For the nineteenth consecutive year, the Seattle Mariners have missed the playoffs. There are people attending Bellevue College that weren’t alive the last time they were in the playoffs back in 2001. Still, this year should not have disappointed anybody. In fact, fans should come away from this season optimistic.
The Mariners finished 27-33 in the shortened season, missing playoffs by two games. This is far better than they were hoping to be, and it means a lot going forward. The young players showed up and proved that they could compete, which can only be a positive.
Starting with the elephant in the room, Kyle Lewis made his mark on the MLB this year. The young outfielder will likely come away with rookie of the year honors after hitting .262 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. He drew 34 walks which led the team and was good for seventh best in the American League. His outfield companions of Sam Haggerty and Jose Marmolejos were all pleasant surprises as well, hovering around average numbers but with plenty of upside.
The infield didn’t look half bad either. Kyle Seager had a major resurgence at third base, leading the team with 40 RBIs. He was also one of eight players in the AL to play all 60 games. J.P. Crawford started off slow but ended strong, boasting a .255 batting average by the end of the season. His bat combined with his defense makes him probably the best Mariner shortstop in recent memory. Trade acquisition Ty France was supposed to be a corner infielder but played most of his games covering the weak spot at second base and was fantastic.
The same goes for rookie first baseman Evan White, who might have struggled to raise his batting average, but was beyond promising. His exit velocity was consistently excellent which means he should be able to break out in the next year or two. His defense is another beast entirely, potentially earning him a gold glove in his position for the year. Of course, this squad rounds out with utility man Dylan Moore, who was the biggest surprise of them all. His bat broke out in a big way, leading him to a team-best .855 OPS and 139 OPS+. His 12 stolen bases was also the best on the squad.
Luis Torrens had big shoes to fill behind the plate after Austin Nola was dealt away, and he was solid. He hit .254 over 18 games with a perfect fielding percentage. Joseph Odom and Joe Hudson were less-than-stellar backups, but the long-term plan would ideally be to rally behind Tom Murphy, who missed the season with a broken foot.
The pitching staff had its fair share of breakouts as well. Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn both had fantastic rookie seasons, starting with some rough games and then getting progressively better as the season went on. The numbers might show them as only slightly above average but that doesn’t tell the true story. Meanwhile, Marco Gonzales emerged as a true ace for the squad. I could point to any stat, but I’ll choose one. He threw seven walks in 11 starts. His walks-per-nine was best in the league, with Zack Greinke and his pedestrian nine walks in second.
The bullpen was hit-or-miss, as it usually is. It’s hard to get a grip on how good most of them were, but I’m here to try. Taylor Guilbeau and Carl Edwards Jr. led the charge from a numbers’ standpoint despite limited action, but it wouldn’t be surprising for them to stick around. Guilbeau had a solid 2019 season and was supposed to emerge as the go-to closer this time around. Edwards was a World Series champion with Chicago in 2016. Nick Margevicius made a couple appearances as an emergency starter and seemed acceptable at worst. Anthony Misiewicz and Aaron Fletcher enjoyed solid rookie seasons that could give them more opportunities going forward. Yohan Ramirez might be the biggest find. The rookie out of the Dominican Republic throws hard and will be a threat if he can work on his control. Aroldis Chapman made a name as a premier closer in baseball for the Yankees and has a similar profile pitch-wise. Ramirez has potential.
This team is young and fun to watch, and it only gets better. Waiting in the minor leagues are outfielders Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez and Taylor Trammell, and all are projected to be big names in baseball. A good comparison was that Lewis was thought to be lesser than Kelenic and Rodriguez, and he’s in line for rookie of the year. Cal Raleigh is a young catcher that might be ready to make a splash if Jerry Dipoto wants to use Tom Murphy as trade fodder. Outfielder Jake Fraley and infielder Donovan Walton have seen limited exposure in the MLB and will look to mature into reliable players. Meanwhile, the pitching rotation should expect Logan Gilbert relatively soon, eventually followed by 2020 first-rounder Emerson Hancock to bolster their ranks. It’s been a long time since it felt this good to be a Mariner fan, and we might be looking at our next dynasty.