Have the Mariners found the ideal 2B platoon?
Sometimes, two bats are better than one.
When the Mariners acquired second baseman Kolten Wong last December, management suggested it would strive to manage the left-handed hitting Wong’s workload against southpaw pitching. The expected plan - use right-handed hitting utility-man Dylan Moore to cover second base on days Seattle faced southpaw starters.
Unfortunately, Moore has yet to make his 2023 debut due to a series of setbacks following offseason core surgery. His absence ultimately led to the Mariners beginning the season without an acceptable right-handed compliment to Wong. That changed when José Caballero entered the picture in mid-April.
Since making his MLB debut on April 15, Caballero has a .279 AVG/.333 OBP/.349 SLG with a 96 wRC+ in 48 plate appearances. In less than a month, the Panamanian has endeared himself to the fanbase thanks to his productivity, hustle, and savvy. So much so, some fans have called for him to supplant Wong as the Mariners’ everyday second baseman.
Still, I believe a more practical approach is a second base platoon with Wong and Caballero - at least for now. Based on how the Mariners are using the pair, it appears they agree. Wong has taken most of the plate appearances against right-handers with Caballero handling the majority of lefties.
Some of you may note Caballero having a higher AVG than Wong against righties. True, but the Hawaiian is reaching base at a higher clip (.341 OBP). He also boasts a slightly better wRC+. Conversely, Caballero has been more productive against southpaws than right-handers.
To be clear, we’re talking about just 24 games - a small sample. A good or bad week by Wong and/or Caballero would propel or sink the numbers we just reviewed. That said, the team has benefited from the platoon over the last month.
To see what I mean, take a look at the duo’s combined production numbers at second base (plus three plate appearances from Sam Haggerty) since April 15.
Seattle’s second basemen stack-up relatively well against the rest of the league. Granted, they’ve been a little light in the slugging department. But they’re top-10 in AVG, OBP, and wRC+.
Okay, I know what some of you are thinking. Caballero’s presence has given the Mariners a shot in the arm. Plus, he’s been respectable against righties. Why limit his opportunities to games started by a lefty?
Understandable sentiment. All I’m suggesting is the Mariners should maximize second base productivity by starting Caballero at second base against left-handers instead of Wong. Perhaps the rookie’s performance eventually dictates he takes over as the regular second baseman. But making such a decision now would be premature considering Caballero has played in just 17 big-league games.
If Caballero maintains his hitting ways and Wong’s numbers begin to resemble his career norms, it’s plausible manager Scott Servais finds opportunities to utilize Caballero at other positions he’s capable of playing - shortstop and third base.
Perhaps Servais uses Caballero to occasionally spot shortstop J.P. Crawford and third baseman Eugenio Suárez. And who knows? Crawford and Suarez might be able to help shore up an unproductive designated hitter spot on days Caballero is covering for them in the field.
Obviously, a roster decision looms when Moore is finally ready to rejoin the Mariners. But for now, pairing Caballero with Wong at second base presents the ideal platoon situation for the team.
My Oh My…
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