The Mariners Dominated The A’s, Barely Got The Sweep

There’s something exciting about a sweep. They don’t come easy, even against the very worst teams. And, I think it’s safe to say, the A’s are indeed one of those very worst teams.

That’s why you kind of have to temper that excitement a little bit. Wake me up when the Mariners do it against a good team, you know? Even a mediocre team would be more impressive than something like this. The A’s are a small handful of very good players away from being a glorified AAA squad.

On top of that, it feels like a fluke that we got the sweep at all. The first two wins were about as impressive as it gets – 8-2 and 9-0 – but this afternoon’s nailbiter was idiotic as all get-out.

Marco Gonzales looked exceptional on Tuesday, going 7 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in his 7th inning of work, after the M’s had amassed a 7-0 lead). That was his eighth quality start on the season, fourth out of his last five games, and sixth out of his last eight. This one was noteworthy for how efficient he was (only 2 strikeouts, but also only 1 walk and 7 hits given up), with 17 ground ball outs (easily a season high). The game was also noteworthy in it being Ken Giles’ first game back in the big leagues since his 2020 injury that required Tommy John surgery. He’ll be brought back slowly to start, but so far he looked pretty good.

We’ll remember this game as the one where we had back-to-back-to-back homers by J-Rod, Winker, and Suarez. France and J-Rod both had 3 hits apiece, Winker had two extra-base hits, Upton had an RBI single, Trammell had a solo homer, and Cal Raleigh got on base every plate apperance.

Wednesday’s game featured 6 shutout innings from George Kirby (5 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts). Winker, Crawford, J-Rod, and Trammell all had multi-hit games. Raleigh and Winker each had homers. And, we got to empty our bench (for the most part) with this game being a laugher by the end of the fifth inning.

Which brings us to this afternoon. Yet another quality start, this time by Robbie Ray (6 innings, 1 run on 4 hits & 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts). The A’s manufactured a run in the bottom of the first with two outs, then there was nothing but zeroes until the ninth inning. The Mariners are on some crazy streak of games where the starters have pitched at least 6 innings while giving up 3 runs or less, it’s really been fun (and would be a lot more fun if we didn’t have so many of these types of games where the offense can’t do a damn thing).

I don’t know how you explain this one. In the top of the ninth, Moore and Winker walked, with a J-Rod pop-out and a Suarez strikeout mixed in. Then, Kevin Padlo walked to load the bases. A wild pitch by the second reliever in the inning pushed home the tying run. Then, a second wild pitch – on ball 4 to Toro – scored the go-ahead run.

And, that was it. 4 walks and 2 wild pitches = 2-1 victory. Diego Castillo got the win, Paul Sewald got the save, bingo, bango, bongo.

Of course, we can’t have anything nice without something disasterous also happening. In this case, Ty France was trying to make a play defensively at first base and the runner ran into him, causing him to possibly hyperextend his elbow. It’s either going to keep him out for a few days or a few months, with probably no in-between.

In other words, if you haven’t already written the season off, then I’d go ahead and get your quill and inkwell ready. It was announced today that Tom Murphy is having season-ending surgery on his shoulder. That’s not the worst news in the world, but if you were counting on help from him sometime this season, think again. With Haniger out for at least another month, and Lewis out for God knows how long, a significant Ty France injury is the last nail in the coffin. We don’t even have a healthy Evan White to throw into the mix! Not that he’d be worth a damn at the plate, or even come CLOSE to making up for the loss of France’s bat. I guess what I’m getting at is: get ready for a lot more Dylan Moore!

I just hope this injury to France doesn’t keep him out for any of the 2023 season. More and more, it’s looking like we’re (at least) another year away from playoff contention. Even that comes into serious doubt if we don’t get France back for a full season next year.

The Mariners Are Such A Fucking Bummer

I have no real reason to write about the Mariners for a second consecutive day. They didn’t even play a game last night! But, from a Seattle sports perspective, there isn’t anything worse that could have happened to us in 2022, and so I feel compelled to wallow.

I … don’t have a healthy relationship with sports.

The Kraken were one of the worst teams in all of hockey, and they didn’t even get rewarded with a top 3 draft pick in the lottery. The Husky football team is in full rebuild mode, and figures to be spinning its tires for the foreseeable future. The Husky basketball team is coming off of a somewhat-entertaining season, but also appears to be heading into a rebuild mode sooner rather than later. The Seahawks, obviously, just traded their franchise quarterback and figure to be boringly mediocre (at best) in the upcoming season. And, of course, we haven’t had an NBA team in 14 years.

All we had to sustain us in 2022 were the Mariners. Coming off of a 90-win season, with lots of exciting young prospects and promising young vets, even if a step-back was mathematically likely (for all the reasons we’ve discussed ad nauseam), you still had to figure there’d be enough magic in that old silk hat they found to at least compete for one of the umpteen wild card spots.

And yet, here we are. 10 games under .500, three weeks into June, with 94 fucking games remaining, and no sign of there being any improvement on the horizon.

Sigh.

SIGH.

sigh …

On June 21st a year ago, we were 38-36. Obviously, we were a little ahead of the pace we’re on now because that season started on time. But, even when you factor in where we were 68 games into the 2021 season, we were only 2 games under .500 (33-35), and that just feels like a tremendously huge advantage over where we’re at now (29-39). It’s four games. But, it’s so much more than four games.

This has to do with HOW the Mariners are winning and losing. Last year, the Mariners made a habit out of getting blown out on occasion, while winning the majority of close games, to ultimately be one of the funnest teams in all of baseball. This year, it feels like the opposite, even though that’s not totally true. I will say this, though: the 2021 Mariners were 11-28 in blowouts (games decided by 5+ runs); the 2022 Mariners are 8-7 in said affairs. Our run differential in blowouts is actually +10 this year, while it was -135 in 2021. And, when you figure overall our run differential is -19 on the season, that means in all games decided by 4 runs or fewer, we’re getting crushed. If we’re 8-7 in blowouts, then we’re 21-32 in games decided by 4 or less. And, not for nothing, but when you figure we’re 12-11 in 1-run games, that means in games decided by 2, 3, or 4 runs, we’re 9-21.

Well over half of our games are entirely winnable. And we’re finding ways to lose them more often than not.

Same Old Mariners, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

I want to sit here and cry out to the heavens, “Why is this happening?!” But, the answer is obvious: it’s the hitting, stupid! And yet, the 2021 Mariners were arguably a worse hitting team. To wit:

  • 2022: .232/.315/.374/.689; 24th in BA, 15th in OBP, 25th in SLG, 21st in OPS
  • 2021: .226/.303/.385/.688; last in BA, 28th in OBP, 26th in SLG, 27th in OPS

You figure the 2021 numbers were over a whole entire season, while the 2022 Mariners are likely to improve if for no other reason than the weather will be warmer going forward (to say nothing of the guys they’re likely to get back from injury later in the year). Also, it’s hard to see the OBP numbers dropping considerably (barring injury), while again the slugging should improve over where it stands today.

