With opening day nearly upon us, let’s go over some bold Seattle Mariners predictions that may not end up being so bold by the end of the season.
New year, new lineup, new rookies, new hope, new me. While being a Mariners fan seems to end in more heartache than we’d like to admit, this year has the vibe of a year that’s going to go down in Mariners history. So without further ado, let’s get into those predictions.
Julio Rodriguez goes for 35/25 and finishes top-5 in MVP voting
Everyone is so focused on rookie of the year when it comes to Julio. I think the dreams should be bigger. With his track record of minor league and Olympic success, coupled with the highlight reel plays and absurd stats he’s put up this spring training, the sky is literally the limit for JRod.
While the power has always been a part of his game, the speed he has flashed this spring with the three stolen bases as well as his incredible inside-the-park home run point to a stat line filled with extra base hits and stolen bases galore.
Through 34 spring at bats, JRod conquered opposing pitching with a .412 batting average, absurd .487 OBP, 4 doubles, 3 homeruns and 3 stolen bases. Sit back, enjoy the show and let every bit of the hype flow through you. This is the year of the Julio.
Jarred Kelenic hits .290 with 28 homeruns
Despite his ugly start to his first major league season last year, Kelenic seemed to really find his rhythm after being sent back down to the Tacoma Rainiers. After hitting an impressive .320 with 9 homeruns, 28 RBI and 6 stolen bases in only 30 games, Kelenic came back to the Mariners and ended the season on a really strong note.
In the last 29 games of the year, Kelenic hit a much improved .248 with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 7 homeruns, 20 RBI and 3 stolen bases. Not otherworldly by any means, but with Kelenic’s immense potential (he finished the year with 23 homeruns and 12 stolen bases in only 123 games) he could easily surprass those numbers with the right focus.
While the homeruns may not be that bold, the batting average is gonna take some serious work. He did show improvement this spring though, hitting .265 and ending with a home run in each of the final three games. Trust the process and just focus on that sweet, sweet hype train Kelenic has rolling down the tracks.
Logan Gilbert sub 3.5 ERA and 75 strikeouts through first 10 starts
Much of the boldness of this one depends on Gilbert’s ability to master that newly improved slider. While he’s always had a plus slider, the work he did during the lockout with Jacob Degrom to tweak his grip and add velocity to it is the kind of move a potential Cy Young winner makes.
The slider last year sat around 83 MPH but this offseason he’s gotten it up to 89 MPH. He did rely heavily on his fastball which was unusually hittable last year (.254 BAA, 50% hard contact against, 61.5% usage rate) but his dedication to using the secondary pitches this year to help set up that fastball will be exactly what he needs. When you have a plus slider (.211 BAA against, 35 inch vertical drop) that you’re only using 23.9% of the time and you now throw 90 MPH and a 75 MPH curveball that drops an average of 57.3 INCHES, it’s imperative that those see more usage.
An elite fastball is only elite if you’re able to set it up with your other stuff. Gilbert is going to start the year on a warpath from the mound the AL West isn’t ready for.
Eugenio Suarez ends the year with 43 HR and a 3 WAR
Believe it or not, Suarez was actually incredibly productive in Cincinnati these last two seasons despite his batting average saying otherwise. Positive WAR in both according to Fangraphs (1.0 in 2020, 0.6 in 2021) and a solid WRC+ every season (except last years 85, pretend it’s doesn’t exist) point to his “struggles” actually being more of an anomaly than a regression.
A big part of Suarez’s lack of success in the batting average department is in part due to the fact he’s been getting BABIP’d to all hell. Don’t get me wrong, if you look up the definition of “free swinger” in the dictionary you’d see Suarez and his two-tone hair. The thing is, though, Eugenio still makes excellent contact with the ball, as crazy as that sounds.
Despite the abysmal .224 BABIP in 2021, Suarez still made medium contact 49.6% of the time and hard contact a respectable 34.8% of the time coupled with a solid 89.1 MPH exit velocity. Not only that, among qualified hitters last year his 15% barrel rate tied with the likes of Pete Alonso and Rafael Devers for 17th in all of baseball. The man just has an affinity for keeping the defense on their toes while he hits laser beams at them.
His hitting profile fits the mold of someone who would benefit well from a change of scenery and new home ballpark. Not only that, the man hits DINGERS. Since 2018, nobody has hit more of them than Suarez’s 129. Much like Jodeci, Suarez has the type of power the middle of the Mariners lineup has been Feenin’ for .
The 2022 Seattle Mariners will win the Division
Although they haven’t been to the playoffs in 21 years, this may be the first year in who knows how long that the “Mariners will make the playoffs” line actually isn’t much of a bold take.
So why not just shoot for the division title instead?
The roster the Mariners have assembled is one that is undeniably booming with talent. From the clutch hitting of Mitch Haniger, to stoic leadership of veteran Marco Gonzalez, to the immense potential of rookies Julio Rodriguez and Matt Brash. This team has an over abundance of guys capable of finding more than just success at the major league level. To even put a cherry on top, they added Jesse Winker who’s 148 WRC+ tied him for 6th in all of baseball with Aaron Judge AND they added reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. While these may be points that have been made over and over and over recently, there’s some under the radar reasons why they’ll succeed as well.
First of all, Ken Giles will be back this year. Often forgotten because he missed the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery (and the fact that he’s gonna miss the first couple of weeks with a tendon issue in his finger), Giles becomes another dynamic power right hander in the bullpen Seattle desperately needed.
Secondly is Adam Frazier. An all-star in 2021, Frazier is seemingly penciled in as the Mariners opening day lead off guy. He showed exactly why he should be this spring hitting .367 across his 30 ABs.
Lastly, while the division has been owned by the Houston Astro’s as of late, they come into 2022 being a team that lost a big piece in Carlos Correa. They also lost Kendall Graveman, Zack Greinke, Yimi Garcia and Marwin Gonzalez. The only real move they made this off-season was resigning a 37 year old Justin Verlander.
The biggest threat to the Mariners would be the Angels with newly acquired Noah Syndegaard joining the fun and a healthy Mike Trout. If the injury bug were to bite them again, though, expect the Mariners to make a serious run at that division crown.