The Mariners Are Trying To Get Their Season Back On Track With A Series Win Over The Mets

This probably represents the best the Mariners have played over a three-game series this entire season, given the level of competition and our own fan expectations heading into the weekend. We were a couple of breaks away from sweeping this one! Of course, as it is against any quality opponent, we were also probably a couple of breaks away from getting swept. That’s baseball for you; it’s maddening.

It would figure that the only game I saw a significant portion of was on Saturday, when we lost. I was at a concert on Friday, so could only follow along via Twitter. Those who watched must’ve been treated to a delightful pitching duel! Max Scherzer was his usual strong self, going 7 innings, giving up 1 run. But, Marco Gonzales damn near matched him, giving up 1 run in 6.2 innings. The fact that he gave up his run in the first makes the subsequent shutdown all the more impressive.

Our offense managed to manufacture a run in the fourth and again in the eighth to seal the deal in a 2-1 affair. Winker and France had RBI singles; Crawford and Suarez had our only other hits. Meanwhile, Paul Sewald got four outs without giving up a run, and Drew Steckenrider got his second save of the season.

On Saturday, George Kirby wasn’t quite as dominant as his first start, but the defense behind him also let the team down, so who’s to say who deserves more of the blame? Kirby went 4 innings, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) off of 3 hits and a walk, with only 1 strikeout. The M’s were down 4-0 heading into the sixth inning before our offense was finally able to get going.

Newcomer Steven Souza – who was pretty free-swinging in this one, from what I saw – had an RBI single in the sixth for his first hit in a Mariners uniform. He’s here to keep right field warm while Jared Kelenic goes down to Tacoma to get his head (and bat) right, so best not to expect too much. He does have more experience than I thought he would (having never heard of him before), kicking around the Majors since 2014. Of course, the Rays got the most out of him, with a 4.2 WAR season in 2017. Hard to see him getting back to those lofty heights while playing in Seattle.

The big story was a Jesse Winker 3-run bomb in the top of the seventh, to temporarily tie the game at 4-4. The Mets pitching was pretty strong to this point, but we finally broke through against their bullpen. Like the Mariners, Winker is also trying to get his season on track; it’s weird to see how much Mets fans hate him. Presumably because he always kills them? Too bad for him we’re done playing them for the year.

As I mentioned, the tie was short-lived, as Andres Munoz gave up a go-ahead solo homer in the bottom half of the inning. We would go on to lose the game by that very score, 5-4. France, Crawford, and Suarez all had nice days at the plate in this one as well. Not to mention Torrens, who got on base with 2 hits and 2 walks, to drastically improve his slash line.

I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for Sunday’s finale, so I opted to re-watch most of season two of Stranger Things instead. I ended up missing one of the craziest wins of the year! Robbie Ray, once again, was spotty in this one, going 6 innings, giving up 5 runs, but striking out 9 and generating lots of swings and misses.

The Mets went up 1-0 with a solo homer in the first, then the M’s tied it in the third. We went up 4-1 in the fourth off of an impressive rally, but then promptly found ourselves down 5-4 in the bottom half of the inning. That took us to the absurd sixth inning, where Julio Rodriguez hit a massive solo homer to tie it, only to be out-done by Cal Raleigh’s 2-run go-ahead bomb. Julio added an RBI single in the seventh to put the M’s up 8-5, and we would need every bit of that 3-run lead.

Romo and Sewald got us to the ninth with a 3-run lead, but Drew Steckenrider – having a VERY up and down year – struggled to get the lone out he got, while giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. That left Scott Servais in the very unenviable position of throwing Diego Castillo out there, who has been unquestionably terrible of late. Yet, with runners on second and third, he managed to get two strikeouts – sandwiched around an intentional walk – to lock down the win 8-7.

Today, we go to Toronto. We’ve been told ahead of time that there will be certain Mariners unable to play this week, as they’re not allowed into Canada due to COVID restrictions. So that’s fun. We’re already pretty injury depleted, and the Blue Jays have a tremendous offense, so I’m expecting a total shitshow. Thankfully, it’s only three games, and hopefully this rest will do the unvaccinated players some good.

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.