When you tack on how vastly superior our starting rotation is this year compared to last, it truly boggles the mind! We had significant innings going to the up-and-down nightmares of Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, and Yusei Kikuchi, not to mention a rookie in Logan Gilbert, and a very down first half from Marco Gonzales. This year, we’ve got Gilbert pitching like a true ace, significant improvement from Gonzales, and significant improvement out of our back-end with Kirby (to say nothing of the potential of a bounce-back from Robbie Ray, who’s starting to mix things up and pitch better of late).

It really boils down to that infuriating fucking bullpen. In 2021, they were a wrecking crew; this year, they’re a disaster zone. All other things (hitting and starting rotation) not just being equal, but improved, and yet here we are.

Of course, if you want to go by Win/Loss record, Marco and Flexen are a combined 10 games under .500, which is the exact number of games the TEAM is under .500, but that’s neither here nor there. That ignores the vast number of inherited runners the bullpen has allowed to score (the same guys, mind you, who were stranding at an impressive rate in 2021).

The thing is, again, this is what we expected. Of everyone, the bullpen was the most likely to regress, because they were playing out of their minds last year. What we needed to happen – what we were banking on, for the 2022 Mariners to be similarly entertaining – was for the other elements to be improved enough to make up the difference. We needed the hitting to put us in a position to afford the bullpen some slip-ups here and there. I think we’re getting as much as could be hoped for out of the rotation, but I suppose if they were playing out of their minds to a similar extent that the 2021 bullpen was playing at, we’d probably be happier than we are now.

But, I’m sticking with the offense narrative, because it’s just a nightmare to watch on a nightly basis.

And yet, when you toggle back and forth, you see a lot of similarities – and even improvements – when you compare the 2022 offense to the 2021 incarnation. Ty France is even better this year! He had a 4.2 WAR in 2021; he’s already at a 3.0 WAR not even halfway through 2022. J.P. Crawford is better: a 3.8 WAR in 2021, already a 2.6 WAR in 2022. Eugenio Suarez is a step up from Kyle Seager (1.6 WAR vs. Kyle’s 2.0 over all of last year). And Julio is more than making up for the loss of Mitch Haniger (1.9 WAR vs. Mitch’s 2.9 over all of last year). Cal Raleigh is improved over where he was a year ago (0.9 WAR vs. -0.5 WAR), as is Kelenic (0.0 WAR vs. -1.7 WAR) by simply not being here.

But, there are three massive black holes who are getting a lion’s share of games, and just giving us NOTHING in return. Adam Frazier is a -0.1 WAR player (he’s been anywhere from a 1.8 WAR to a 4.0 WAR player, save the COVID season). Jesse Winker is a -0.5 WAR player (he was good for a 2.7 WAR season last year). And Abraham Toro is a -0.3 WAR player (he was good for 1.7 WAR last year, including 0.9 WAR in a comparable number of games with the Mariners post-trade). Those three guys all by themselves have added up to lose us a full game, which isn’t easy to do only 68 games into the season. They’re not the only duds, of course. Luis Torrens is -0.4 WAR (he was 1.0 WAR last year, largely as a DH). And the dregs of our roster depth have all been below replacement-level.

This is what happens when guys like Haniger, Tom Murphy, and Kyle Lewis can’t stay healthy. This is what happens when a young stud you were counting on – Jared Kelenic – is so abysmal, he has to be sent to Tacoma to keep from further embarrassing himself.

This is what happens when you put the kind of pressure on an organization – to Win Now – because it’s beyond time to start winning some fucking ballgames and getting back to the playoffs, and you don’t fill out the roster with capable players to step up in times of crisis.

You know what’s bumming me out the most? I’d gladly accept a 29-39 record if it meant Kelenic took a step forward from his promising September last year. I’d be elated with a losing record if Matt Brash was kicking ass in the rotation. I’d be thrilled if Raleigh did more than strike out and hit dingers. I’d be elated if other guys who figure to be part of our future: Winker, Toro, and Suarez, for instance, could be counted on for a better collective batting average. Suarez gets a pass for kind of being who we thought he’d be – especially when Winker and Frazier have shit the bed so thoroughly – but it’s not like he’s an All Star or anything. Maybe if Suarez was hitting a 40+ home run clip, but at this rate he’ll be lucky to see 30 (he’ll probably finish in the mid-to-high 20’s).

There’s just little-to-no hope. Not compared to last year. Last year, we still had Kelenic as a viable option to bust out. We had Toro as a competent super sub type of player. We had Torrens giving us a quality professional at bat throughout the second half of the season. And we had Mitch Haniger playing at a Comeback Player of the Year type of level, with the potential to stick around beyond 2022 as a steady veteran presence in the middle of our lineup.

Now, what do we got? Haniger can’t stick around beyond this year, not if we know what’s good for us. We get two more years of a shitty Winker. We have Kelenic languishing in Tacoma. We have a boom or bust guy in Raleigh.

On the plus side, we’ve got J-Rod, Crawford, and Ty France. And a whole lotta prospects too far down in the minors to make any sort of imprint on the Major League ballclub in the near future. Our holes to fill in 2023 and beyond include second base, and left and right field (that’s if you’re okay with mediocrity at third, catcher, and a revolving Rest Day at DH). That’s not even getting to the pitching staff, which will probably need someone to improve over Flexen, and whatever we end up doing with this fakakta bullpen.

Every year, it’s one step forward and four steps back. Every year, it’s too many holes to fill on a mediocre roster and not enough resources to even come close to making this team good. Ever year, it takes the absolute perfect collection of moves, and that almost never happens in the game of baseball. Every team deals with injuries. Every team deals with acquisitions who are total busts. But, the Mariners thoroughly and completely lack the depth to compensate for such fuck-ups. As a result, we’re given yet another team that fails to make the post-season. We’re told once again to wait until next year. We’re fed a line of horse shit and asked to believe in the process. Just when our hopes are their highest, SURPRISE, the team is fucking shitty once again!

It’s not even July. Which means the weather isn’t even nice around here. Not that the greater Seattle area is pleasant even when the weather IS nice (in those small handful of days between the perma-overcast fall/winter/spring and the summer wildfires that send a blanket of smoke to cover the entire Pacific Northwest). It’s overcrowded, with too much traffic, and chock full of fucking assholes with their heads up their fucking asses. We could always say – even if Seattle was Sports Hell – the rest of it was nice. Not anymore. Everything fucking sucks here now, especially the sports.

Thanks Mariners. I know you tried your best. And that’s what’s so utterly depressing about all of this.

