Diamond Report: Scouting the Catchers & Reserves

Decisions, Uncertainty for Grover's Bench (Getty)

While the Mariners were strengthening their starting lineup this winter, the bench and catching spots will be filled from within - and that isn't necessarily good news. Olivo and Wilson form a decent catching duo but the bench is full of question marks, especially with the bats.


CATCHERS

C Miguel Olivo




2004: 50 G, .200 avg, .260 obp, .388 slg, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 2 SB, 10 BB, 55 K
2005 Projection: 119 G, .259 avg, .311 obp, .447 slg, 12 HR, 61RBI, 8 SB, 36 BB, 84 K

Bat: Olivo was well on his way to a solid season at the plate prior to the June 27 trade that brought the Dominican Backstop west to Seattle. The 26-year-old used his athleticism and solid power to produce a .270/.316/.496 line for the White Sox in 46 games. After the move to Safeco, Olivo's failure to put his emotions aside cost him a breakthrough year with the bat. Post-trade numbers pushed Olivo's weaknesses to the forefront, revealing his lack of contact problems and a tendency to sink further into a slump after a short stretch of bad at-bats.

Olivo's 2005 spring isn't enough to be convinced that his shortcomings have been turned into areas of strength, but it may have been enough to expect a decent season from the new Mariners starting catcher. Olivo could easily have the best offensive season a Mariner catcher has had since his backup this year was in his prime.

Glove: Olivo has every physical tool to be a Gold Glove catcher in the big leagues. It's possible that he already has one of the top few throwing arms in either league and despite his massive issues with blocking pitches last summer, Olivo has displayed better ability to avoid the pass ball, though he needs to continue to work through this area of his defense. He is still learning to call a game and has a great teacher in Dan Wilson to help him with that aspect of his game. Olivo may grade out to be a league average receiver for 2005, but he'll restrict the opponents running game and provide the M's with a viable No. 1 option at catcher.

C Dan Wilson




2004: 103 G, .251 avg, .305 obp, .310 slg, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 0 SB, 26 BB, 57 K
2005 Projection: 66 G, .247 avg, .302 obp, .326 slg, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB, 18 BB, 40 K

Bat: Wilson is pretty much resigned to being a defensive minded catcher who works well with the pitching staff. His bat speed has been absent for four or five seasons and he has virtually no power left in his lengthening swing. Wilson is extremely susceptible to both hard stuff up and in and the sliders and splitters down and away. Wilson's best offensive skills is how well he handles the bat. The 36-year-old is the best sacrifice bunter on the roster and, when he isn't facing a hard throwing ace-like hurler, can hit the ball the other way when needed. If Wilson hits .250, the M's will be more than happy.

Glove: Wilson is still the security blanket for the Mariners late in a tight game with everything on the line. His work with the Seattle staff over the last dozen years is enough to land him the moniker of "the best catcher in club history." Wilson doesn't throw as well as he once did, but rarely makes mistakes behind the plate and remains a vacuum on balls in the dirt. Pitchers know they can throw anything at any time, even with the winning run on third. Wilson's value cannot be measured by statistics.

RESERVES

UT Scott Spiezio




2004: 112 G, .215 avg, .288 obp, .346 slg, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 4 SB, 36 BB, 60 K
2005 Projection: 70 G, .258 avg, .326 obp, .420 slg, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 2 SB, 32 BB, 45 K

Bat: Spiezio is coming off of his career-worst season, following his best two. Showing up to camp this past February in the best physical shape of his life can only help the 32-year-old, but if he doesn't hit, his value sinks through the basement floor. After hitting just .215 in 2004, Spiezio needs to add 50 points to that average while cutting down his strikeouts from 60 in 367 at-bats last season. With a similar number of trips to the plate, Spiezio is capable of repeating his power numbers from last season, the only area in which he excelled in his first year with the club. Hitting .260 or better with 8-10 home runs is possible for Spiezio, but he hasn't shown any signs of being able to return to the form that allowed him to hit .285 and .265 in 2002 and 2003. If, and only if, the 1B/3B can regain his confidence and be more selective at the plate, there is a chance that Spiezio can earn half of his 2005 salary of over $3 million.