The Mariners Struggled In Miami

With the NFL Draft happening over the weekend, I was a little preoccupied when it came to following the Mariners. When I was at home, they were relegated to the Little TV. And, as usual for a weekend, I wasn’t at home very much, at least when the M’s were playing.

I was looking forward to the Friday matchup against the Marlins, simply because Matt Brash was on the hill. However, he just didn’t have it, which is understandable since he’s a rookie. 2 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with only 3 strikeouts. Festa, Mills, and newcomer Penn Murfee eached pitched 2 innings – giving up another 2 total runs in the process – but the end result was an 8-6 defeat.

Luis Torrens had a 3-run double in the top of the second to take a brief 3-2 lead, but we were playing catch-up from there. The 9th inning rally was fun while it lasted – RBI double from Kelenic, sac fly from Torrens, and RBI single by Frazier – but ultimately not enough. J-Rod and J.P. Crawford each had multi-hit games.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss was a real missed opportunity. Robbie Ray was on the hill and he was dealing through four, but gave up 3 runs in the fifth and that was that. The offense was a Dylan Moore solo homer in the third; Winker and Crawford had the four other hits for the team.

Thankfully, we were able to salvage a 7-3 victory on Sunday to get one back. Logan Gilbert did more Logan Gilbert things, going 5.2 innings, finally giving up another earned run in the sixth, but was otherwise pretty unhittable (giving up just the 3, though he did walk 4 more). The bullpen was adequate from there, but thankfully the offense played add-on to keep this game out of reach.

J.P. Crawford had a solo homer in the second (he’s hitting an insane .372/.462/.628 so far this year), Toro had an RBI single in the fourth, and Julio Rodriguez had three hits on the day, including a 3-run homer in the sixth (the first homer of his career; he’s up to a slash line of .234/.306/.325, which is encouraging given his age and experience level, especially compared to Evan White, Jarred Kelenic, and Cal Raleigh). Even Jesse Winker got in on the action, with a 2-run single in the ninth (he’s SO CLOSE to the Mendoza Line, he can taste it).

With that series, the Mariners dropped to 12-10 and in second place in the A.L. West (behind a red-hot Angels team, who – after the weekend – were 15-8). There’s three more games on this road trip, in Houston, before returning home on Thursday for a 4-game set against the Rays (and then no more games against the Rays for the rest of this regular season). I’m glad this Florida part of our season is ending, because our opponents weren’t too kind to us. Let’s hope we have Houston’s number, though, because they’re a far more pressing concern this year.

The Mariners Only Won Two Of Three Against The Rangers

It’s hard to not have a sour taste in your mouth when you were so close to a series sweep. How do you go into that final game, score 5 runs in the first inning, and manage to give it all away? We should’ve won that game by double digits! They should’ve been using position players to pitch away meaningless innings! It’s all so aggravating.

The flipside to this line of thinking is that the Mariners won yet another series. We’re 4-2 on this homestand, and 7-6 on the season; still in very good shape. But, God damn are the Rangers terrible, and they had no business winning that final game.

Of course, neither did we. Not the way we played. I’m just going to get into it at the top, because I’m already worked up.

Contrary to what you may believe, the Mariners aren’t especially good at defense. You’ll hear that the key to the M’s winning games is “Pitching & Defense” but I’m here to tell you that’s a gross generalization. Sure, the pitching is vitally important. But, I’m not so sure you’re going to get a huge lift out of this team’s defensive ability.

This isn’t just a gut-reaction to 3 errors last night. Errors aren’t the be-all, end-all of a team’s defensive competence. You can be an outfielder who gets to balls, but then has a noodle arm (*cough* WINKER *cough*). You can be a second baseman who also gets to balls, but maybe bumbles it just enough to eliminate a doule play opportunity, but still gets the out at first (*cough* FRAZIER *cough*). You can be a battery that fails to control the base-stealing game of your opponent (pretty much every pitcher/catcher combo on this team).

What sucks, and what makes last night’s game particularly stupid, is that J.P. Crawford accounted for 2 of those 3 errors, and I think he’s – without question – the best defensive player on this team. That’s just One Of Those Nights, but it also doesn’t paper over the fact that this team is largely middle-of-the-road defensively. Crawford is great, Haniger and France are good, the catchers are okay, but after that it’s nothing but flaws.