The Mariners Were Punchless Against The Red Sox

I seem to be getting pretty lucky in the timing of my vacations. Every time I leave town for a long weekend, that’s when the Mariners unleash their most inept and frustrating performances.

Last Friday, Marco Gonzales slogged through 4.1 innings, giving up 2 runs, but throwing a massive amount of pitches just to get through the first inning. We might’ve improbably won this game thanks to a mostly-strong performance out of the bullpen, except Andres Munoz continued his run of looking simultaneously dominant and hittable. A guy who throws 100 with veritable ease shouldn’t throw so many fucking MEATBALLS that get destroyed, but here we are. Hence the 5+ ERA. He has an 11.4 K/9 which is good, but he’s giving up an .806 OPS; it’s a bizarre case.

Of course, giving up 4 runs shouldn’t be an insurmountable chore against the Red Sox, but on this night it was. Winker had a 2-run homer in the fifth to tie it up, and Raleigh had an RBI single late to make it close, but that was that.

We salvaged the game on Saturday thanks to a rally in the bottom of the 9th, after Sewald gave up a go-ahead run in the top half of the inning. Yet another glitchy performance from a guy who was absolutely dominant last year (related: Drew Steckenrider was recently DFA’d and then brought back to Tacoma on a minor league deal, to give you an indication of how the 2021 relievers are doing in 2022).

Every so often, you see glimpses of this Mariners offense attempting to break out of their season-long slump. Games like this one, where almost everyone contributed in some positive way. Crawford, Julio, Suarez, and Toro all had multiple hits. But, these games inevitably are the exception and not the rule.

We couldn’t keep the series win train rolling on Sunday though, with a 2-0 dud to close out the series. Robbie Ray was phenomenal – thanks to increased usage of his 2-seam fastball – going 7 shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 4. The game was all tied up at 0-0 heading into the 8th, when again, Sewald took the brunt of the damage. Of course, by all accounts, the batter hit a crazy pitch off the plate for a 2-run bomb, but that’s the way it’s been going for Sewald this year.

You need to score runs to win ballgames though, and Luis Torrens was all that prevented this one from being a Red Sox no-hitter. One hit. That’s it. So many fucking shit-terrible hitters in this lineup, it’s harkening back to those 2010 Mariners in terms of guys we’re going to look back and exclaim, “THEY were on this team?! Jesus Christ.”

Also, Jarred Kelenic has been striking out and hitting bombs and that’s pretty much it in Tacoma. Kyle Lewis has the world’s stickiest concussion. Mitch Haniger is a walking rehab stint (except, with that ankle, I doubt he’s walking very well). Evan White is a fucking ghost. And there aren’t any other position players close to making the jump to the Major Leagues anytime soon.

Were you wondering how Justin Upton is doing down in AAA, hoping that he might be some sort of savior? How does a slash line of .175/.267/.375 make you feel? That’s across 10 games and 40 at bats, where he’s racked up 17 strikeouts against only 4 extra base hits.

It’s bleak, man. Jesse Winker rightly was benched last night, and hopefully lost his spot atop the lineup. Adam Frazier is just doing nothing. Abraham Toro has one great game out of every ten. Cal Raleigh’s power numbers have improved, while everything else is bad as fuck. Taylor Trammell – after a hot start – has already cooled off considerably (no surprise there). And we’re stuck giving Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty more playing time than they deserve, which is NOT what you want to see.

The Mariners Managed A Surprisingly Dominant Series Win Over The Astros

If anything seemed unlikely to happen after the Mariners lost a series to the lowly Athletics, it was these very same Mariners turning right around and winning a series against the first place Astros. Yet, lo and behold, there it happened. And, not only that, but very nearly a series sweep!

While I was away, splashing around at the Great Wolf Lodge (and probably getting myself sick in the process, but it’s a small price to pay for family fun and entertainment), the Mariners put up some very impressive performances. What’s irked me so far this year is that we’re not super timely, in that I mean when the pitching is dominant, the hitting is also pretty good. But, when the hitting is bad, the pitching is also kind of mediocre; thus our losing record through two months of the season.

On Friday, we got 7 innings of 1-run ball out of Chris Flexen; he sprinked around 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. I’m going to go ahead and say that based on opponent, it was easily his best performance of the year. Flexen has been adequate to good at times this year, but usually the offense falls on its face, so it was nice to see the Mariners jack so many homers to win it 6-1. Nevertheless, this kind of start would’ve been better placed in one of those earlier games where the offense wasn’t quite so strong. Then again, beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.

Julio Rodriguez and Kyle Lewis each hit 2-run bombs, while Ty France and the newly called up Taylor Trammell hit solo homers to give us all the offense we needed. This was all the more impressive considering Justin Verlander was on the hill opposite us, who gave up all 6 of those runs in his 6 innings of work. Outstanding!

Not to be outdone, the Saturday Mariners won 6-0, in a rare shutout victory for our side. Logan Gilbert, again, had easily the best start of his season, going 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits while striking out 5. The difference between him and Flexen is that he’s been performing at a high level all year. Nevertheless, this was true ace shit Gilbert was dealing with, not to mention it’s his third straight game of 7 innings. When you consider he’s still on something of a pitch count in his young career, I don’t know what more you can say. Gilbert is the real deal!

We saw another Kyle Lewis homer in this one. That’s two in back-to-back days, with a day off on Sunday (spoiler alert). The team is being extra cautious with him, which I like. Because, at this point, it’s abundantly clear we need his bat in the lineup as many days as possible. If that’s only 4 out of 7 days, so be it. That beats the hell out of whoever the fuck being in the lineup 7 out of 7 days.

The offense as a whole was strong in this one yet again, with 13 hits, only a day after notching 10 hits. That would not last (again, spoiler alert), but I’ll take as many promising developments as I can get (another one being that after a rough first couple of weeks down in Tacoma, Jared Kelenic is finally starting to look like the hitter we know he is, at least against PCL opponents).

Our 2-1 defeat on Sunday was not due to Marco Gonzales, who kept the outstanding start train rolling, going 7.2 innings, giving up 2 runs (though, it should be noted that Paul Sewald gave up the second – inherited – run, and thus was unable to do his job of keeping the game tied in a sticky situation, which has otherwise been his M.O. since the start of last year). Marco’s been a little up and down this year, but I still feel like he keeps us in ballgames more often than not. He does need a better offense – and for our defense to play up to its abilities – to be a truly great starting pitcher. Hopefully in 2023, things will finally come together for him. I feel like he’s damn near a 20-game winner on a team with a high-functioning offense.

There, unsurprisingly, wasn’t a lot of offense in this one. Ty France had the lone RBI, and is a manimal against pretty much anyone you put out there against him. Unfortunately, it gets to be pretty bare bones at the bottom of the lineup, especially when Kyle Lewis needs to sit. Mitch Haniger can’t return soon enough. This was proven in the bottom of the ninth when we loaded the bases, only for Luis Torrens to hit into a game-ending double play. Can’t have that. For one thing, with better hitters returning, you’d like to think you won’t need the Torrenses of the world covering your ass. But, also Torrens needs to be better. What hitter doesn’t relish that opportunity? Be a professional hitter and get that fucking runner home!

