Game 61, Rangers at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Derek Holland, 7:10pm
We’ll get to the M’s haul in the second day of the MLB draft later, but for now, the M’s open the most important series of the season so far against the AL West-leading Rangers. The Rangers swept the M’s in Arlington, and in the process have pushed their playoff odds above 67%, according to Baseball Prospectus – a one-week gain of 25%. Much of that’s come at the M’s expense, but the M’s have a shot at revenge.
Five days ago, Iwakuma clearly outpitched a surprisingly effective Derek Holland, but the M’s lost due to a series of defensive lapses. With the primary culprit now in Tacoma, can the M’s defense atone for those mistakes? The Rangers boast one of the league’s best defenses, with great numbers across the board (even fielding percentage!), while the M’s have struggled by UZR/DRS. The M’s and Rangers are essentially tied in good old defensive efficiency, but they’ve gotten there in different ways. The Rangers have an elite infield, which makes sense given their 3B, and have been incredibly good at turning double plays. The M’s strength is, er, at least WAS, in the OF. Missed you, Leonys…welcome back.
Derek Hollland had his best game of the year against the M’s five days ago, working 7 IP with only a HR to Nelson Cruz given up. He missed more bats than expected, and one reason why was that he kept the M’s designated lefty killers off balance. Dae-ho Lee, Franklin Gutierrez and Stefen Romero were held hitless, and that let the Rangers win the match-up battles later on (you may still be fuming about the Adam Lind vs. Jake Diekmann move). Romero isn’t around to blame anymore, so Lee and Guti need to step up and produce. Or, you know, Robbie Cano’s hot streak can just steamroll any platoon split issue and carry the M’s to victory. I’d take that.
1: Marte, SS
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lee, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Smith, LF
9: Martin, CF
The M’s made another 8 picks in today’s 3rd-10th rounds of the draft. Remember that it’s the first 10 rounds that count against the M’s $7.136 million draft pool. The M’s selected three college seniors, which typically means they can save quite a bit compared to the slot value of those picks. The M’s went for a draft-eligible sophomore in the 3rd round, so they may use some of the savings to get Bryson Brigman to sign, or buy Joe Rizzo out of his University of South Carolina commitment. My overall impression was that it was very much a Tom McNamara draft, with one important twist. The M’s selected two players from small, Div II schools in the northeast, something they’ve done repeatedly in recent years. A few years ago, it was Dan Altavilla, and they went to small PA schools back to back in the 6th and 7th round this year. They also looked at smaller schools in the southeast, both to grab Kyle Mercer in the first round (who almost doesn’t count, considering he was in the running to go 1-1), and then 3B Nick Zammarelli out of Elon in the 8th. The M’s have signed guys out of small, southeastern schools like Mount Olive, Belmont Abbey and others in recent years, and they’ve used early round picks to do it – not just 30th round senior-sign flyers.
The twist is that the M’s clearly put more of an emphasis on contact and athleticism. Instead of saving on seniors like slugging DII first baseman Ryan Uhl, they grabbed Oklahoma State SS Donnie Walton. Their third-round SS has essentially no power, but makes a lot of contact. Their bat-first project, 2nd rounder Joe Rizzo, has much more present hitting ability than some other “reach” picks in recent years, where it was clear the M’s prioritized power over bat-to-ball skills. This isn’t a shock, given everything the M’s have said about controlling the zone, but it was interesting to see it play out.