Kelenic, Moore, and J-Rod have pretty mediocre throwing arms from the outfield. Suarez looks like one of those guys you stick at third base because first base (probably his best defensive position, outside of DH) is blocked. Frazier and Winker are clearly here for their offense (making Winker’s start to this season … I mean, there are no words). And don’t get me started on Luis Torrens.

So, don’t go banking on the defense saving this team a ton of runs this year. I think, more often than not, they’ll make the routine plays they’re supposed to make. But, these guys are going to need to HIT if they’re going to win games.

Something that looked like we were going to get in spades last night, after a 2-run home run from Ty France, followed by a 3-run home run from Crawford to lead off the game. There were five runs on the board and zero outs! We had ’em on the ropes! Those turned out to be the only runs we would score until scratching across a sixth run in the eighth to tie the game. The Rangers, meanwhile, were gifted numerous scoring opportunities thanks to our pisspoor defense, and methodically chipped away at that early 5-0 deficit. Ultimately, they took out Drew Steckenrider in the ninth to prevail 8-6.

The name of the game in this one was hitting with runners in scoring position. The M’s were a meager 2/11, with a lot of those chances coming in the first three innings, when we had the Rangers’ starter teetering on the brink. We could never quite hit him with that knockout blow, and that was our downfall.

Marco Gonzales, meanwhile, has to lead the league in unearned runs allowed, as this was his second start out of three outings where he gave up 6 runs/2 earned runs. Obviously, you can’t say he was on fire in this one, but giving up 4 unearned runs in the fifth will make anyone’s performance look mediocre.

Yet, the bullpen – until Steckenrider in the ninth – kept the game right there at 6-5! God bless ’em, the D-Squad pulled through. Swanson pitched 1.1 scoreless, Festa and Sheffield both pitched clean innings. It was all right there for us.

I’m not going to get into the umpiring in this one, though I hear this is the same crew we had in Minnesota. And this guy behind the plate is particularly inept at his job. He deserves to be fired. Or, at least, demoted to the minor leagues where he can’t do anymore damage with his nebulous strike zone.

It’s a shame, because this series had some delightful baseball on the Mariners front. After an off-day on Monday, Robbie Ray got the start on Tuesday and pitched 6 innings of 2-run ball. Suarez hit a 3-run bomb on an impressive outside breaking ball. Kelenic hit a rocket of a solo homer off the foul pole. And Toro had a crucial late-game 2-run bomb to put this one away, 6-2.

Wednesday’s game was even more delightful, with Logan Gilbert pitching into the seventh inning, holding them scoreless. Misiewicz and Munoz kept the shutout alive until the ninth, when Diego Castillo gave up a couple of meaningless runs. But, by then, we had a 4-run lead, ultimately winning 4-2.

We were also 2/12 with runners in scoring position in this one, which should’ve been something of a tip-off. Thankfully, we were able to put those to good use in the fifth, as we manufactured just enough.

Hitting with runners in scoring position always seems to be a bugaboo early in seasons. The Mariners have been heavily reliant upon timely hitting, usually because overall our hitting is so poor. So, we NEED to string hits together at opportune times if we’re going to win ballgames. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a season-long nightmare, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to watch this kind of flailing for six months.

The Mariners Did A Number On The Astros

My friends and I kept up on our almost-every-year tradition of going to Opening Day and, as expected, there were some strikes and gutters (as there is with pretty much anything). The game was a full-blown sellout, which meant that by the time I looked into buying tickets, I couldn’t even bother with Ticketmaster. That comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll save for another time. Long story short, four tickets in the 300-level ended up coming to $52 apiece, including fees and whatnot.

They weren’t the best seats in the world, nor the worst. The four of us had our own row, which is nice. No getting up and down for restless patrons needing to pee or buy food every other inning. But, we were right on the stairwell going into the upper 300-section, in clear view of the 300-level walkway, which meant occasionally people were standing in our way. Thankfully, we had a VERY good usher in our section – literally the only time I’ve ever said that at a Mariners game – who was not only on top of getting people out of our sightlines, but was very chill about our (mostly) clean jeers of certain Astros players.