There was a holiday off-day yesterday as the M’s flew back across the country to face Baltimore in a 3-game set. They’re pretty much as bad as we are, so we should at least have a fighting chance the next few days.

The Mariners Fell Apart While I Was In A Mexican Paradise

I mean, to be fair, the Mariners were already in a pretty bad place before I left, but I believe they only won one out of five games while I was travelling.

I didn’t write about the Blue Jays or the Red Sox series, since I was flying out Wednesday morning and didn’t get home until last night, but suffice it to say I have no interest in rehashing them game by game. For those two series, the M’s went 1-6. For the road trip, the M’s went 3-7 (somehow winning 2 of 3 against the best team they played, the Mets). For the month of May, the M’s are 6-15. And since our season’s peak – when we were 11-6 way back on April 26th – the M’s have gone a miserable 6-19.

The season is falling apart. Smartasses like to point to how bad the M’s were in the month of May last year – when we still ended up winning 90 games – but you can’t deny this feels different (especially since last year’s Mariners squad were able to salvage a 13-15 record in the month of May after their short dark stretch). Mitch Haniger is out until July. Jared Kelenic is in Tacoma and his future in the organization feels very tenuous at this point (the interview last week with Jason A. Churchill on the Mitch Unfiltered podcast paints a particularly bleak picture where Kelenic might spend most of the year in Tacoma before maybe getting called back up in September … unless the Mariners totally fall apart and have no excuse but to promote him and try to salvage his career here). Kyle Lewis looks like he’s on the cusp of returning, but it looks like his knees are so ravaged he’ll never be a full time outfielder, and may not even be a part time outfielder (he might have to DH exclusively if he wants to stay healthy enough to contribute most every day). Matt Brash has already been demoted and turned into a reliever. Cal Raleigh is only up here because Tom Murphy is injured (and he just re-aggravated his condition, making his return to the big club TBD). Ken Giles is God knows where. Jesse Winker is still playing at a sub-replacement level, as is Luis Torrens. We just signed Justin Upton and sent him to our extended spring training, after he’d been on the market the entire season thanks to the Angels DFA’ing him; he’s been terrible for three straight years now, so this seems like a futile desperation move (albeit one that comes with no risk whatsoever).

Meanwhile, as I pointed out, the Mariners are in a freefall and can’t catch a break. They can’t even luck into a win here and there! We’ve apparently used up all of our Fun Differential in that magical 2021 season (you remember, the one that – yet again – saw us miss the playoffs) and have none left over for future seasons. Now there’s just Gun In Mouth Differential, and it’s going through the roof!

In this young season, we’ve already been shutout 6 times; we were shutout 8 times in all of 2021. We’re 10 games out of first place at the moment; the most we were out of first place in all of 2021 was 9 games. And, we don’t even get the relief of having an off-day after the massacre that was an extra-innings defeat at the hands of the Red Sox yesterday. We have to fly across the country to return home and face the A’s, another bottom-feeder, but that doesn’t matter at this point. We don’t get a rest day until Thursday; what’s our reward following that? Another fucking series against the Astros, who are red hot and have reclaimed their rightful spot in first place in the A.L. West.

I don’t know what to tell you. Normally, I’d say football season starts in a few months, but what’s the point? All we can do is root for the Seahawks (and Broncos) to lose as many games as possible, which means even our victories are going to be annoying. Husky football is rebuilding. Husky basketball looks like it’s about to be in shambles again. The NBA still hasn’t announced the return of the Supersonics. And the Kraken seem to be going nowhere fast.

Seattle is Sports Hell once again! Boy do I love when I can tie it all back to the name of the blog. It really makes the space come alive!

The Mariners Lost Another Series, Still Can’t Hit

Did you know the Mariners have already been shut out five times this year, including most recently on Monday against the Phillies in an embarrassing 9-0 rout? We’ve played all of 32 games so far this year, so you probably had some sort of inkling that the number was rather high. Did you know, though, that over a full 162-game season last year, the Mariners were shut out only eight times?

Of course, the 2021 Mariners were fun and interesting; the 2022 Mariners are abysmal and largely boring in how bad they’ve been. We’ve seen this same exact punchless team repeatedly over the last decade and a half, and it’s getting fucking old. They even moved the fences in during that span, seemingly to no avail. It’s their inability to properly develop their young hitters – to say nothing of somehow also ruining the established veterans they manage to bring in – that’s the ultimate culprit. The fences could be 30 yards away from home plate and they’d still manage to flail more often than not.

The 2021 Mariners also had 10 shutout victories, while the 2022 M’s have zero. The most games back of first place they were in 2021 was 5.0; we’re already at 6.5 games behind the Angels and that figures to only get worse. Most telling, perhaps, is our record in 1-run games; last year, we were 33-19 (for a .635 winning percentage) and this year we’re 5-5 (an even .500). There’s no magic, no spark, no juice. These 2022 Mariners are rolling over like so many Jesse Winker groundouts.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, J.P. Crawford and Ty France are the only two guys propping up this offense. Finally, Adam Frazier is starting to pull his weight, having raised his slash line to a respectable .270/.346/.377 (that’s FAR more in line with his career norms). And, as we’ve all been giddy about over the last week or so, Julio Rodriguez is really starting to look like the superstar we were all promised. Between those four guys and the dynamic injury duo of Mitch Haniger (who likely won’t return until July now) and Kyle Lewis (who is in the midst of a AAA stint that is doubling as his own personal Spring Training, which will almost certainly lead to a re-aggravation any day now), we might be onto something with this offense.

With the dynamic injury duo out of commission, and with the rest of the lineup being what it is, we’re essentially fucked.

Eugenio Suarez is who we thought he was, which might be okay if he’s batting 8th in the lineup. But, for pretty much the whole year, he’s been batting in the top 5, and for a guy barely scraping a .200 batting average, that’s not going to cut it.

Words can’t express how disgruntled I am with Jesse Winker. Everyone keeps saying he’s going to turn it around, but I think Safeco T-Mobile is in his head, and it’s extending his slump to every other stadium we play in. I’m not expecting him to ever turn it around, and this trade with the Reds will go down as one of the all-time disasters.

Raleigh, Kelenic, and Toro just aren’t Major League hitters, period. They’re clearly too good for the wasteland that is AAA, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Maybe they would be Major League hitters if they weren’t saddled with this Mariners organization, but that doesn’t do us much good now, does it? Because we, as fans, ARE saddled with this Mariners organization, and we’re forced to sit helpless as prospect after promising prospect goes down in flames thanks to the litany of issues and deficiencies they’ve got to overcome.