Glove: Spiezio's defense struggled in 2004 right along with his bat. Though he wasn't awful, Spiezio isn't cut out to be a starting third baseman and wore down as the year progressed. The Joliet, Illinois native could excel in a part-time role, filling in at third and first and in the outfield on the rare occasion that the club is in need of another right fielder. Spiezio's value will be in his bat, but his glove must play well enough to warrant a start or two, here and there. The physical conditioning that he put himself through this past winter will likely be of more help defensively than offensively. With better flexibility and endurance, tiring in August shouldn't happen again.


UT Willie Bloomquist




2004: 93 G, .245 avg, .283 obp, .330 slg, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 13 SB, 10 BB, 48 K
2005 Projection: 77 G .253 avg, .294 obp, .348 slg, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB, 12 BB, 36 K

Bat: It's probably way past the point where the Mariners, or anyone else for that matter, can successfully attempt to sell Bloomquist as a major leaguer hitter. It won't stop manager Mike Hargrove from using the local product, but he probably won't get as many chances at the plate as he has been given over the past two seasons under former manager Bob Melvin. Without the power to be a strong pinch hitter and the plate skills to hit for a high average, Bloomquist's best offensive asset is his solid baserunning and the occasional runner moved over. Bloomquist can also steal a few bases and be the late-inning pinch-runner for the M's.

Glove: Bloomquist can adequately play three infield positions and two outfield spots - adequate for a utility player, that is. The Bremerton native can play second, short, third, left and center and even first base in a pinch. Oddly, his natural position of shortstop is probably the spot he grades out the worst at out of the infield positions he will likely play this season. Bloomquist is a solid defender at third base, though he lacks the arm and range to play everyday, and could be a decent defensive replacement for Boone at second.


UT Greg Dobbs




2004: 18 G, .226 avg, .250 obp, .302 slg, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 1 BB, 14 K
2005 Projection: 58 G .244 avg, .307 obp, .411 slg, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB, 10 BB, 29 K

Bat: Dobbs had a break-out spring, but it remains to be seen whether he can turn that into regular season success, especially in a reserve role where he won't be getting regular at-bats. If hemakes the 25-man roster, Dobbs will be used at third, first and in left field, but mainly as a left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench. Dobbs is often overmatched versus a pitcher with a power arsenal and against lefties. If he can continue his spring pattern of working the count and getting better pitches to hit, he'll fit nicely on the Mariners bench. But Dobbs has yet to accomplish that above Double-A San Antonio. Jury is out on Dobbs' bat.

Glove: At times, Dobbs displays solid play at third, despite having an average arm and somewhat limited range for the position. The former Oklahoma Sooner will see time at first base and the outfield, where he has some experience earlier in his career. Dobbs isn't flashy with the leather, but he should provide a decent bench option capable of not embarassing himself in the field.


UT Ramon Santiago




2004: 19 G, .179 avg, .256 obp, .205 slg, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, 3 BB, 3 K
2005 Projection: 54 G .242 avg, .298 obp, .317 slg, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 4 SB, 11 BB, 22 K K

Bat: Santiago hit well in spring - again - but isn't much of a threat at the dish, except that he makes solid contact and is a good bunter and a solid baserunner. A career .228 hitter, Santiago has very little power as evidenced by his six home runs in nearly 800 plate appearances. Santiago hit just .179 last season and isn't likely to hit much more than .250 in a reserve role. However, the 25-year-old switch hitter could be useful at the end of the bench.

Glove: This is where Santiago's value is - on defense. More than capable of manning either middle infield spot, the former Detroit Tigers shortstop could be used as a backup to the oft-injured Pokey Reese and the aging Bret Boone, without much of a loss in range and dependability.


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