Thursday, March 18, 2010
M's dispatch top left fielder to Tacoma
As Geoff Baker reports, the Mariners have sent down Michael Saunders, who (in my opinion) is the organization's third-best outfielder. Nevertheless,
Saunders being demoted should surprise nobody. His chances of making the team all but died when the Mariners acquired Milton Bradley. The Mariners were not going to employ Saunders as a fourth outfielder. He was either going to make the team as a starter or be sent back to Class AAA -- since he has minor league options left.
Once Ryan Langerhans was re-signed and Eric Byrnes picked up as a free-agent, it became clear that Saunders was going to need a superhuman spring to make the club. He didn't and he won't.
One interesting thing to remember about Saunders, which you may have noted on that video we posted a few weeks ago about the changes to Seattle's strength and conditioning program. In the video, Dr. Marcus Elliott points to some paperwork on Saunders and states that he has more vertical (or, lateral) force than horizontal force. The theory Elliott has, and which the Mariners are paying big bucks to implement over the next three years, is that athletes with horizontal power -- like Dustin Ackley -- have a better chance to maximize their potential.
With vertical power, Elliott adds, even big, strong hitters tend to have low home run totals because they are not maximizing the force they get on their swing and driving balls properly. So, the Mariners are in the process of training their hitters to get more horizontal force on their swings.
It's something the Mariners no doubt want Saunders to improve upon this year. He'll now get that chance in AAA.
In 88 Triple-A games, Saunders has 16 homers and a .504 slugging percentage. So whether or not he's able to increase his horizontal-ness or not, his power figures to play in the majors.
So does the rest of him. I'm disappointed that he's being sent down because I enjoy watching young players, and I suspect I'll go to my grave thinking there wasn't enough room on the 2010 Mariners for Ken Griffey, Jr. and Milton Bradley. But between Junior's senior injuries and Bradley's Bradley-ness, doesn't it seem pretty likely that there will be an opening at some point this summer for a player with Saunders' skills?
I also think that Saunders will benefit, in a roundabout way, from Shin-Soo Choo. It's a different regime, but the men running the Mariners must be familiar with Choo's story: after a good (but not great) season in Triple-A, Choo was essentially traded by the M's for a small leather pouch filled with moldy beans (with all due respect to Ben Broussard). I think the Mariners know what they have in Saunders. They're just not in any great hurry, and I suspect everything will come out OK in the end.