What really gets me is, once again, Luis Torrens has fallen into a slump of all slumps. Last year, he was sent down to Tacoma, figured it out, and returned to be a pretty productive member of this offense. Now, he’s right back to sucking as he did before and it’s all just so baffling to me.

And, it’s not like these guys are running into buzzsaw after buzzsaw. Sure, opposing bullpens have been pretty stout, but the starters haven’t been anything special. And the Phillies’ starters have been downright atrocious! These are the types of arms this struggling Mariners offense should be “getting right” against. Instead, they’re making these guys look like Justin Verlander!

I don’t have the energy to get into my gripes with the pitching, but suffice it to say, no one is really stepping up and helping out the offense. Chris Flexen had his worst outing of the year on Monday, giving up 6 runs in 5 innings. And, Diego Castillo’s freefall continued in that same game. In 3 appearances in the month of May, he’s pitched all of 1.0 innings while giving up 9 runs. DISASTER!

It was nice to see Robbie Ray bounce back on Tuesday, pitching 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 10. The 5-4 victory was only as close as it was because Paul Sewald gave up a meaningless solo homer while getting the 4-out save.

The Mariners had a chance to win the series in the Wednesday matinee, but Logan Gilbert had “one bad inning”, this time on “one bad pitch” that just so happened to result in a grand slam for the Phillies. We lost 4-2. Something tells me Gilbert won’t be the Pitcher of the Month of May.

Now, we’re 14-18 and embark on a crazy 10-games-in-10-days road trip to play the red hot Mets, the offensive powerhouse Blue Jays, and the struggling-but-probably-still-better-than-us Red Sox. I’m expecting something in the realm of a 2-8 record in this span, so watch us actually hold our own and come away with a 6-4 record.

George Kirby’s Debut Can’t Paper Over How Terrible The Mariners Have Been Lately

Making the Sunday finale your only victory of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays is annoying in so many ways. By the time you get to that game, you’re so fucking sick and tired of the Mariners’ bullshit, you can barely muster the energy to watch. However, it’s a joyous occasion nevertheless, and sends you off into a new week with a better taste in your mouth. Nevermind the fact that for three days prior, they’ve been shovelling shit into your mouth; that last spoonful of sugar makes things seem like they’ll be okay.

Of course, it wasn’t just three days of shit, just three days of shit courtesy of the Rays. Prior to that, we were swept in three games by the Astros. If you want to take it back even further, it’s been shit in 10 out of 11 games prior to Sunday. I’d say we got our fill.

On a semi-related tangent, this is why the Mariners have been so reluctant to extend Mitch Haniger. We needed him desperately for this stretch, and where has he been? Sure, it’s terrible luck that he got COVID (although, I mean, if he’s not vaxed against it, then I don’t know if I feel sorry for him in that regard) and backed that up almost immediately by spraining an ankle, but this is the sort of hard-luck shit he’s had to deal with for most of his career. He has supremely terrible injury luck! So did Franklin Gutierrez and a million other guys throughout the history of this game. If you can’t count on someone to be on the field almost everyday, then what’s the point in signing them to a long-term extension?

I don’t want to get into the minutiae of this Rays series; in the grand scheme of things, who cares? We officially went 2-5 against them this season, so that’s a playoff tiebreaker we won’t have, if it comes to that. On Thursday, Robbie Ray had “One Bad Inning”, which is an excuse I’ve always hated, dating back to the Jeff Fassero days. You can have one bad inning out of seven innings pitched until the cows come home, but if you give up 4 runs in that inning, and lose 4-3, then I’m sorry, but you didn’t have a good game that day.

We had a chance to break this streak on Friday, but Paul Sewald had a rare blown save/loss by giving up a 3-run homer in the ninth. I was in attendance on Saturday, but even that wasn’t enough good luck to turn things around, as Diego Castillo had a total meltdown (5 runs, including a grand slam, without registering an out).

The saving grace (sort of) was that Kirby start on Sunday. He looked every bit the elite, ace-type prospect everyone’s said he is, by going 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7. He touched the upper 90’s with his fastball and averaged in the mid-90’s. His breaking stuff was pretty nasty. He saw a lot of full counts – from what I saw, on the little TV, while re-watching the first season of Stranger Things on the big TV – but was able to challenge hitters and keep them off-balance.

Even then, the M’s did everything they could to try and lose it, not scoring until the bottom of the ninth. After the Rays finally scored in the top of the eighth, it looked like the Mariners would lose 1-0. Then, Mr. Clutch, Abraham Toro, pulled a solo homer into the right field stands to tie it up. Paul Sewald got back on the horse to keep the Rays off the board in the tenth, giving Ty France a chance to win it with a single in the bottom half. An exciting, 2-1 extra innings victory is a helluva way to end the six-game losing streak, but I’m still going to bitch about those losses for a while.

The Mariners are 13-16. They’re still hitting like shit up and down the lineup. Ty France can’t do everything. J.P. Crawford came up with back spasms in Saturday’s game (in a stupidly futile attempt to dive into first base, most likely), so he’s day-to-day. No word on Haniger’s return, but I’m sure he’s going to keep making it worse instead of letting it heal on its own. Kyle Lewis is in Tacoma trying to work his way back, but I’m not holding my breath. That Ken Giles signing – a 2-year deal, knowing the entire first year would be lost to injury – sure looks idiotic now that he’s on the 60-day IL and is looking like he’ll miss both fucking years.

Oh, and in all of their infinite wisdom, the Mariners have decided to not only send Matt Brash to Tacoma, but have converted him to a reliever in hopes that he’ll be able to return to the Major Leagues this season in time to help us with our playoff run. This is a topic for a separate post, because I have a lot to say on this particular issue. Spoiler alert: the Mariners are idiots probably.

And, just in case anyone was wondering about potential help coming from the minors, in case this Kirby experiement also goes tits up and we need a veteran starter to eat innings, I wouldn’t count on it. Nick Margevicius just got cut for extreme incompetence, Justus Sheffield is also getting rocked in Tacoma, and you’re better off not looking at the stats of the other guys we have starting down there. It turns out, the PCL is a total wasteland in every single respect (hitting is too easy – making the jump from AAA to the Majors extremely difficult – and pitching is almost impossible to do well).

It’s May in Seattle, which means it’s time to lose all faith in the Mariners. Right on schedule!

Ranking The Trustworthiness Of The Mariners, Part 2: The Non-Pitchers

Check out what I wrote about the pitchers HERE.

