What to make of Dominic Canzone
Dominic Canzone had a brief audition with the Mariners in 2023. He projects to receive a much longer look this year.
A lot could change between now and Opening Day. But all signs point to Mariners manager Scott Servais going with Julio Rodríguez, Mitch Haniger, and Luke Raley as his starting outfield. The projected choice to fill the fourth outfielder role - Dominic Canzone. With this in mind, let’s consider what we know about the 26-year-old.
He arrived via *that* trade
Canzone was acquired from the Diamondbacks last July in the unpopular deal sending reliever Paul Sewald to Arizona. Joining the Ohio State alum from the D-Backs were infielder Josh Rojas and minor-leaguer Ryan Bliss.
Fun facts: The Mariners have drafted and signed four Ohio State University Buckeyes with one reaching MLB - Dave Burba. The others were Doug Swearingen, Bob Worley, and Craig Griffey (son of Ken and brother of Ken Jr.).
While Canzone had his moments with the Mariners, his stat line for the season doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. Having said that, we need to address the obvious before further discussing the left-handed hitter.
Canzone’s MLB career is a teeny, tiny sample - 59 games and 182 plate appearances with the Diamondbacks and Mariners last season. Therefore, I suggest we don’t overanalyze the numbers we’re going to talk about. Instead, consider the following information as food for thought rather than proof of something good or bad.
Pretty good with the strikeouts
Last season, six Mariners with at least 100 plate appearances had a strikeout rate above 30-percent. As a consequence, the club had the dubious distinction of producing the second-highest strikeout rate in MLB. Canzone’s presence should help mitigate Seattle’s strikeout problem in 2024.
Seattle’s 30% Strikeout Club
Canzone’s 17.6-percent strikeout rate as a big-leaguer fell within the top 20-percent of hitters with at least 150 plate appearances. As we’ve already acknowledged, the Ohio native’s MLB experience is very limited. But based on his professional history, it’s reasonable to believe he’ll continue to control strikeouts.
Walks? Not so much
While Canzone has proven adept at avoiding strikeouts during his rookie campaign, he didn’t achieve the same level of success at earning free passes. Last year, 404 hitters had at least 150 plate appearances. Only 25 had a lower walk rate than Canzone.
Canzone’s uncharacteristically low walk rate is undoubtedly the result of chasing an inordinate number of pitches outside the strike zone. Last season, 401 hitters saw at least 300 pitches outside the zone. But just 13 possessed a higher chase rate than the former Buckeye did (41.8-percent). For those wondering, the MLB chase rate was 28.6-percent.
His bat can go BOOM
When Canzone made contact, it was frequently loud. Both his 42.6-percent hard-hit and 12.1-percent barrel rates were noticeably better than the MLB average for each metric.
From a conventional standpoint, Canzone hit five home runs and 11 doubles with his new club. In fact, only three Mariners had more two-baggers in August through October: Rodríguez (16), Teoscar Hernández (12), and Eugenio Suárez (12).
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting Canzone was a power hitter opposing pitchers feared. But during his short time in the Emerald City, he did occasionally demonstrate the kind of pop, which must have made him an appealing trade target to the Mariners.
Perhaps Canzone’s most memorable power moment as a Mariner was his first home run with the team on a beautiful summer afternoon at T-Mobile Park. His bottom-of-the-ninth bomb off Orioles reliever Mike Baumann on August 13 tied the game at 3-3.
Unfortunately, the Mariners would lose the game to Baltimore in the tenth inning. But hey, Canzone’s blast and the call by Aaron Goldsmith created a great memory. So did his epic bat drop.
He feasted on fastballs
Clobbering fastballs was Canzone’s specialty. Last year, 441 batters saw at least 250 fastballs (four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters, sinkers). Only five boasted a higher SLG than Canzone’s .653.
As great as Canzone was against fastballs, he languished when confronted with breaking and offspeed pitches. A quick review of his batting average against the three major pitch groups provides the evidence.
Canzone’s AVG vs Pitch Group
Fastballs - .319
Breaking - .100
Offspeed - .220
To be fair, a rookie struggling against non-fastballs isn’t exactly breaking news. It happens all the time. And let’s not forget Canzone changed employers and homes shortly after his big-league debut. I’m not forwarding this thought as an excuse. But it’s important to recognize these real-world stressors can affect a player and his loved ones and could potentially follow him to the field.
And his defense? Well…
As a minor-leaguer, the recurring theme regarding Canzone was his bat would keep him in the big-leagues - not his glove. It’s too early to make broad-brush assessments on his defensive acumen, but the small sample of one advanced metric suggests the eighth round pick of the Diamondbacks was a slightly below-average defender.
Fun fact: In 2019, the Mariners drafted reliever Ty Adcock in the eighth round four spots after Dominic Canzone.
In 270.1 combined innings patrolling left field and right field for Arizona and Seattle, Canzone accrued -2 outs above average (OAA). Zero is considered average. Having said that, Statcast did rate his throwing arm in the top third of outfielders making at least 50 throws last year.
It’s worth noting Canzone has spent some time at first base in the minor leagues (40 starts, 341 innings) with most of this experience coming in 2022. Last year, he didn’t play the position at AAA or in MLB. To date, there’s been no indication the Mariners intend on using the Walsh Jesuit High School product as a first baseman. Naturally, this could change depending on the team’s needs.
To me, Canzone projects as a reserve or perhaps a potential platoon partner with the right-handed hitting Haniger. How things actually play out likely depends on the health and performance of Rodríguez, Haniger, and Raley. Something else to consider - competition from within.
Canzone’s value to the Mariners will come via his bat. If he hits, as he’s done at every level, Servais will find ways to get the Ohioan into the lineup on a regular basis. Otherwise, Canzone could find himself honing his offensive skills with Class-AAA Tacoma.
Other outfielders currently on Seattle’s 40-man roster include Taylor Trammell, Cade Marlowe, Zach DeLoach, and Jonatan Clase. Perhaps one of these players surges ahead of Canzone on the depth chart during Spring Training. Or maybe, a future acquisition leap frogs the field.
Realistically, Canzone likely earns a spot on the Opening Day roster. There’s a lot to like about his hit tool, even if his defense remains a work in progress. I suspect the Mariners may agree with my assessment.
After all, they did trade Paul Sewald to get him.
My Oh My…
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