I Know Who This Year’s Spring Training Mirage Is Going To Be For The Mariners

This is always fun. What’s a Spring Training Mirage, you ask? Well, try using your powers of deduction and it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out: it’s the guy who kicks ass in Spring Training, then once the Regular Season starts, he sucks.

That’s sort of the over-arching, simplified definition. There are different levels to the Spring Training Mirage though. Usually it involves someone who has yet to really make an impact at the Major League level, but we all want to believe they’re close. They’re right there on the fringe, and if only they can show their stuff in Spring Training – and have that carry over into a hot start to the regular season – they can parlay it into a viable and productive Major League career.

Past candidates have included guys like Cooper Hummel last year (who improbably made the big league roster out of spring, only to falter fast and hard). In 2022 and 2023, you had Jarred Kelenic (who actually continued his hot spring hitting into the regular season last year, before eventually succumbing to his baser tendencies at the plate). In 2021, it was Taylor Trammell with his .311 batting average and 9 extra base hits. In 2019, Braden Bishop slashed .379/.419/.724 (his career slash in the majors was .133/.188/.156). 2018 was particularly exciting, as we had Daniel Vogelbach AND Mike Zunino crushing the ball in spring (.407/.529/.926 for Vogey; .395/.458/.791 for Zunino), only for both to fall down around the Mendoza line that regular season.

There was Taylor Motter in 2017, Shawn O’Malley in 2016, Dustin Ackley in 2015 and 2014, Jesus Montero in 2013, Alex Liddi in 2012, and Matt Tuiasosopo in 2011. I could go on and on.

It doesn’t matter how much you want to believe, it doesn’t matter that they’re in the “best shape of their lives”, it doesn’t matter what swing changes they’ve instituted or how good the media members say they look. Spring Training Mirages aren’t real. They’re not going to come to Seattle and miraculously save your season, no matter how much you need them to. They’ll have every opportunity to win a spot, and they’ll squander that opportunity because Marine Layer or whatever.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. 2024’s Mariners Spring Training Mirage is Dominic Canzone.

The cool thing about this award is you don’t even need the regular season to start to figure out who’s already won it! Canzone is a fringe Major Leaguer (having less than 60 games to his name, all in 2023), he plays a position the Mariners are a little weak at (and could most benefit from a new breakout star no one was expecting), and he’s – by all accounts – tearing the cover off the ball this spring (.281/.333/.656 with 3 homers, 3 doubles, and 9 RBI).

The big question everyone wants answered is: why does it have to be this way? Is there any avoiding an immediate regular season swoon?

I’m afraid not. See, these players generally have some semblance of talent. But, in spring, they feast on fastballs, and pitchers just trying to work on their craft while getting their pitch counts up. You’re not seeing a ton of nasty sliders and change ups, not like you will in the regular season.

So, what are the Mariners going to do? Well, they’re going to start Canzone out in left field primarily. They’re going to bat him 7th or 8th – in hopes that the soft landing will help – and they’re going to give him a good couple of weeks, while platooning him out whenever a lefty pitcher starts against us.

Fortunately for us, the inverse of the Spring Training Mirage tends to come into play as well. Those are the players who struggle during the spring, only for things to click once the games start meaning something. We have to hope that’s what’s going on with Luke Raley right now, because otherwise he looks like a friggin’ disaster! I fully expect left field to be a black hole for us the entire season, which is going to make things tough to watch.

The other black hole – third base – also features our runner up for the Spring Training Mirage, as Luis Urias has come on of late to look actually productive at the plate. Don’t count on that continuing once the calendar flips to March 28th.

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