With it being a sellout, that comes with the usual sellout issues. Namely: people. A lot of them. The Mariners have done a lot to try to speed up the concessions process. They have refillable sodas now where the people can just do it themselves. They have cashless concessions, so we’re not dealing with old people fumbling for quarters. But, I don’t know what to tell you. The walkways were constantly jammed pretty much from the first inning onward. We got there right before first pitch and were able to get food and drink okay. But, once the game got going, it was a nightmare to ever leave your seats. I don’t know if they were having technical issues, or if that’s just the way it is whenever you have anything approaching a sellout crowd, but if the Mariners end up being really good, this could be the norm more often than not, and they probably need to figure something out on those occasions.

One solution should be: have more vendors walking around. Where are all the guys with tubs hanging around their necks, hollering about beer and peanuts and whatnot? The lower sections might’ve had a couple, but the 300’s got the shaft, and that feels like a mistake. We needed beer, we needed hot dogs, and we needed popcorn but would’ve gladly settled for peanuts if it meant not having to miss 1-2 innings of action just to go out and get it. By the way, I don’t even know if they have hot dog vendors walking around anymore, but dammit, they need to come back, because there’s nothing like a plain ballpark hotdog!

I will say that getting INTO the stadium was pretty painless, so that was nice. I had expected a lot more trouble with that part of it, and was pleasantly surprised.

The game itself was fantastic! Five stars, no notes!

As you can imagine, I hate the cheating Astros. I hated them before it was cool to hate them. I even hated them before they were cheaters! They’ve never had any business being in the A.L. West and it’s ridiculous we’ve had to endure them for as long as we have. So, anytime you can beat their fucking asses by double-digit runs, you have to relish the experience.

It didn’t hurt that we had the over 8.5 combined runs, as well as the Mariners to win the game outright. If only Kelenic’s fly ball to right in the bottom of the fifth had another 10 feet or so on it, we would’ve REALLY made a killing (but that’s neither here nor there).

Marco Gonzales was remarkably efficient in this one, going 7 innings, giving up just the 1 run on 4 hits (no walks), with 6 strikeouts, all on 93 pitches. That was a far cry from his first start of the season, but I’m willing to call that one an outlier for the way our error derailed things. It was great to see Marco bounce back, and I hope this portends to better things to come this year over last.

Offensively, the M’s did everything to make me eat my words about how bad they looked up until that point. Adam Frazier had 4 hits (including a double and a triple), 2 runs, and 4 RBI. Suarez had a 2-run bomb and 3 RBI. Winker and Haniger both had 2 hits. Ty France had 2 RBI, Tom Murphy had 3 runs scored, J.P. Crawford scored 2 runs, and Kelenic and J-Rod both had positive contributions. Up and down the lineup, everyone chipped in!

It just felt like a celebration from the very first inning, and it was great to see the likes of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman get the everloving shit booed out of them. My friends and I were on it all the way through, and like to believe we had an effect. Fuck those guys, and everyone else on those cheating Astros teams. The fact that Altuve couldn’t even finish the game (I like to believe he asked to be taken out because he couldn’t handle it) was the cherry on top.

Of course, nothing can ever be perfect. Justin Verlander started on Saturday and went 8 shutout innings, en route to a 4-0 Astros victory. I missed this one, but I wouldn’t say I was “missing” it, Bob. Flexen had a so-so Quality Start (6 innings, 3 runs), but we were never going to win this one regardless. We had 3 hits on the day, two by France. So, you know.

But, we bounced right back with a 7-2 victory on Sunday! Matt Brash got his first win, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in the sixth inning on a 2-run homer). He was … effectively wild in this one, walking 6, but he only gave up the two hits (both in that sixth inning). It was never going to be a true No Hitter for Brash, given the limitations on his pitch count this season, but it was great to see him handle some adversity when he didn’t totally have command of his stuff. It gave the M’s enough time to stake him to a big lead.

We scored 1 in the first on a Suarez double, then rallied for 5 more in the fourth, highlighted by a France 3-run homer. Frazier and Kelenic both had two hits apiece, and Torrens, Toro, and J-Rod all chipped in. Take that, Fun Differential! We’re +4 in run differential on the year!

