Debuting in mid-August last season, Mitch Haniger mostly struggled in his first exposure to big-league pitching (81 wRC+) but he showed decent pop in the small sample (five home runs, .174 ISO in 123 plate appearances). This came on the heels of Haniger destroying upper-level pitching in the minors last season, posting a 156 wRC+ in 55 games at Double-A and 185 wRC+ in 74 games at Triple-A. The Mariners took notice and got him included in the Taijuan Walker/Jean Segura trade early in the offseason. The door is open for Haniger to work his way into a prominent role with Seattle and gain relevance in a wide variety of formats. There are worse ways to utilize a final bench spot in 15-team mixed leagues.
Haniger, who's now slashing .406/.472/.719 over 32 spring at-bats, is drawing high praise from manager Scott Servais, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. "His approach and how he goes about his business, he's as prepared as any young player I've seen in a long time," Servais said. "He's very disciplined, when he goes to the cage, how he takes his batting practice, what he does in his pregame. It's paying off." Haniger will start in right field in 2017 and is setting a rather high bar with the outstanding spring he's put together, which includes four doubles, two home runs and six RBI. He's displayed above-average plate discipline as well, whiffing only five times in 32 at-bats. While Taijuan Walker, whom the Mariners surrendered in the trade with the Diamondbacks that netted Jean Segura and Haniger, has been excellent in Arizona in his first three spring starts, the 26-year-old outfielder is currently exceeding expectations as a secondary component of that transaction. In addition to his success at the plate, he also showed his positional versatility Monday by playing in left field, something that could happen on occasion in 2017 when the Mariners want to get Nelson Cruz in the outfield without sitting Haniger.
Haniger went 3-for-4 with a run-scoring single and RBI double in Saturday's 7-6 Cactus League victory over the Reds. Haniger's spring line is now at a red-hot .448/.515/.793 over 29 at-bats, and his six RBI tie him for second with Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino. The 26-year-old looks primed for the job of everyday right fielder in the coming season and carries considerable upside, as evidenced by his stellar .341/.428/.670 line with 20 doubles, three triples, 20 homers and 64 RBI at Triple-A Reno last season while still with the Diamondbacks organization.
Haniger went 2-for-3 with a solo homer in Friday's 8-2 Cactus League loss to the Rangers. Haniger took Connor Sadzeck deep to center in the fourth for his second round-tripper and fourth RBI in 14 spring at-bats. The 26-year-old outfielder's diversified skill set renders him yet another potentially explosive component of what is shaping up to be an imposing Seattle lineup. Factoring in Friday's production, he's now slashing .429/.467/.929 over five spring contests.
Haniger went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer and two runs overall in Tuesday's 8-1 Cactus League victory over the White Sox. The Mariners' new starting right fielder had only a single in his first five spring at-bats before exploding Tuesday, driving in Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz with a three-run blast off White Sox starter Michael Kopech. Haniger carries some intriguing potential, having slashed a solid .290/.370/.490 over a 455-game minor league career. He brings solid power and above-average speed, with 111 doubles, 15 triples, 61 homers and 38 stolen bases to his credit over that span as well. His ability to contribute across the box score and the wealth of explosive offensive talent around him could make Haniger one of this coming season's true sleepers.
Haniger said he believes he can steal 20 bases in 2017, and manager Scott Servais said he has given him the green light on the basepaths, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Seattle should run more this season on the whole, having also acquired Jean Segura from the Diamondbacks and Jarrod Dyson from the Royals. Haniger, meanwhile, has garnered some fantasy love since the trade, and he's the favorite to start in right field on Opening Day. This news will help his sleeper hype grow even more, though it's not unfounded. He's a 20-homer, 20-steal candidate, which could make him a huge profit pick in the late rounds.