Originally posted on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 3/12/12

In what will be a controversial fantasy decision, the Mariners manager Eric Wedge has decided he’ll bat long-time lead-off hitter Ichiro Suzuki third in the lowly Seattle lineup. The move is far from minor and its effects will be felt up and down the top half of the Mariners lineup.

Ichiro Suzuki

Starting with the obvious, we’ll definitely see more than 47 RBI from Ichiro this season. In fact, Ichiro should obliterate his career-high 69 RBI he tallied way back in his rookie season (2001).

Possibly less obvious, though, I wouldn’t expect Ichiro to sacrifice runs for the extra RBI. He scored just 74 and 80 runs in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and do you really expect him to all of a sudden become a 60-run scorer just because he moved back two spots? Sure, Ichiro has no one batting after him right now (unless you count Mike Carp someone, which I don’t), but guess what…he had no one batting after him before!

What’s really interesting is Ichiro’s projected home run total. For the duration of Ichiro’s slap-hitting career, we’ve been told that he had the power to hit a homer whenever he wanted, but for one reason (slot in the lineup) or another (3,000 hits), he never consistently displayed his fabled power. Now he has a chance. That should equal more than five or six homers, but how many more? One thing’s for sure. If Ichiro does try to become a bigger power threat, it will have negative effects on his batting average.

If there is a sacrifice that Ichiro makes in his game, it’s the stolen bases. The Mariners still don’t have the home run hitters to employ station-to-station baseball, but I guarantee Ichiro will be on base with runners ahead of him more than he ever has as a lead-off hitter. You can’t steal second if someone’s already there.

Unofficial 2012 Ichiro Projection: .285, 80 R, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 32 SB

Dustin Ackley

Ichiro is the only definitely legitimate bat in the Seattle lineup, and though he isn’t a true number three hitter who can threaten the long ball every time he steps into the box (or can he?!), he does put some sort of scare into opposing pitchers who won’t want to let him hit a gapper with a runner on base. Ackley is a patient batter whose plate discipline is his biggest strength. He’ll take a lot of walks, and with Ackley’s moderate speed and Seattle’s spacious outfield, that could equal a lot of first-to-thirds for Ackley.

Chone Figgins

Here’s the real winner with this move. Figgins has his most value atop a team’s lineup, but spot was previously filled by Ichiro. Now the team’s projected lead-off hitter, Figgins will get a chance to become an 80-run, 40-steal asset once again. Even if his average suffers like it has in recent seasons, he’ll get a lot more at-bats batting first as opposed to eighth or ninth, and that should help his counting stats at the very least.

Mike Carp

Remember those first-to-third I mentioned above? Carp is the big winner there. Your typical three-hole hitter would hit plenty of doubles and homers and drive base runners in, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ichiro won’t be wholly adept at capitalizing on Ackley’s walks. That means Carp should come up to the plate with a runner on third a good deal of the time, or at least more than before, and that should equal easy RBI chances (sac flies, anyone?).

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