The Seattle Mariners need someone to step up and swing the bat in 2013. More specifically, it would help if that individual made contact and found a way to reach base on a regular basis.
In 2012, the team struggled to maintain a collective batting average that was even marginally respectable. Seattle finished the year with a league-worst .234 average, and they were the only team in Major League Baseball that had a sub-.300 on-base percentage (.296).
Consider that the Los Angeles Angels and Colorado Rockies tied for a league-best .274 team average. Granted, that did not help those teams reach the postseason, but the two World Series participants were solid hitting teams. The San Francisco Giants hit .269 (fifth) and the Detroit Tigers hit .268 (sixth).
Who will lead the Mariners in 2013? Will it be one of the youngsters? Or will one of the new guys step in and have the best average on the team?
Here are a few candidates who might fit the bill.
Montero has the distinction of finishing 2012 with the highest batting average on the team. Granted, that average was only .260, so it isn’t like Montero was going to challenge for the league batting title.
If you believe the hype, Montero has the ability to be a special hitter. He is only 23, so there is a potential upside that could include a .300 average and 25-30 home runs.
This might be the year for a breakout season, which could put Jesus in a prime position to again lead this team in batting average.
On paper, Kendrys Morales might be the best candidate to be Seattle’s top hitter. His .281 career average automatically makes him one of the most consistent hitters in the Mariner clubhouse.
If Morales could return to his 2009 numbers (.306, 34 home runs, 106 RBIs), he would likely run away with the clubhouse batting title. Even his 2012 average (.273) would have been tops in Seattle. That number would have easily beaten Jesus Montero.
Health may be a barrier, but Morales did play in 134 games in 2012. The other problem may be protection in the lineup. If Seattle fails to provide Morales with much support, he may not see a lot of good pitches.
On paper, Ackley may not seem like an ideal candidate to lead the team in batting. After all, he hit a subpar .226 in 2012. This was obviously a disappointment because Ackley hit .273 as a rookie in 2011. Undoubtedly there were expectations that Dustin would continue to progress in 2012.
This may be an interesting year for Ackley. If Dustin can return to or surpass his 2011 numbers, he may lead the team in batting and solidify his position at second base for the foreseeable future.
Otherwise, Nick Franklin may be there to take a shot at the job, as Franklin played some second base in 2012 at Tacoma.
Ackley may not provide a lot of power (12 home runs in 2012), but he has the ability to be a consistent contact hitter. Perhaps 2013 will be the year when he leads the Mariners.
The acquisition of Michael Morse gives Seattle another bat that could hit close to .300 in 2013. In the past three years, Morse has hit .289/.303/.291 while also hitting 64 home runs during that span.
At age 30, Morse may or may not be able to maintain the averages that he enjoyed as a member of the Washington Nationals. Still, with Kendrys Morales in the lineup, there may be enough protection for “The Beast.”
Fans will certainly hope that Morse will prove to be worth what Seattle gave up to get him.
The Mariners may not lead the league in hitting, but there is certainly reason to believe that this team will hit better in 2013. Someone must lead the way.