Paul Sewald closed out the sixth inning without any more damage, and the rest of the bullpen was lights out from there. This time, it went Steckenrider, Munoz, and Castillo over the final three frames. Interesting to see Munoz already in that mix, but his stuff is so nasty, you can see why.

We get our first off-day today, followed by a home set against the Rangers. Now, we’re in it! Baseball season! Catch the excitement!

The Same Ol’ Mariners Are Back! Also, The Same Ol’ Mariners Never Left

It’s been so, so, so so so so so so SO long since the Mariners have been relevant. Even when they’ve been in quote/unquote Contention over the last two decades, there were so many clear flaws that you knew they were ultimately going to fall short, even if – at times – you deluded yourself into believing in miracles.

The fact of the matter is: the 1995 Mariners used up a lifetime’s worth of miracles. There are no miracles left.

Which is okay, we don’t need miracles. We need a good fucking baseball team. THAT’S what’s going to put us over the top one day. Is this the start of being that good fucking baseball team? Well, we’ll find out. I’m surprisingly bullish on this group of youngsters, and the job Jerry Dipoto is doing finding viable veteran talent to put around them. But, I’ve been foolish bullish before, and I’ve obviously been disappointed.

Every year, we agree to tie the knot with these Mariners, and every year that B-word leaves us at the altar!

There’s not a lot left to do with the rebuild at this point. We’re in the ascending phase, where the best youngsters are either on the cusp of reaching the Big Leagues, or are already there and gaining valuable experience. The next step is to further weed out who deserves to stay here, and who can be dealt for other veterans/prospects to keep this train chugging along. The next step – on a parallel track – also includes breaking the playoff drought. Using the guys we have now and actually making the post-season for the first time since 2001.

So, that’s the question before us. That’s all that matters really. We’ll find out, in due time, who deserves to stay and who deserves to go. I have my opinions on the matter, which I’ll get to. But, the real question is: will the 2022 Mariners make the playoffs?

We have a week’s worth of games to examine – and a 3-4 record at our disposal – yet I don’t feel like have a very confident take on the matter.

I don’t think the Mariners are as bad as they’ve looked through seven games, particularly when it comes to their offense. But, I also don’t think the Mariners will be able to scrounge up the same record in 1-run games as they had in 2021. Ultimately, I don’t think this is a team that can win 90+ games. Therefore, I don’t believe this team will make the playoffs.

Who I Like

I like J.P. Crawford. He was just signed to a 5-year extension for $51 million. I think that’s a tremendous deal. The guy’s a leader, the guy plays fabulous defense, the guy can handle himself with a bat, and he seems to always be in the mix whenever we have a scoring rally. Granted, his power is minimal, but everything else is good enough to make the overall package a quality value.

I like Ty France. But, we already knew that. Great bat, good power, better-than-expected defense at first base. Just a solid dude.

I like Mitch Haniger. This might be his last year here, which would be a shame, because he has power, he has great defense, and he’s another terrific leader. Oftentimes, he’s the only guy keeping this offense afloat; we need more players like Haniger, not less.

I like Jesse Winker. Though, part of me feels like I have no choice in the matter. He’s a newcomer; I don’t know him from Adam. But, he has a proven track record behind him, and I have to assume he’ll start hitting in bunches. We still don’t know if he has anything against left-handed pitching. And, we’re pretty sure his defense is a deficit. But, assuming the offense comes around, I don’t think anyone will care.

I like Julio Rodriguez. But, talk to me in a year. I will say that his speed should ensure he doesn’t have any 0 for 39’s on his ledger. Speed is the great slump buster in baseball. Other than that, I have a general belief that someone among our young crop of highly-rated prospects will pan out; my guess is it’s J-Rod.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Jarred Kelenic. We had most of a year with him last year, we had the strong finish to the season in September, now we need to see him parlay that into a vast improvement over the course of 2022. If he’s destined to be an All Star – not just a one-time All Star on a shit team, but a regular fixture in the midsummer classic – then we can’t be enduring multiple years of him being a below-replacement player. There are rookies and young guys far and wide who come up and make an immediate impact. And then there’s Kelenic, who’s taking the other path to superstardom. If his 2022 is a carbon copy of 2021, then I think that’s a sign he’s Just A Guy, and will always be kind of a mediocre player (who gets more chances than he probably deserves, thanks to his original highly-rated prospect status).

