This is the fourth installment of my goals series for the M’s key players. Today is Michael Saunders turn.
Instead of continuing the whole series giving each player equal ‘air-time’, I’ve decided to do a combination article for Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak, as I do not see them being as big of contributors as Montero, Ackley, Seager, and Morales, whose article I will post soon.
First off, Michael Saunders.
2012 was a huge step for the former 4th round pick, playing a whole season at the Major League level for the first time.
In 2012, Michael batted .247, almost a .100 point increase from 2011. His OBP also increased almost .100 points, from .207 to .306. He hit 19 homers and stole 21 bases. He posted a WAR of 2.3. Here’s Michael’s goals for areas to improve for 2013.
1. Play in 150 games.
In 2012, Saunders played in only 139 games. While he had no major injuries, he had many minor ones which all kept him out for a couple of weeks or days. Michael will be most valuable, obviously, if he doesn’t miss an eighth of the season.
Michael made a huge leap in 2012, and while we should not expect another .100 point increase in his batting average (but we can sure hope!) Michael should get more comfortable with his new swing and make large strides. I expect him to increase his WAR by about .7-.8 to 3.1.
The Golden Justin Smoak
The prized pig of the Cliff Lee in 2010 has underperformed so far. He has not lived up to his MVP expectations. However, 2012 showed some signs of life for the young slugger, as he batted .040 points higher in the second half, and batted .341 in September/October.
Here is Justin’s goal for 2013. Can he finally live up to the hype?
1. Continue the second half through this entire season.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Justin to bat .341 for the season, like he did in September, but I think we could expect Justin to bat a little better than .217. After his little trip to Tacoma, Justin came back on fire. That’s when he hit .341. So I don’t know what he figured out down South, but whatever it was, hopefully he can continue.
So don’t expect Justin to bat .341, or .217, or .242, but expect him to hit near .270-.280, as his .357 September BABIP is slightly higher than what he’s done in the Minors.
Saunders and Smoak both look to breakout in 2013. This could be the final chance for both of them with the Mariners, as management might look to move them both to make way for new talent coming up and in such as Nick Franklin, and Kendrys Morales.
This article was hard to write, as it is somewhat hard to get excited and predict for guys heading into their fourth and fifth years in the league and have never batted over .250 for a year. Hopefully they can pull through this year, but look for Saunders and Smoak to be on the block before too long.