poorly, posting an average of .233 with an on-base percentage of .296 in 96 games hitting leadoff. It is unlikely that Wedge will continue to use Ackley in this role in 2013.
In the Mariners’ Opening Day victory over the Oakland Athletics, Franklin Gutierrez hit in the leadoff spot. Gutierrez sparked the offensive production in that game, hitting a two-RBI single, plating the Mariners’ only runs of the game.
The oft-injured Gutierrez may not seem like a great option atop the order, but 30-year old outfielder has seen a great deal of success hitting in the leadoff spot, with a .282 career batting average. Gutierrez, a right-handed hitter, will hit leadoff when a left-handed pitcher is starting and it will be Michael Saunders when there is a right-hander on the hill.
It was an interesting move by Wedge to platoon Saunders against right-handed pitching, as he is only a .218 career hitter against right-handers. Saunders has virtually no experience as a leadoff hitter, recording four hits in three career starts. It will be interesting to see what happens to Saunders’ power numbers hitting in the leadoff spot, as he is coming off of a career-high 19 home runs hit in 2012.
For now the platoon of Saunders and Gutierrez is the best option that Wedge has for the top of the order, but I wouldn’t expect to see this combination all season.