In his first 204 MLB games, Michael Saunders couldn’t quite figure it out. He slashed .196/.263/.306 combined with a 28.3 K% and 8.5 BB%; that’s the profile of an overmanned batter. In 2012, Saunders finally started to show signs of finally figuring out MLB pitching as he slashed .247/.306/.432, which is not that impressive, but his K rate dipped to 23.9%.
On top of all that, Saunders showed some impressive power/speed combo with 19 HR and 21 SB and he only just turned 26 years old. The age doesn’t guarantee improvement, but if he can continue to improve on his strikeout rate and possibly bring his walk rate up to what he showed in the minors (14.7 BB% in 771 PAs in AAA) he could be in for an even better 2013.
At a Glance
Neutral: R, BB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS
Weaknesses: RBI, K
Best-case scenario: Ben Zobrist (TB)
Likely scenario: Jeff Francoeur (KC), Torii Hunter (DET), Kyle Seager (SEA)
Worst-case scenario: Colby Rasmus (TOR)
Michael Saunders 2013 Fantasy Projection
Saunders might be starting to figure out MLB pitching, but we won’t really know at least until May/June of the upcoming season. He by no means has a strong grasp on the starting RF spot for the Mariners and manager Eric Wedge would probably bench him for the likes of Casper Wells or maybe even Jason Bay if Saunders were to get off to a slow start.
So why do we like him to not only reach 550 PA, but basically replicate his 2012 season? Well, Saunders made two major improvements last year that he should carry into 2013; hitting lefties and hitting fastballs. In 2011, he posted a .143/.169/.161 slash with a 34.4 K% and 3.3 BB% in 61 PA vs. left-handers. That improved to a .261/.307/.467 slash with a 22.9 K% and 6.3 BB% in 2012. In 2011, Saunders faced fastballs 56.9% of the time and had a combined -12.2 runs above average value, but that number improved to 8.0 last year.
If he can keep up those improvements then we like him for a repeat season and if he can improve on those improvements we could see him hit for a higher average and possible move up in the lineup, adding more runs and RBI to his repertoire.