I’m unsure about Adam Frazier. I need him to be the guy we expected. I need the high batting average and high on-base percentage. He’s never going to be a power bat, and I’m resigned to that. But, he can’t be Chone Figgins.

I’m unsure about Luis Torrens. I’m also, in general, unsure about the whole 3 Catchers thing; that can’t be practical, right? Part of me believes we’re only including Torrens in this rotation as a means to bolster his trade value. His bat plays at this level, but I’m not sure his defense is what you want. Then again, he’s my highest-rated catcher on the team at this point, so maybe he should be getting MORE time.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Cal Raleigh. I just think he stinks and I’m never going to believe he’ll be anything above a Mendoza Line hitter. This is more of an indictment on the Mariners and their ability to develop catchers than anything else. If Raleigh was drafted by the Yankees or Red Sox, I’m sure he’d be a perennial All Star. And, I’m sure when he’s eventually traded to the Rays, he’ll start to figure things out. But, I believe he’ll be nothing but a black hole in our lineup as long as he’s in Seattle.

I don’t like Eugenio Suarez. But, to be fair, I never did. He was a throw-in and a salary dump in the Winker trade. I think we’re stuck with him, and I think he MIGHT approach 30 homers. But, a right-handed power bat in T-Mobile Park isn’t super great, especially when he brings little else to the table. Defense should be a struggle, his average will definitely be abysmal; it’s going to be a nightmare.

I don’t like Tom Murphy or Dylan Moore. I just think these guys are fringe Major Leaguers.

I don’t like Abraham Toro. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of power, and if the average isn’t there, then I don’t know what he does for you.

So, we’ve gone through the everyday players, and it’s a pretty muddy scene! Looks like we’ll need our pitching to step up, but do we have enough?

Who I Like

I like Matt Brash. What a fun pitcher! Hard thrower, nasty off-speed stuff; this guy looks like a star in the making! Of course, that almost certainly means he’ll be majorly injured at some point. I’ll spend every start he makes cringing at every wince, until we find out he needs to go on the IL for arm or shoulder surgery.

I like Logan Gilbert. It’s not surprising I like the young guys, because the M’s have put a lot of effort into this area with their drafting and development. Gilbert was solid as a rookie last year, and already looks like he’s ready to parlay that into steadier improved play. He might never be an ace, but he could be a rock solid #2 starter for many years to come.

I like Robbie Ray. I don’t know if he’ll win any more Cy Young awards, but he’s the Ace we’ve desperately needed since King Felix started to decline. Right out of the gate, he’s pitching into the 7th inning. I’m taking that White Sox game as the outlier that it is; he’ll be a steadying force for our rotation all year.

I like Drew Steckenrider and Paul Sewald. I think they’ve got what it takes to lock down the later innings and those high leverage situations.

I like Chris Flexen. He’s a bulldog. He’ll give us more Quality Starts than not. That’s all I’m looking for out of a 3rd/4th starter.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Marco Gonzales. Ultimately, he is who we thought he was, which means he’ll be fine. Someone around a 4-ERA type of pitcher. But, he’s going to look REALLY BAD some starts, before he settles into a groove again. It’s better that he’s only being asked to be a 3rd/4th starter – rather than its Ace – because even though he also has that bulldog mentality, he just doesn’t have the arm talent to lead a rotation.

I’m unsure about Diego Castillo. Overall, I like his stuff, but he’s also going to have some meltdown performances, and a lot of times where he has to do a highwire act to get out of a self-imposed jam.

I’m unsure about Andres Munoz. I want to believe – because throwing 103 mph is pretty fucking phenomenal – but I also know he’s young and could be wild. These are Major League hitters, and they can still hit 103 if the ball catches too much of the plate. I also worry about his arm getting blown out. So, there’s a lot of concern there. But, damn, that arsenal is outstanding!

