Diamond Report: Scouting the Starting Infield

While M's manager Mike Hargrove is sifting through his pool of talent, Jason A. Churchill provides us with the 2005 Diamond Report - scouting reports on each player in each unit of the roster. Part one: The starting infielders.


1B Richie Sexson

2004: 23 G, .233 avg, .337 obp, .578 slg, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 0 SB, 14 BB, 21 K
2005 Projection: 147 G, .267 avg, .369 obp, .534 slg, 35 HR, 110RBI, 1 SB, 84 BB, 138 K

Bat: Sexson's name was built with his bat, a power swing and towering home runs that sail well into the skyline – with some cloud residue aboard the souvenir as a fan in the cheap seats goes home happy. The only question mark in Sexson's game is the high strikeout marks, but he draws enough walks to offset the whiff totals. While he has never hit for a high average, Sexson's on-base and slugging numbers are more than adequate for a first baseman hitting in the middle of the order. Twice the owner of 40-homer seasons, the M's first baseman and cleanup hitter is a bonafide threat in any ballpark.

Glove: With his offense getting all of the attention, Sexson's defense goes somewhat unnoticed. The lanky, 6-8 slugger has solid range and a strong throwing arm that will allow for him to remain at first base as long as his back and knees hold up. Sexson is unlikely to win any gold gloves, but can be an asset in the field.

2B Bret Boone

2004: 148 GMS, .251 avg, .317 obp, .423 slg, 24 HR, 83 RBI, 10 SB, 56 BB, 135 K
2005 Projection: 147 GMS, .263 avg, .338 obp, .456 slg, 23 HR, 87 RBI, 6 SB, 58 BB, 124 K

Bat: Boone still possesses the bat speed to warrant projections of 25 home runs or more, but his reactions at the plate may be starting to head south. Boone struck out a career-high 135 times last season in the lowest number of games and plate appearances since returning to Seattle after the 2000 season. Turning 36 this spring, Boone will, however, be protected in the lineup by either hitting in front of a viable middle of the order, or hitting behind them and not being asked to compete for the league's MVP. No reason Boone can't produce numbers similar to the .273-24-107 he put up in 2002.

Glove: While the four-time Gold Glove winner, three straight in the AL, has lost a half step, he is still sure-handed and great at turning two. Boone will have a new double-play partner for the third straight season but is so adept at adjusting that he could probably turn the twin killing with Charlie Brown or Yosemite Sam playing shortstop. Don't bet on a fourth consecutive AL gold glove, but don't expect an average showing in the field from Boone.

3B Adrian Beltre

2004: 156 G, .338 avg, .388 obp, .629 slg, 48 HR, 121 RBI, 7 SB, 53 BB, 87 K
2005 Projection: 154 G, .293 avg, .373 obp, .537 slg, 37 HR, 115 RBI, 3 SB, 71 BB, 96 K

Bat: Beltre's 2005 will be under almost as much scrutiny as Barry Bonds – but for polar opposite reasons. While Bonds is under the microscope for steroid use, Beltre's focus will be to prove that 2004 wasn't a fluke of any sort. Most believe he was just due to have a break out season while some still think it was contract motivation that propelled Beltre to lead the majors in home runs. Either way, Beltre will be relied on heavily to carry the load in Seattle, much like he did with the Dodgers in 2004. Proper adjustments, a polished swing and approach and through-the-roof confidence are at the top of the charts for Beltre as he begins his reign in Seattle. Expecting 48 bombs would be crazy but anything less than the mid-30's would be a disappointment. Watch for Beltre's doubles to spike, replacing a few of the home runs he may lack.

Glove: Another defender that will take the field with near-gold glove talent, Beltre can play third base with just about anyone in the league. He doesn't have the range and physical tools of Scott Rolen, but the 26-year-old hangs with the Eric Chavez, Alex Rodriguez types. Solid, if unspectacular, Beltre gets it done at the hot corner. Something the M's have needed to hear for a long, long time. Watch Beltre use his plus arm and solid all-around skills to handle third for the next half-decade at Safeco Field.

SS Pokey Reese

2004: 96 G, .221 avg, .271 obp, .303 slg, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB, 17 BB, 60 K
2005 Projection: 113 G .244 avg, .302 obp, .342 slg, 1 HR, 43 RBI, 11 SB, 34 BB, 72 K

Bat: Reese wasn't brought here to hit .300 or drive the baseball 400 feet, but the M's would like to get some consistency from Pokey's bat. Staying healthy is big concern for Reese, who hasn't played in 100 games since 2002. If Reese stays on the field for 125 games or more, and can manage to hit around .250 with 15 steals, he will more than justify his spot in the starting lineup. Reese's power is limited and his ability to hit the gaps on the Safeco grass may not allow for too many extra-base hits – even the type that stay in the yard. Look for Reese to bunt, hit and run, and steal a few bases from the bottom of the order... that is, if he is the starter for long.

Glove: Without a doubt, Reese is the best defensive shortstop in the AL West (all apologies to Anaheim's Orlando Cabrera)- when he is 100% healthy. The problem is, Reese's DL stints remove him from holding the value he would have if he saw the field every day of the year. Either way, the 31-year-old solidifies the middle of the infield for the M's, after lacking such a presence since 2000, when Alex Rodriguez manned the position. Reese has gold glove abilities and will reunite with Bret Boone to form a top notch double-play combination.

Adrian Beltre
Richie Sexson
Bret Boone
Pokey Reese

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