Friday, February 1, 2008

Wilkerson's Role

posted by Jon

Brad Wilkerson has been a Seattle Mariner for less than a day, but he is already the subject of several questions flying around the blogosphere and M's forums all over the net.

1.) How often will he play?

"I will get a chance to win the everyday job," Wilkerson said yesterday. "And even if I don't, I still could get 300 to 400 at-bats."

Many speculated that the reason Wilkerson was going to sign with Seattle was because they were offering a starting job. Obviously that is not the case, though he'll still get more playing time here than he would in Boston or anywhere else.

Wilkerson's contract reflects on his expected role. If Seattle wanted him to start 150 games then they would have given him a $5M base salary, rather than the $3M base with incentives worth up to $2M based on plate appearances. There is no doubt that it is a backup or platoon player's contract, comparable to the one Miguel Cairo agreed to earlier this offseason.

How will Wilkerson collect those 300-400 at bats? Assuming that Adam Jones is Baltimore bound, the most common theory seems to be that Wilkerson will platoon in right field with Wladimir Balentien.

This would not be your typical platoon. Wilkerson bats from the left side, but hits lefty pitching better than right-handed pitching [mlb splits]. Balentien is in the same boat, hitting righties better than lefties for each of his last three minor league seasons [milb splits]. That said, Wlad would get most of the at bats out of the platoon.

On days that Wilkerson is not patrolling right field, he will be used as a backup for Raul Ibanez in left, Richie Sexson at first, and Jose Vidro at DH. There has been talk that Wilkerson can play center field as well, but he hasn't played much there since 2005, and his bad knees have slowed him down a little bit. Willie Bloomquist would be a much better option as Ichiro's backup, not to mention Jeremy Reed or Charlton Jimerson if there is room for them.

If Wlad struggles in spring training and starts the year in AAA, look for Seattle to find another platoon partner for Wilkerson. I don't see Seattle giving him 600+ plate appearances this year.

2.) Where would he hit in the lineup?

Seattle's lineup is a tough one to put together, and adding Brad Wilkerson doesn't make it any easier. Many people look at his career numbers, noticing the 20-30 home run potential and want to slot him near the middle of the order.

Believe it or not, Wilkerson has started 45% of his games as the leadoff hitter. In 2004 when he hit a career high 32 homers, he was the Expos' leadoff man.

The most important detail to consider when placing Wilkerson into the lineup is his proximity to Richie Sexson. As Patrick mentioned earlier this week, Wilkerson strikes out at a higher rate than Sexson, and having them hit back-to-back would be rally suicide.

My suggestion would be to hit Wilkerson seventh. You could slot Kenji Johjima in the six slot, giving you a high contact/low strikeout hitter with some pop between Sexson and Wilkerson. I don't really see anywhere else that his low batting average would fit.

3.) How is Wilkerson's defense?

I've yet to find a way to analyse defense that I am comfortable using. There are a lot of stats out there, but many of them are far from perfect. Basically I feel that Wilkerson's defense is all-around average. Here's what Lookout Landing had to say:

Defensively, he used to be all right, having logged a bunch of time in center for the Expos. But over time his body started to come apart, and at this point he's no longer a good glove. I recently called him ~average, but after going through the numbers, I think average is probably his upside. Seems to me he's more like -15 < x < -5, with 0 only attainable if he somehow stays in good health all year. He'll still probably represent a defensive improvement over Guillen, whose numbers slipped due to some lower-body issues.

I'm not sold on the idea that he is an upgrade over Jose Guillen. Even if there is a difference I doubt you'd be able to tell. Wilkerson isn't a liability, which we'll take for now.

Anyone know how good Wilkerson's arm is? I haven't been able to find a decent report on that.

That's all for now. I'm sure we'll have plenty more to say about him during spring training and throughout the season.

Wilkerson may not even last the entire season, though. His contract is small enough that if Wlad shows that he can hold his own in the major leagues, Wilkerson could find himself on the trading block come July.

1 comment:

Rob T. said...

Orioles Hangout insiders had this to say:

"Jones passed his physical, and we're waiting on the exact date and time of the press conference."