Now, we’ve got the position players. There were 21 pitchers on the 40-man roster, which means we have 19 players listed below. Right away, it’s a less-pleasing number – impossible to equally divide into three separate categories – and as it turns out, I can’t even come all that close to making an equal three-way split anyway. The majority of the players you’ll find below are in that medium-trustworthy category. If things break right and the Mariners are once again contending for a playoff spot in 2022, it’ll be because a high percentage of these 50/50 guys bust out and are productive regular players. If the Mariners regress away from their 90-win 2021 season, it’ll be because a high percentage of these 50/50 guys shit the bed. But, first, let’s get the bad players out of the way.

No: The Least-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#19 – Alberto Rodriguez

Everything I know about this guy, I learned from this link. Given his level of experience, I think there’s an extremely low chance that he plays for the Mariners this year. That being said, it does seem like his potential is higher than some of the players you’ll see ranked ahead of him in this post.

#18 – Jose Godoy

We’re talking about the fourth catcher on the 40-man roster (technically the third, I guess, if we assume Luis Torrens has played his last game behind the plate); this guy is injury depth and that’s it. Expect him to play the vast majority of his games in Tacoma. If he’s in Seattle for any length of time at all, something has gone seriously FUBAR.

#17 – Donovan Walton

He’s a 28 year old utility player; he stinks.

#16 – Kevin Padlo

He’s another white utility player; the only reason he’s ranked ahead of Walton is that he’s three years younger. Having less experience is a drawback, but that just means maybe there’s potential there for him to surprise us.

#15 – Taylor Trammell

2021 was his first year scraping the Big Leagues and he had every opportunity at the beginning of the season to lock down a starting outfield job. He failed. He showed a little more pop than expected, but his average was abysmal. Figure he’s another trade fodder candidate.

#14 – Evan White

For someone who has been as bad as he has through the first two years of his Major League career, it’s shocking he ranks as high as he does. But, his sub-par rookie season in 2020, followed by his sub-par and injury-plagued 2021, has cost him his starting first base job. I don’t know what’s in store for his career, but for someone who signed an early guaranteed-money contract – buying out his Arbitration Years – his Mariners future is cloudy at best.

Maybe?: The Medium-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#13 – Tom Murphy

I don’t know what happened. He had such a relatively strong 2019 season, was slated to be our starter in 2020 (but got injured), then was our starter in 2021 but totally faceplanted. He eventually lost his job to a rookie and that was that. I don’t know how he’s still here, but there’s a reason why he’s a bubble guy for me when it comes to trustworthiness. The only notch in his favor is his veteran leadership. Also the fact that he’s projected to be our backup catcher in 2022; maybe reduced usage will help his overall output? I don’t have high hopes.

#12 – Cal Raleigh

It’s funny how secure I was in our catching position heading into 2021, only to see these guys be the biggest question mark heading into 2022. Raleigh had a rough rookie campaign last year, but pretty much any experience is good experience. He handled the pitching staff well, played adequate defense, and at least flashed some potential at the plate. I don’t think he was rushed into the Majors too early, but we’ll see. It wouldn’t shock me to see him return to Tacoma for a spell in 2022, but my hope is he’ll be playing better in September than he does in April.

#11 – Dylan Moore

Moore was one of our best and most surprising players in 2020, which makes his 2021 output that much more devastating. Initially, he was just a utility guy (and a bad one at that), then he turned himself into a starting second baseman; now he’s back to being a utility guy (and a bubble one at that). I don’t know if he’s long for the Mariners; we seem to have a logjam of utility guys. 2022 is really Now or Never for him.

#10 – Jake Fraley

Depending on health, Fraley might start out the season as a starting outfielder, but I don’t expect that to last. His saving grace in 2021 was his quality eye at the plate, and the slightly improved pop in his bat. But, his average was pitifully low, and his walk rate declined the more he played. He seems like a fourth outfielder at best, and is almost certainly another trade fodder candidate. He’s keeping a roster spot warm for another guy coming up later on this list.

#9 – Julio Rodriguez

This guy! Our very best minor league prospect and someone who is a consensus Future Superstar by pretty much every minor league scout. Think Kelenic last year, only with a higher all-around upside; I would expect him to have a starting job by early May, if not sooner. But, of course, that doesn’t mean he’s destined to be elite from the jump; again, think Kelenic last year. He’ll have ups and downs. He’s rated as highly as he is, though, because it’s believed he’ll have fewer downs than Kelenic, which is absolutely thrilling to me.

#8 – Kyle Lewis

Our 2020 Rookie of the Year is a bit of a tragic injury case. Last year, he suffered the second major right knee injury of his relatively brief professional career. When he’s healthy, he’s pretty great! He would be a fantastic outfield starter for us right this very minute if he can stay upright. As it is, he might just be trade bait, or a tale of woe of what might’ve been.

#7 – Abraham Toro

I don’t really have a great idea of what the Mariners have planned for Toro. He was a significant trade target at the deadline last year, and slotted in as a starting second baseman right away. He was pretty good, but the power wasn’t there, and he sort of faded down the stretch. He doesn’t play the outfield, and there are two holes on the infield – second and third base – one of which is going to be filled by Adam Frazier. There’s lots of speculation that the M’s will go out and acquire another starting infielder, which would make Toro’s place on the 40-man redundant. Is he another trade guy? Or do the M’s believe in him more than the rest of us? I do think he has starting potential – and I’d be interested in seeing what becomes of him – but if he’s handed a starting job (and a spot in the top half of the lineup) and the Mariners fail to make the playoffs, I think we’ll be pointing a finger at Toro as a big reason why. On the flipside, if he hits, then he’s a relatively inexpensive star on a young, up-and-coming team for the next few years!

#6 – Jarred Kelenic

I still believe in Kelenic, but I can’t put him in the top tier on this roster just yet until I see him perform at a high level consistently. He has the potential, he has the drive, he just needs to put it all together at the plate. It’ll happen, but his real breakout year might not be until 2023.

Yes: The Most-Trustworthy Mariners Non-Pitchers Of 2022

#5 – Luis Torrens

Look, if this seems too high to you, just know that I hear you. I get it. Torrens over Kelenic is going to look MIGHTY dumb sooner rather than later. But, Torrens – when they gave up on him being a catcher and made him a full-time DH – vastly improved as a hitter. He was bottoming out early in 2021 and spent a spell in Tacoma, but upon his return he was nails. I don’t think the M’s can afford to have a full-time DH on their roster – they like to give guys days off by playing DH – but as a regular hitter and an emergency catcher, I like what they have in Torrens. I also think they can build his value up to be another trade candiate if the right deal comes along. His power – especially to the opposite field – is something that’s rare in this game today.

#4 – Adam Frazier

He just seems like a steady veteran presence. Someone who will start for us at second, play everyday, and hit for a reasonably high average. Also, his eye at the plate will keep his value up there on this team. On a good team, with 7 or 8 quality hitters, I think Frazier is a key glue guy. But, if we’ve only got 3 or 4 quality hitters – and Frazier is one of them – I think there will be offensive woes beyond our comprehension. Here’s hoping others step up around him.

