Zoning in on the 2016 Mariners is a daily series in which we’ll examine one player every day, 30 total, in the lead-up to Opening Day. We’ll explain their role on the field, what they’re like off of it and provide highlights and photos.
While the Mariners boast improved depth at a number of positions, there are very few wide-open competitions in Cactus League play. But that doesn’t mean they are without any.
There’s the fifth starter spot, a few bullpen positions, the right-handed platoon at first base and then the utility infielder role—the competition for which Luis Sardinas finds himself in the thick of.
Ketel Marte comes to camp as the assumed 2016 Opening Day shortstop, but he’s not going to play all 162 games. So the Mariners—like all teams—need an infielder who’s capable of playing short. That’s where Sardinas, the 22-year-old out of Venezuela, has the potential to fit in.
Sardinas was acquired from the Brewers in November for outfielder Ramon Flores, who himself was acquired not long before that in the trade that send Dustin Ackley to New York. This was the second time in less than a year that Sardinas had been traded, as he was sent to Milwaukee from the Texas Rangers in the Yovani Gallardo trade.
It wasn’t long ago that Sardinas was considered one of the better prospects in the game, as he made MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list as recently as 2013. At the time, they wrote:
He can handle the bat from both sides of the plate, making consistent contact in slashing line drives to all fields. He has terrific defensive skills, with speed that works on the basepaths and gives him excellent range to go along with an outstanding arm.
Of course, a few years have passed since then, and there have been some struggles, but the Mariners like what they see.
Lookout Landing’s Anders Jorstad spoke with Assistant General Manager Jeff Kingston, who said “his strong performance this winter gives us encouragement that he’s ready to take the next step and translate his skills into success at the Major League level.”
The skipper expressed similar encouragement in speaking with MLB.com’s Greg Johns.
“Sardinas is an interesting player,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He brings a tool set, and he can do a lot of different things on the field to help you win a game. He’s a very good shortstop, and he can play second. He can play third. He switch-hits, and he’s a plus runner. That’s a very valuable skill set to have off the bench, and you can use him in a number of different spots, especially the switch-hit tool.”
That versatility is key, as he’s started games in the majors at shortstop, second and third base. The last item there is important, as the Mariners could use an infielder who can capably spell iron man Kyle Seager from time to time.
But indications are that versatility may not only apply to positions on the infield, as the Mariners will give him a look in center field here in Spring Training. It’s a challenge he’s more than fine with.
“I have never done it before but I have started since the start of spring training,” he said. “I practice in center field, I catch the fly and everything. I would like to try everything. If you want to put me at catcher, I can try it. For me the most important thing is making the team, no matter what position, it doesn’t matter, I’m ready for it.”
So far, he’s looked ready—as he’s had a strong start in Cactus League play, highlighted by this two-double, four RBI day.
A day later, he had this catch:
Off the Field
When he’s not on the diamond, Sardinas greatly enjoys an activity that’s quite popular among ballplayers. Here’s what he told MLB.com. through a translator, in 2013:
I play a lot of golf. My dad plays a lot too,and I got into it in Arizona. It helps me clear my head and relax. [I haven’t played] with my teammates yet, but I did play a tournament in Venezuela and came [in] second. My other passion is my family. I love being with them.