I’m unsure about Sergio Romo. Already, he’s on the IL, having ramped himself up too quickly after signing so late into Spring Training. Clearly, he’s nearing the end of his terrific Major League career. And, towards the end of 2021, he struggled quite a bit. Does he have any magic left in that old silk hat he found? We’ll see.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Anthony Misiewicz. I’ve written about him a lot. The guy is 50/50. Half the time he’ll be fine and we won’t have to think about him, but half the time he’ll suck. He’s our best lefty out of the bullpen, and that’s a real problem.

I don’t like Matt Festa, Yohan Ramirez, or Erik Swanson. All interchangable, hard-throwing righties. They’re all part of the D-Squad bullpen (including whoever we have in Tacoma).

I don’t like Justus Sheffield. Yep, he made the team, and yep, he’s our main long reliever and alternate lefty reliever. He’s washed.

Overall, I dunno, I just don’t believe in the 2022 Mariners. I think we’re a year away. I hope it’s only a year. God help us if we go into 2024 on the same playoff drought.

I’m guessing 84 wins for this team. It’s going to be hard and frustrating to watch, and we’ll probably head into next year with even MORE questions than we had heading into this year. But, I hope I’m wrong.

Given our history with the Mariners, though, if you bet on them to miss the playoffs, you’d be correct the vast majority of the time. So, that’s a pretty sturdy limb I’m walking out on. Really, it’s no limb at all; it’s just the flat ground outside my house.

“Mariners disappoint yet again, news at 11.”

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.

The Mariners Bought Out The Arbitration Years Of Andrés Muñoz

The Mariners have done nothing but make unexpected moves this offseason, starting with the deal for Adam Frazier, and the signing of Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. I would put this deal with Muñoz in the same camp.

Andrés Muñoz is yet another guy we got in the Austin Nola deal with the Padres. It’s so completely unbelievable how well off we made out on that trade, I almost never want to talk about it again! Ty France alone would’ve made it a win for our side. But, Luis Torrens has been a consistent contributor, Taylor Trammell looks like he’ll be a valuable trade piece at some point, and now Muñoz is apparently slotted to be a major back-end of the bullpen piece for years to come.

It’s 4 years, $7.5 million, not a shockingly-high figure. This Lookout Landing piece gives a lot of great information as to why this could be a good deal for the Mariners; in essence, if he pitches to the plus-side of his potential, we’ll have a bargain on our hands after two years (there are also three option years beyond the regular contract years, that will likely be higher in salary, but if he’s still here for those years, then he’s almost certainly out-pitched expectations to an outstanding degree; I don’t expect those option years will be picked up).

Of course, if he pitches to the plus-side of his potential, we’ll have a bargain regardless, because we’re talking about less than $2 million a year for a guy who can touch 100 mph on his fastball. That will be a nice little addition to what projects to be an already-solid bullpen.

The surprising thing about this move is that the Mariners didn’t have to do this. They really only do this for players they believe in (first round draft pick Evan White comes to mind, though there might be others I’m forgetting; I know they tried with Jarred Kelenic), so it would stand to reason they believe in Muñoz. Because bullpen arms in their pre-arbitration years don’t cost a lot. Even during those arbitration years – where they’re getting raises prior to every season – it’s not like they’re breaking the bank for an MLB team. This isn’t a move they needed to make to try to save some future dollars; it might even be foolish when you consider what injury risks pitchers are, especially pitchers who throw in the triple digits.

I mean, hell, Muñoz himself is coming off of Tommy John surgery! He missed all of 2020 and almost all of 2021 (returning for our very last game, to pitch 0.2 innings). They must REALLY believe in this guy if they’re willing to get ahead of this thing.

Either that, or it’s the kind of big balls move a GM makes when he has all the power over personnel decisions. Usually, when it comes to the Mariners, this is the kind of move that backfires horribly, and is one of a long list of moves we look back on and say, “See, this guy had no idea what he was doing!”

But, if things work out, and the Mariners win it all, then this is the kind of move we might look back on and say, “See, this guy is a genius!”

I guess, more than anything, I don’t mind it. It’s only $7.5 million. For the kind of stuff this kid has, it’s worth a shot. It’s worth it even if he’s only healthy for two of those years, as long as he produces incredible results in that time. So, why not? Let’s make this bullpen a dominant force for years to come! Clearly, as was the case in 2021, a dominant bullpen can take you a long way.

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!