Sizzlers: Michael Saunders

I/O:  M's hitting coach Alan Cockrell, on KIRO's Hot Stove League radio show, raves about Michael Saunders' progress as a hitter.

Cockrell states that when Saunders arrived in Safeco, he was overmatched because of a below-ML-par swing and approach, and that the M's "shut him down" to rebuild his swing-and-approach "from the ground up."

He reports that the plan was to keep Saunders in dry dock until the winter leagues, but that Saunders' progress was so remarkable that the committee decided he needed to see some game action over the last 10 days.

Cockrell, from memory, remembered that in those last 10 games "he was 7-for-22 or something, and far from overmatched."  Bulls-eye:  here are his pre- and post-Cockrell splits.

  • Pre:  22-for-100, 35 strikeouts
  • Post:  7-for-22, 5 strikeouts


The M's were also excited about Saunders going down to the winter leagues "and tearing it up, hitting the ball like a 6'4", 220-lb. player should."

You and I are told never to look at winter league stats, but Cockrell emphasized them, delighted that Saunders "hit over .350 down there."  Indeed, Saunders in Venezuela:

  • 30-for-85, 11 walks, 21 K's, .353/.421/.529 in almost 100 PA's

Compare Jose Lopez in the same VWL:  .255/.300/.447.  Tui hit .192.  It's a mixture of minor and mostly fringe major leaguers, of course.


CRUNCH:  Saunders, pre-Cockrell, had one of the funkiest swings (not stances, swings) I've seen in a major league ballpark, with a weird wrap to the ball, an unusual swing plane and a truly bizarre right-elbow finish.

The M's remark about "hitting the ball like a 6-4-220 player should" resonates.  Give the strong, leverag-y Saunders the right torque on the ball and I could see a lot of potential power.

I've consistently pegged Saunders for 3,000 to 4,000 career AB's as an average-mediocre ML outfielder, but Cockrell's analysis (and Saunders' winter) deliver a body shot here, and am starting to waver about his power potential.


I/O:  Baseball America, in its Top 10, emphasizes Saunders' average-solid skills "across the board."

They like his bat speed -- we've seen Saunders pull 97 fastballs smoothly -- and power to his pull field.

"He can bunt for base hits", he "controls the strike zone" (?) and can take the ball the other way... defense and speed are of course plus.


CRUNCH:  Saunders doesn't yet control the strike zone, but we can see what BA means -- he has the advanced approach that could someday take the pitchers' strengths away from them and force them to come into areas he likes.

Bradley is the left fielder going into camp, but looking at MB's history, 80-100 games in LF might be the outer limit.  ... Plan A might seem like Eric Byrnes, but there are a lot of moving parts and assumptions in giving 160 games in LF to Bradley and Byrnes.

Saunders has been ACHTUNG, BABY with the M's preseason regimen, is a project they're invested in, and if he hits .380 in camp he's liable to beat out Byrnes.   Even if he goes back to AAA, both Byrnes and MB have serious health questions.


Dr's Diagnosis:  Saunders remains one of baseball's top 50 or so prospects.  He's a high-upside, exciting ML-ready blue chipper, and the M's are probably higher on him than you and I are.

One of the five most interesting players going into camp.  A hot spring and he could push for an impact rookie season.





I am very excited to see what kind of push Saunders and Moore make for PT.  If these two guys are able to make that leap then this whole roster falls into place as Bradley spends more time at DH, Griffey less, etc.  The position I was most worried about was 1B but I believe Garko provides a nice stop-loss for Kotchman and it is the obvious position to improve before the deadline.
Hope springs eternal indeed!

Taro's picture

Awesome news.
It seems Saunders' stock is rising. I'll be interested in seeing what changes hes made. 
With Ackley, Moore, and Saunders we've got a lot to look forward to.


Zduriencik has had to get it done with, essentially, no cheap contributions, other than Felix'.
He went out and got Gutierrez and Branyan, of course, and Jose Lopez is underpaid.
But give this team a handful of quality non-arb youngsters, and THEN add the Lees and Figginses, and see where you're at.
A little scary to think of where Zduriencik could take this club if he had a Jim Rice and Fred Lynn (Ackley and Saunders/Moore/Tui) come through to hit 3 and 4 for him.

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