As usual, I get into a situation where I want to write about the entire team, and I have to split it up into two posts because it gets way too unwieldy. Yesterday, we talked about the hitters, today it’s the pitchers.
I’m more bullish on the pitchers than I am on the hitters. So, that having been said, watch the hitters crush it this year, while the pitching lags behind. That having been said, there are legitimate concerns about everyone.
Luis Castillo – I’ve already written about Castillo, so I’ll let that pretty much speak for itself. That having been said, the floor is still higher with him than anyone else in the rotation. Even if he gets off to a bad start to the season, he should right the ship at some point and keep things steady. Nevertheless, just one season prior we signed Robbie Ray to a big money deal, and he definitely took a step back from his Cy Young-winning pace.
Robbie Ray – Speaking of which, I think it’s fair to be a little worried. He got off to a rough start, picked it up mid-season when he re-introduced his 2-seam fastball back into the repertoire, but after his hot stretch, was up-and-down to close the year. He also REALLY struggled against the Astros and Blue Jays (with very poor playoff performances), and seemingly cleaned up against the bottom-feeders of the A.L. I don’t know if he can be trusted. Lotta meatballs being thrown over too much of the plate. His K/9 was the lowest it’s been since 2015 (in just his second season in the Majors), that’s a bad trend. This isn’t so much a precautionary tale as it is what I think will happen this season: I think Robbie Ray will suck!
Logan Gilbert – He made a huge jump in innings last year, going from 119.1 to 185.2 (plus playoffs), so while I’m not necessarily worried about his results, I am worried about arm fatigue. Let’s hope he’s a unicorn. He could also stand to have better off-speed stuff to generate whiffs; he can’t rely on his fastball forever.
George Kirby – Similarly, we’re looking at a kid who went from the minors to 130 innings (plus playoffs). We’re going to need to ride these power arms if we want to go far through the playoffs. We’re also going to need them to make up for the trainwreck that Robbie Ray figures to be. It’s worrisome that we also have to limit their innings through the regular season just to carry them through, but it’s also necessary for their longterm health.
Marco Gonzales – I understand he’s in the “best shape of his life” or whatever, but he’s Marco. He has soft stuff and needs pinpoint command to limit damage. Like Ray, he’ll clean up on the bottom-feeders, but otherwise he’s just an innings-eater. The worry from now on is: when will he fall off a cliff? I don’t know if he has the kind of stuff to be a Jamie Moyer type and pitch into his 40’s.
Chris Flexen – The other concern with these last two starters is: who will ultimately be traded mid-season? I would expect Flexen has more trade value given his contract status; he’d be a nice little veteran rental for some pitching-needy team. That is, unless he totally falls off the face of the earth. He doesn’t have the best stuff, and while I understand he’s fully capable of eating innings as a long reliever, I don’t know if that’s the role most suited to his abilities. A soft-throwing guy with a 6+ ERA isn’t going to fetch much of anything at the deadline.
Andres Munoz – There’s never going to be a year where we don’t worry about his arm. The way he throws, it’s just going to be a given. Now, obviously, he looks like the second coming of Edwin Diaz, and last year he very much pitched like that. But, even Diaz had that first year with the Mets where his ERA was pushing 6 and he was blowing saves left and right. Between him and Cano in 2019, it truly looked like the M’s fleeced them in that deal. But, ever since, Diaz has been lights out and earned a humongous contract extension. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Munoz have that kind of career trajectory, up to and including the anomaly of a terrible season. Will it be in 2023? We’ll have to wait and see.
Paul Sewald – Here’s a guy who’s been an absolute revelation since joining the Mariners in 2021. He struck out guys at a ridiculously unsustainable clip that first year, before coming back down to Earth in 2022. Nevertheless, he was still very good, with an even-better ERA. However, there were little blips of rough outings towards the end that give me pause. Did he just get tired? That’s certainly understandable; he’s pitched 60+ games in back-to-back years, in EXTREMELY high-leverage situations. He hasn’t come close to that kind of usage in his professional career. Hopefully, with other Mariners relievers taking steps forward in their development, that’ll give us more chances to rest Sewald, so he’ll be fresher down the stretch. But, the secret concern is: has the league caught up to his weird throwing style? He doesn’t come with a lot of heat, so he’s overly reliant on his unique arm slot and pitch movement. But, when he leaves a hanger, it can get crushed.
Matt Brash – Everyone. I mean EVERYONE is high on Matt Brash right now. So, right here, how can you not be concerned? If you could bet on Matt Brash being awesome in 2023, there would be a huge discrepancy between the betting public and the Vegas sportsbooks. Smart money’s always on the house. I’m just saying, don’t be shocked if he gets knocked around, or suffers elbow issues.
Diego Castillo – You don’t have to squint very hard to see a scenario where Castillo stinks. With the advent of the pitch clock, you’re talking about speeding up one of the slowest pitchers in baseball. Now, as a casual fan, it’ll be nice not to have to endure his constant twitching and adjusting of his baseball cap between every single pitch. But, what will that mean for his effectiveness? He’s overly reliant on a slider that gets a lot of swings and misses, but he also has a tendency to blow up and get mashed around. I’d love to know how his numbers look whenever he throws 20+ pitches in an inning, vs. when he’s able to get out in 19 or less. The more he throws, the wilder he gets. His numbers were already trending the wrong way last year, and he has lost his high-leverage status accordingly. Is this the year where it all falls apart?
Matt Festa – He’s kind of Just A Guy to me. He throws strikes, which will keep him employed more often than not. But, I don’t know what he does beyond that that’s anything special. Natural variance could clip his wings.
Penn Murfee – Oddball spelling of his name aside, at least Murfee has a sweeping slider that’s tough on righties. But, he also doesn’t have an amazing fastball, so he could be done in by a few bad outings as well.
Trevor Gott – I’m going to cut this post off here, as everyone else looks to be depth pieces. We lost Erik Swanson in a trade this offseason – probably selling at the exact peak of his value – and Gott figures to be a veteran option to throw onto the pile. He’s only making a little over a million bucks, so it’s not like we’re compelled to keep him all year. He’s really just some insurance against a few of the younger arms we’re looking to call up at some point. I expect him to be terrible, and pitch exclusively in the lowest-leverage situations.