#3 – Mitch Haniger

He’s probably the best all-around hitter and player on this team, but he gets dinged for his injury history. He made it through 2021 unscathed, which might give you solace, but actually has me on high alert. That means he’s due for a major injury! I hope that’s not the case, because he’s a really good guy – and a really good player when he’s healthy. The Mariners need Haniger to lead the way if we’re going to make the playoffs in 2022.

#2 – Ty France

Hands down probably the best pure hitter on this team. He’s also not too shabby defensively at first base. I know that’s supposed to be Evan White’s job, but France’s effectiveness dwindles when you make him play elsewhere on the field. It’s easier to try to move White around, while occasionally giving White a spot start at first when France DH’s.

#1 – J.P. Crawford

With Seager retired, Crawford is the unquestioned leader of this team (or, at least up there with Haniger). He’s one of the best defensive short stops in the game, and he’s turned himself into a pretty effective hitter at the top of the lineup. Given how hard he works, and his natural ability, I expect him to be a plus Major Leaguer for the foreseeable future. There’s no one I trust more on this team, to get a big hit, or make a big play defensively. All around stud.

Seattle Mariners Trade & Free Agent Targets For 2022

I’m gonna tell you right now, that title is misleading! Because I have zero idea who is actually available in trade or free agency across the Major League Baseball landscape. Besides, I don’t like getting into the weeds of playing fantasy baseball like that; let the more thorough and dedicated Mariners blogs try to tackle that speculative nonsense.

I’m here to talk about the holes on the Mariners, where they need to fill with outside guys vs. where they can afford to fill with prospects.

The easiest start is to look at the guys we have who we want to keep around. They are, in no particular order:

  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Ty France (1B/DH/2B)
  • Abraham Toro (2B/3B)
  • Mitch Haniger (RF)
  • Jarred Kelenic (CF/LF)
  • Kyle Lewis (CF/LF)
  • Cal Raleigh (C)

Even though I’ve listed three outfielders there, and you have to figure Julio Rodriguez is going to earn a call-up at some point in 2022, I think the M’s will nevertheless seek out a veteran outfielder to throw into the mix. Meaning that I don’t see Fraley being quite so prominent a figure in that group; maybe as a reserve, but I could see him getting dealt just as easily. If we go for a high-priced free agent outfielder, we can let Haniger walk at the end of the 2022 season, or try to trade him mid-year, if things aren’t going so well in the standings. That would then open the door for J-Rod in the second half of the season and beyond. Kyle Lewis is obviously the wild card here; will he return from his knee injury? Will he ever be able to play a full season? You have to anticipate he’ll be in the mix for a good number of DH days in a best-case scenario, but I don’t think you can count on him being a full-time player until you see him prove it on the field.

The other obvious addition is either a second or third baseman. The loss of Kyle Seager is significant here, but we were always looking to improve on that spot in the lineup anyway. I expect Toro to take whatever position is left over; I’m hoping there are lots of good free agent options available. Even if we have to pull in a short stop, we should be able to slide Crawford over to second base without too much of a headache.

We also need another catcher. Tom Murphy isn’t really worth keeping around; his bat is fundamentally broken. The new guy should be a relatively good catcher who can play on a regular basis, as we still don’t know if Raleigh is our #1 just yet.

Go ahead and pencil in White and Torrens for bench spots with Fraley at the moment, though I don’t know how long that’ll last. Will Dylan Moore be back? Doubtful, but we’ll see.

Let’s look at the pitching:

  • Chris Flexen (SP)
  • Marco Gonzales (SP)
  • Logan Gilbert (SP)
  • Paul Sewald (RP)
  • Drew Steckenrider (RP)
  • Casey Sadler (RP)
  • Diego Castillo (RP)
  • Ken Giles (RP)

The Mariners need two starting pitchers, minimum. I would expect one to be a quality, top-of-the-rotation type of guy, and one maybe more of a middling veteran to eat up innings. We’ve also got three minor league prospects at the top of our farm system – Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, and Matt Brash – who are all ready to bust down the door in 2022. Brash very nearly made his debut last month, but ultimately wasn’t needed. I think it would be foolish to bank on one of those guys taking a job out of Spring Training, but I would also expect one or more of them to be called up before June to help out with injuries and whatnot. If 2022 isn’t the playoff campaign we all hope it is, then my guess is we’ll see all three of those guys get opportunities to make the rotation for 2023 and beyond.

As for the bullpen, your guess is as good as mine as to what that’ll end up being. Bullpen pieces get moved all the time. Guys get injured, guys get worse for no reason. Every time we think we have the bullpen figured out heading into a season, it seems to always blow up in our faces. But, from the looks of things, we have lots of guys in the minors who are in the mix. I would love to see a better left-handed bullpen option emerge, either from within or outside the organization.

I’m looking at two big bats (one outfield, one infield), a solid starting-calibre catcher, two starting pitchers, and a lefty reliever. Once Seager and Kikuchi are gone, we will have well below $40 million on our payroll, so there is PLENTY of room to spend. We also have assurances from ownership that the Mariners are in a position to increase spending, which you would hope would be a given, but with this organization you never can tell.

The Mariners should be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Hot Stove portion of the offseason. Does that always translate to wins on the field? As the San Diego Padres just showed us: not always. There’s reason for optimism in 2022, but I’m incapable of giving 100% blind faith over to this organization that they’ll do the right thing and make the right moves. I’ve been burned too many times; we all have.

Nevertheless, as I’ve mentioned before, I do feel an excitement level for next season that I haven’t experienced in decades! Good or bad, the 2022 Mariners will be interesting as hell.

The 2021 Seattle Mariners State Of The Young Guys

I promised to get around to talking about the young guys, and here I am delivering on that promise!

As I noted previously, there’s reason for both optimism and pessimism surrounding the immediate future of the Seattle Mariners. If we glom onto the negative, you’ve got an unsustainable offensive model where the team sucks at hitting, except for very specific points in any given ballgame where the team comes together to score JUST enough to win by a run or two. Otherwise, we’re looking at severe blowout losses that throw our run differential out of whack. Furthermore, the people doing most of the hitting are veterans, while many of the young guys struggled mightily.

I’m going to try to look on the bright side with this post, but you know me. Some of that negativity is bound to creep in.

I’ll start with a point I made in Tuesday’s post: J.P. Crawford and Ty France are far from old fogeys. Just because they’ve been around the bigs for a few years doesn’t mean they’re past their primes or anything; Crawford will be 27 in January and France is 27 now. We control Crawford through 2024 and France through 2025; I don’t care about any years beyond those right now, if I’m being honest. The “Win Forever” concept is a nice idea in theory, but let’s just get to the initial “Win” part before we start talking in terms of multiple years or decades down the line.

