Danny Valencia’s glove and offensive production have been a welcome addition to the Seattle Mariners’ in 2017. The 32-year old first basemen is only under contract through the end of this season; the Mariners should sign him to a contract extension.
Despite his slow start, Valencia has bounced back to hit .273/.333/.414 in 271 plate appearances this season — which is exactly within his career line of .272/319/.429. The first basement overcame an awful start, where he hit .181/.259/.306, as the result of a torrid pace in May, where he hit .306/.364/.459, to become a key piece of Seattle’s offensive explosion that’s helped the team overcome a neverending stream of injuries to its pitching staff.
Valencia’s offensive performance has mostly been in line with his career norms throughout the season.The 32-year old’s wRC+ and wOBA are slightly below his career norms, his average is just one percentage point below it has been for his seven years in the show, and he’s doing this despite a significant drop in ISO (isolated slugging percentage) — which is currently at .141, his career average is .157. It looks like his performance is something that can easily be repeated for the next year or two.
When he’s making contact with the ball, Valencia is hitting less fly balls than he normally has during his career (30.9% this season vs. 34.3% for his career). But he is seeing an increase in the percentage of line drives and ground balls he’s hitting this season.
What’s more impressive is that Valencia has quickly adapted to the defensive shifts that the M’s use to help improve their run prevention. The 32-year old hasn’t looked out-of-place or lost defensively, which gives the rest of the infield a solid target when attempting to throw out runners. That’s not something that can entirely be said about Dan Vogelbach — whom Seattle has used at first base this season.
Vogelbach hasn’t appeared as comfortable with the Mariners’ defensive alignments when he’s out in the field and he hasn’t been nearly as quickly a study as Valencia has been. These defensive struggles means that Seattle will need continue to fill the first base positon until DJ Peterson is ready (Seattle’s first basemen of the future); it’s likely that Vogelbach is the future designated hitter. A contract extension for Valencia would be a smart move for the franchise.
Signing Valencia to a two-year contract, with a team option for a third year, would give the Mariners an offensively and defensively competent first basement that keep the team in contention; while also allowing the franchise to let Peterson develop at his own pace in Tacoma.