The Book On Mitch Haniger : Seattle Mariners New Face In The Outfield!

To begin, Mitch Haniger is not and likely will not become a superstar. He is, however, a very good ballplayer with multiple average-to-above-average skills. In my observations of Haniger, I find him the type of player that impacts a game by doing his job properly and with obvious athletic skills. In short, he is the type of player that completes a club because of his competitive nature, his athletic ability, his professional approach and his sound mechanics. 

 

  • TEAM: Seattle Mariners
  • AGE: 26
  • POSITION: Outfield
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-2
  • WEIGHT: 204 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Milwaukee Brewers chose Haniger in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) at San Luis Obispo. He was the 38th player chosen in the Draft.

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The New York Mets had previously chosen Haniger in the 31st round of the 2009 Draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California. He chose instead to play collegiate baseball.

Haniger was traded by the Brewers to the Arizona Diamondbacks along with pitcher Anthony Banda for outfielder Gerardo Parra in July 2014. This past offseason, the Diamondbacks traded Haniger to the Seattle Mariners along with infielder Jean Segura and pitcher Zac Curtis for pitcher Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte.

STRENGTHS

A well-proportioned athlete, Haniger has upside remaining in his offensive game. He projects to hit for a solid batting average with doubles and home run power. The outfield gaps in Safeco Field may be a welcome playground for his barrel-of-the-bat approach. He has enough juice to hit home runs in the pitcher-friendly and hitter-challenging park as well.

Haniger is a fine outfielder with good speed to track down balls as they leave the bat. His good routes and his baseball instincts allow him to play any of the three outfield positions. Another of his many tools is his strong and accurate arm. He will likely play right field in the newly-constructed Mariners lineup.

Haniger has enough speed to become a situational base-stealer with a good chance for a high success rate. He will also be able to stretch his hits for an extra base.

Haniger’s blend of tools is attractive in a lineup. While he doesn’t have one overwhelming or spectacular skill to carry his game, he does have sufficient positive qualities to help his team as an important component. Stated in another manner, the opposition will be impacted by his presence.

Haniger sees lots of pitches. His high contact and high walk rates are valuable assets that he is continuing to learn to use properly. He makes the pitcher work hard and throw more pitches than the pitcher would like.

WEAKNESSES

His new swing mechanics have offered Haniger better pitch recognition and a less aggressive approach at the plate. However, there are still times when he lengthens his swing and helps the pitcher too much.

When I first saw Haniger play for the Brewers, I felt he was vulnerable to high-velocity fastballs up in the zone. His measured approach has helped with that. With his good bat speed and better recognition of pitches, he should be able to reduce the swings and misses at high-velocity pitches and pitches well out of the strike zone.

NARRATIVE

Haniger was an outstanding baseball and football player at Mitty High School in San Jose, California. He hit .364 his senior year. In 149 plate appearances, he struck out just 14 times, signaling his ability to make good contact.

Highly recruited to play collegiate baseball, Haniger chose to play for the Cal Poly Mustangs. He was named the Big West Freshman Player of the Year when he hit .326.

Playing all three outfield positions in college and showing a powerful bat, Haniger supplemented his personal hitting development by playing in summer wooden-bat leagues in California. Because scouts were able to see him play in college and the summer leagues he was a highly-regarded prospect entering the 2012 draft.

Until recently, Haniger had a hitch in his swing that cost him both power and batting average. By changing his swing mechanics and deploying a leg kick and that longer stride, he has reintroduced himself as a more dangerous and consistent hitter. He gains power from strong forearms and uses his more compact swing to take pitches from foul pole to foul pole with quick hands and good bat speed.

Modeling his new swing after D-backs teammate A.J. Pollock, Haniger broke out last season. He hit .294 at Double-A Mobile in the D-backs organization with five home runs before he was promoted to Triple-A Reno in the Pacific Coast League. At Reno, he hit .341 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs. His new hitting mechanics helped earn him a promotion to the parent club, his first introduction to the big league stage. He hit another five homers while playing at the major league level.

Playing for Arizona, Haniger was used sparingly but saw action in 34 games. He finished the season hitting .229 in 123 plate appearances. However, he cemented his reputation as a solid and dependable player. Mariners general manager Jerry Depoto has indicated Haniger was a major component of the trade that sent Segura to Seattle.

Hitting 30 home runs over three classifications last season really helped put Haniger on the map as a quality big league prospect. In fact, he was named the Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Year in 2016. Then he was traded.

The Diamondbacks seized the opportunity to obtain a quality right-handed starting pitcher in Taijuan Walker. The price however, was steep. Segura was coming off a career-year and Haniger was breaking through as a viable and reliable hitter. Both teams are poised to benefit from the trade.

THE FUTURE FOR HANIGER

Haniger’s new swing mechanics, along with physical and developmental maturity, have helped land him in an exciting place. He is on the brink of becoming a starting outfielder for the Seattle Mariners.

Projected to play right field on a full-time basis, Haniger may not have to look over his shoulder and put undo pressure on himself to perform. He has the skills and the confidence of the organization to play every day and do his best. His best should be pretty good.

In my looks at Haniger this spring, I have observed a quieter, more balanced approach at the plate with his revised hitting mechanics that he deployed last season. They have paid dividends. He has solid home run power that could continue to increase. While I don’t project much more physical change in his frame, his experience and measured compact swing should produce results.

In addition to his power and ability to hit for average, Haniger has a very strong arm that fits nicely in right field. His speed and athletic ability round out the tools he offers the Mariners.

CONCLUSIONS

A good high school and collegiate athlete, Haniger was selected by the Brewers, traded to the D-backs and then to the Mariners. Now, after joining his third organization, he may have found a more permanent home. The Mariners are very excited to have him on their club — for good reason.

Haniger is a complete player with improved swing mechanics that could lead to a blend of tools that fit nicely in the balanced offensive approach Seattle has taken.

As their starting right fielder, he will offer stability to the position and results that should continue to grow with time and playing opportunities.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR HANIGER: Revised swing mechanics have resulted in a well-balanced starting outfielder.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR HANIGER: 50 – A regular outfielder in the outfield lineup daily.

By Bernie Plescoff