Michael Saunders’ tale is far from unique. A product of the bountiful BC Baseball program, Saunders was a de-facto hometown kid in the Mariners system, methodically making his way through the minor league system, hitting at each stop along the way.
Then Michael Saunders came to the big leaguers and faltered badly in a 2009 second half cameo. Then he struggled again in 2010, starting the season at AAA but getting into 100 big league games. Over 635 big league plate appearances, Saunders owns a .569 OPS. Ugh.
With Franklin Gutierrez returning from illness and Trayvon Robinson waiting in the wings, it looked like Saunders time in Seattle might be over. Then Gutierrez got hurt. Now Saunders has a window – one he is trying his best to prop open.
Lookout Landing, ahem, looks at some of the pitches Saunders hit this spring, showing a new willingness to take pitches the other way with power. This is, of course, encouraging for Mariners fans (Spring Training or otherwise.)
Jim Thomas of MLB.com sat with Saunders and learned a new off-season hitting coach helped refine his swing, making it more compact to make better use of the whole field.
“I feel good. I’m staying with my approach to the swing, not getting away from it, working hard and doing what I need to do,” Saunders said. “I worked hard on the mechanical aspects of my swing, and I believe in it — that’s the biggest thing.”
Later in the same piece, Saunders notes that a belief in his swing extends to a bigger belief in his ability and more confidence at the plate. Confidence is good but so is stroking pitches the other way off legit major league arms.
As noted last week, a marked increase in slugging percentage is often a harbinger of good things to come. Through a measly 27 plate appearances, Saunders now sports a robust .708 SLG, well above is career rate of “none.” That is a good start to the beginning, surely. Strong Spring sessions aren’t strange to Saunders, who posted OPS figures greater than .800 in both 2010 and 2011′s Cactus League schedule. Still, early numbers like this from a player PECOTA projects to hit .221/.291/.340 are encouraging.
Positive (if early) signs for both fans of the Mariners and BC types looking to root for their granola-stained brethren. Or fans of other teams still hoping their “Can’t Miss” prospect from the Pacific Northwest might figure it out and set forth . Not that any players fit that description and immediately come to mind. Nope.