I would argue there’s a lot to like about the way Jarred Kelenic finished his season. Sure, his rookie season was miserable for the vast majority of it – finishing with a -1.7 WAR in 93 games – but his September/October were leaps and bounds better than the rest of his year. It can be easy to discount a late-season surge like that, but this wasn’t a guy getting a cup of coffee at the end of a losing year. This was a guy who worked through his initial struggles – largely at the Major League level – and found a breakthrough after a lot of trial and error. It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily going to start 2022 on fire and be an All Star the rest of his career, but it doesn’t rule it out either. Regardless, I would expect a huge improvement in his overall numbers next year; I don’t think we have much to worry about when it comes to Kelenic. We know, if nothing else, he’s going to continue to put in the work to be one of the greats.

I also want to talk about Logan Gilbert up top, as another young stud who should be a mainstay for a good, long while. On the whole, he made 24 starts, had a 1.0 WAR and was up and down with his production at the Major League level. But, he also saved his best and most consistent work for the final month of the season; only one game out of the final six featured him giving up more than 2 runs (and that was 4 runs against the Angels, in 5.1 innings of work). He ended up being one of our better pitchers down the stretch, in a playoff chase, which is very encouraging for his career going forward. He’s got the kind of stuff that can be dominant at the Major League level, so I’m very much looking forward to what he has to offer next year and beyond.

In the next tier down, I’d like to talk about a few guys who showed some promise, but also might end up flaming out.

There’s a lot to like about what Abraham Toro did as a Mariner, and I’ll staunchly defend that trade with the Astros anytime and anyplace. Even if he never makes it as a consistent, reliable everyday player, the idea was sound. All you can ask from your GM is to make good decisions based on the information he has available at the time, and then hope for the best that the players he brings in pan out. Toro will be 25 in December and we control him through 2025; that’s easily worth a reliever rental in my book.

On top of which, Toro made an immediate impact as soon as we acquired him! His first month on the team was outstanding, culminating in a game-winning Grand Slam against Kendall Graveman on August 31st. He scratched the surface of being a .270 hitter in that time, but did falter pretty severely down the stretch. His slash line was overall better as a Mariner than it was as an Astro, but there was a little bit of a dip in his slugging. He finished the year – across both teams – with 11 homers in 95 games, which is okay, but not amazing. He might have more left to unleash upon the game of baseball, but it kinda looks like he’s dependant upon his batting average to provide offensive value, so if his BABIP slumps, he’s going to be a pretty miserable hitter (aren’t we all?).

In a vacuum, there are two openings across the infield – at second and third base – and one of those spots needs to be filled by a quality, proven veteran who’s a middle-of-the-order type hitter. I’m okay with Toro getting one of the other spots as we head into 2022, but he’s going to need to produce more than he did in 2021 if he wants to stick around long term.

I’d also like to throw Cal Raleigh into this bin, even though he had a worse year than anyone I’ve mentioned so far. It’s hard out there for most any rookie at the Major League level; the jump from the minors is extreme and will quickly weed out those who don’t belong. I would argue it’s the hardest of all for rookie catchers, who not only have to worry about their own hitting and defense, but they have to lead an entire team full of pitchers through every ballgame they’re in.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you Raleigh will be fine. He might be a total bust! The Mariners have been calling up catchers for years now, and I’ve spent all this time expecting one of them to pan out; none of them did. Mike Zunino was as sure a bet as you’ll see as a catcher and he still managed to strike out a bazillion times. Only this year did he pull it all together as an All Star who hit 33 homers – with the Rays – and that was with a whopping .216 batting average with 132 strikeouts in 109 games. I think we all were hoping Raleigh would be better than Zunino, but I have my doubts.

A lot will be learned next year. Like Kelenic, Raleigh is an extremely hard worker and a natural leader behind the plate. If he’s able to flush his .180/.223/.309 slash line, maybe he can make strides towards being a viable starter going forward.

I’ll say a little bit about Fraley, Torrens, and Bauers: I think they’re okay, but I don’t think any of them are starters. Torrens is a likely trade candidate – since he can catch and play first base – and Fraley feels like a reserve/fourth outfielder on a good team. Bauers has all the tools – and apparently puts on a great batting practice show with his bat – but he’s yet to really put it all together; it felt like a lot of his hits were lucky bloops and dribblers that narrowly evaded opposing gloves.

There aren’t a lot of promising young pitchers at the Major League level, but I’ll talk about a couple of relievers here. Yohan Ramirez took what seemed like a significant step forward in 2021 over his 2020 season. In 2020, he was mostly put into losing games and blowouts; in 2021, that largely continued, but he was also put into some high-leverage situations and came out okay! The team is trying to harness his stuff, as he’s got a great splitter to strike guys out, but he can be wild at times and get behind in the count. I’m curious to see if he can continue to get better.

Andres Munoz is a guy who can throw triple-digits; he got the shortest cup of coffee at the end of the year, playing in Game 162. But, he’ll be 23 in January, and we control him through 2025, so hopefully he can parlay that confidence boost into a great Spring Training.

There are, of course, young pitchers in the minors we’ve still got to look forward to; I’ll save my breath on them until we know what the 2022 roster looks like, as I expect to see multiple veteran starters brought in to round out the rotation (though our bullpen looks largely set with in-house guys).

You can’t talk about the young guys with promise without throwing 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis into the mix. He was injured for most of 2021 – the same knee he tore back as an A-ball player – and his long-term prospects appear to be dwindling. It’s not great that he tried to rehab the knee without surgery, only to have a late-season setback that cost him the rest of the year. It’s going to be super frustrating if he does need surgery, causing him to miss 2022 as well.

There’s no denying his talent when he’s healthy, but Kyle Lewis gets tossed onto the Maybe Pile when it comes to talking about future mainstays on the Mariners.

Which is more than you can say about guys like Evan White, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn. I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen there. White sucked in 2020 as a rookie, then played in only 30 games before going down with a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. In those 30 games, he also sucked. His defense is, of course, elite, but at this point so is France’s. White’s bat just doesn’t play at this level, even a little bit. He’s got power, but misses balls too consistently. And he’s not even a cost-effective prospect since we signed him to that 6-year, $24 million deal before he even played a single Major League game! He made a combined $2.6 million for his last two worthless seasons, is set to earn $1.4 million in 2022, then that figure jumps to $3 million in 2023 and $7 million and $8 million in 2024 and 2025. What do you do with that? If France sniped his job at first base, do you try to trade White? What do you get for a guy with that kind of contract, who can’t hit? Do you try to move him to a different defensive position; make him a super-sub?

As for Sheffield and Dunn, I’ve lost all faith in them ever panning out. They just don’t have the stuff to be good or consistent at this level.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, there are lots of prospects in the minor leagues to pull from in the next year or two. The State of the Young Guys is pretty strong for the Mariners, with one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Here’s to hoping we trade away the duds and manage to hang onto the superstars!