Welcome To Right Field, Mitch Haniger

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Arguably the most undervalued and overlooked player in the barrage of offseason trades orchestrated by Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto (who is either a really bored general manager, someone with ADD in a position of power or someone with a god complex) was the “other player” they acquired in the Jean Segura trade from Arizona.

The Diamondbacks sent Segura and outfielder Mitch Haniger to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. By now, this is old news. This trade has been talked about, written about and over-covered in baseball news all over the country.

But who is Mitch Haniger?

Apparently, he’s a guy Dipoto is somewhere between in love with and is considering letting his daughter go to the after-prom party with – if that makes sense. (I doubt it does.)

WHO IS MITCH HANIGER?

Unlike the highly-touted quarterback out of North Carolina, Mitch Trubisky, Mitch Haniger isn’t making any public statements in which he would be preferred to be called Mitchell.

That’s a good thing. Haniger has been too busy absolutely raking this spring for the Mariners to be worried about what people should call him. For starters, pun kind of intended, people can refer to him as the Mariners starting right fielder. He has two home runs already this spring in limited at bats and is really seeing the ball well.

The 26-year old outfielder stands 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. His batting stance is fairly conventional and he doesn’t have a random ridiculous beard, a giant belly from over-eating or a Bryce-Harper-esque personality that makes you want to slap him in the face. He’s a soft-spoken, humble, ball-player – it’s as easy as that. He’s just what the Mariners need to fill out their starting line-up.

Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, Haniger had a high ceiling despite coming out of the California Polytechnic State University (Not a baseball hot bed).

I will make up some stuff really quick about Haniger – he likes puppies, enjoys watching police dramas and insists on using dryer sheets when he does his laundry. He goes grocery shopping at discount stores because he loves people watching – not because his 2017 salary is “only” hovering around 500k.

WHAT HAS HE DONE FOR US LATELY?

I spent some of my free time Wednesday night watching the Cleveland Indians game against the Mariners. Although I fell asleep through his first two at bats of which he didn’t do much, in his third at bat I was paying attention and I was very impressed. Sure, it’s spring training. Everyone takes risks to some extent at the plate or on the bases, but Haniger turned on a first-pitch fastball and roped a double to the left-center gap off the wall. It was a smooth, confident swing and he clearly was sitting dead-red, looking for a fastball.

Yes, he hit it off of Travis Banwart – not starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. In his defense, Banwart kind of sounds like a Pokemon character – so there’s some added value there.

In Thursday’s match-up against the Cubs, Haniger followed up the frozen-rope double, with a 2-for-4 day that included a double, moving his spring average to .400.

He is carrying with him an .OPS of 1.24 and a career spring training batting average of .392 with four home runs and 13 RBI. Oh, please, don’t be one of those spring training only guys!

WHAT WOULD JAY BUHNER DO?

When I think of iconic Seattle right fielders, I go no further than the legendary Jay Buhner. I don’t have Buhner on speed dial (unfortunately) and the baseball I have that Ken Griffey Jr. autographed for me gives me zero clout on this one, but what would some of the Mariners greats think of Haniger?

Well, he kind of sounds like a hybrid of a furniture salesman and an overweight, creepy, family friend that your child insists on thinking is cool because they play X-Box live daily.

Jay Buhner would look at his numbers during the regular season when he was with the Diamondbacks. In 109 at-bats, Haniger hit an underwhelming .229 with five homeruns and 17 RBI. In his defense, the D-Backs were a hot mess last year. I still doubt they know what they are doing.

Have faith in 2017, Mitch (NOT Mitchell – that’s for the Tar Heel QB).

FINAL WORD

In all honesty, I had a friend in my fantasy baseball dynasty league ask me about my thoughts on Haniger entering this season – and I didn’t know much at all about him. Heck, I still don’t. Before spring training started, I was afraid he would take some ABs away from “@MrZoomBiYa” (Jarrod Dyson) in left, but it is looking more and more like Haniger will get the every-day job in right with Dyson possibly platooning-ish with Ben Gamel (Mariners brass want to give Dyson more starts against lefties, so it’s not a straight-up platoon situation).

Haniger will hit probably bat sixth or seventh in the order, so there won’t be a lot of pressure on him to produce. That’s what Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz are for. I haven’t even mentioned the strong spring from catcher Mike Zunino.

Bottom line: Let’s see what the former-first rounder can do. I’m excited. Just stay with Mitch – don’t go with Mitchell.

Go M’s, go Ducks and everyone has to like what Jusef Nurkic is doing for the Blazers. It’s a great time to be a fan of the Pacific Northwest.

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About Author

Hello friends of the Pacific Northwest! I am still learning the ways of the west coast sports, but I have quickly grown fond of many of your sports team and I really enjoy writing about them all! I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania – not Philadelphia. 95% of the people I meet in Oregon assume I’m from Philadelphia. I went to college in Miami, Fla., moved to Denver, Colo. Before moving to Jamestown, N.Y. (south of Buffalo) where I was a sportswriter for the local newspaper for three years. I got involved with the YMCA and was a youth sports director for six years at several different branches. Working with kids is fun…and I enjoy it, but writing sports stories is usually more fun – unless I don’t have a topic to write about in mind. Then playing basketball with third graders is way more fun. I have evolved into a Blazers fan, and am a HUGE fan of Terry Stotts. I like the Seahawks and the Ducks. The Mariners are cool too. Baseball is my favorite sport and my favorite teams are the Miami Marlins, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Heat and the Indianapolis Colts. (When you grow up with a bunch of Steeler fans, you have to be a rebel and I really liked Marshall Faulk) I look forward to learning and writing about the sports scene here in Washington and Oregon. Go Blazers, Go Ducks, Go Mariners, Go Hawks! And I guess those Beavers, Timbers and Hops are floating around somewhere too.

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