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Go Mariners!

I don’t remember the last time the Seattle Mariners were in the playoffs. No, really, that’s not a joke! It was somewhere between 9/11 and my mom’s final cancer treatment, when we went out for lunch to celebrate a cancer that was gone and remains vacant some 21 years later. Those are two pretty miserable bookends to place the M’s last playoff appearance between. But 5th grade is the only year that hides in mind’s depths from an otherwise fondly remembered childhood.

Hops close

Baseball was my first love. I grew up on the fields in Moxee, Washington surrounded by hop fields, pitching to my grade school best friend Kory, or my dad if Kory wasn’t around. If I wasn’t on the diamond then I was in the backyard playing catch. And if I wasn’t in the backyard then I was doing something else sports related (baseball games with Hot Wheel Cars, drawing pictures of Ken Griffey Jr., watching Angels in the Outfield, etc.)

Naturally, I loved the Seattle Mariners. Griffey, Edgar and Randy. Towards the end of summer my parents would let my siblings and I rent a Nintendo 64 from the local video store for a week and I’d check out Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest, playing until my eyes turned red or until my mom told me to go outside for a bit.

Drives to baseball practices and games were serenaded by Dave Niehaus on the radio. You could tell within 5 seconds of turning on the radio if the Mariners were winning or losing just based on Dave’s tone. That’s not to say he was a moody son of a gun, you couldn’t be moody if you were the voice of the Seattle Mariners. He was just that good at his job. I know most Mariners fans could tell similar stories.

Eventually my love of playing baseball and the throbbing pain in my left arm and shoulder gave way to playing music with my friends, family trips and Husky games that I didn’t want to possibly miss and maybe a girl or two. Just maybe. But the Mariners were there and they were bad.

I look at life as a constant series of culminations. Chain reactions caused by some combination of our own free will, God, fate, chance, or whatever else you believe, make up whatever is going to happen next. Honestly, that way of looking at things can be a bit exhausting and overwhelming, if not melodramatic. But it puts things in perspective and makes me realize how many little miracles happen around me every day.

Some things supersede the culminations though. The very best of friendships do because they are people I count on to be there no matter what I’ve done. If you’re one of the lucky ones, family does. And weirdly enough, sports fandom does. The Mariners were just there through their ineptitude and my birthdays. I’m not going to walk out on them and they (I fully realize they probably don’t care about me) will remain my hometown team until Rainier explodes, baseball doesn’t exist or they’re moved out of Seattle. Let’s not think about those outcomes, especially the last one.

Grade school turned into middle school turned into high school turned into college turned into adulthood. My home switched from Moxee to Kirkland to Snoqualmie to Maple Valley and now Anaheim. Yes, I was there for the brawl and it was glorious. But the Mariners were there from April to September. Never October but at least April to September. I could count on that and didn’t need life to break just right to have it.

After I stopped playing the game, my love for the team only grew. I’d stay up at night to read Jeff Sullivan’s recaps on Lookout Landing. I’d wait to form my full thoughts on M’s transactions until reading the no frills analysis of Dave Cameron at USS Mariner. Later, Seattle Sports Insider would be a nightly stop on my reading tour. (RIP Jeff aka Dr Detecto, I hope you’re watching now.) For having such a crummy team, the M’s had a wonderful online community that taught me to think about baseball differently. I read every single post that they put out. I can’t remember what led to that, most likely my brother Matthew directing me to those sites in my high school days. Last week, when the Mariners clenched I saw Cameron and Sullivan have a brief exchange on Twitter and couldn’t help but smile.

Being a few hours away from Seattle as a kid, going to games was a treat. My mom took me and some friends over for Felix’s first ever home start about 24 hours after getting home from a different trip. My dad got me out of school early one day to go watch a rookie Michael Pineda pitch against a nearly retired Randy Johnson. My brother and sister-in-law always would have me over for a weekend (or more!) in the summer and we’d get to go to a game. It would have been easier for all of them to say no but they didn’t. It’s all of them and so many of my friends and other family members who have gone to countless games with me basically whenever I’ve asked.

While I wouldn’t walk out on the Mariners, they didn’t make it easy. Thankfully, there were players and moments that helped bridge the gap. Kyle Seager telling Jerad Weaver he was ready. Adrian Beltre being a delightful human and underrated during his time in Seattle. Leonys Martin hitting the most unlikely walk-off homer on a cool Seattle spring night. James Paxton fulfilling his prospective promise. Boomstick, baby! Ichiro being the coolest person to ever play baseball. Of course, there was Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims being goofy and Mike Blowers playing off of all of them. And Felix. Those were enough to keep us entertained through the Figgins, Vidro, Bavasi, insert backup catcher or left fielders name, and Smoak eras.

As I was scrolling through Mariners related Tweets and stories today, it all hit me. I was sitting at my usual lunch spot on Thursdays, Knott’s Berry Farm (that’s a different story for a different day), and I became fairly emotional. Last Friday night, after Big Dumper sent the ball into orbit and punched the 2022 Seattle Mariners playoff ticket I celebrated with my family and Husky fans inside of the Rose Bowl during halftime of the Husky game. It was strangely euphoric and surreal. But now it finally set in.

via Jennifer Buchanan

The drought lasted more than two thirds of my life, I don’t know what this is supposed to feel like. I genuinely don’t remember! I’ll keep waiting for age to harden me but instead I think of all of these people that I’ve mentioned.

I hope Jeff Sullivan is able to sneak away from his job with the Tampa Bay Rays to catch an inning or two. I hope my family and friends all find a few minutes to watch and think back on a fond memory we’ve had at Safeco/T-Mobile. Hopefully, Kyle Seager is watching with his kids, cheering on his former teammates and cursing Jerry Dipoto the whole time. Ichiro’s probably watching from the moon or something weird like that. Dave’s calling the game and has all of Heaven captive, hanging with his every word. And, God, I wish Felix was up on the hill if even for just a pitch.

Life culminates in these moments we don’t forget, good or bad. Those last until the next series of events comes together and breaks the levy. Sports franchises don’t usually operate that way, at least the good ones don’t. Even the bad ones are always just there, annoying and frustrating, but there.

But October 7th feels like a culmination of 21 years. However you got here, take a minute and soak it in. Send that old friend you used to go to games with a text. Heck, tweet at a former player (preferably a good one) and tell them thanks. Then, grab some peanuts or a hot dog, maybe a beer or a fresh squeezed lemonade like my dad gets at the game and settle in. We’ve earned it. Go Mariners!


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MLB Draft Time; aka Mariners Get More Players Who Won’t Play This Year

The Major League Baseball draft starts tomorrow. This is not usually news that excites many people, but if you haven’t noticed, there are no sports right now! So if you’re looking for something that at least resembles following baseball, check it out.

Like everything else right now, this draft is going to be weird. The MLB draft is a little strange no matter what, since, in no particular order, fans don’t know the draftees, they take 40 players, most of them won’t make the big leagues, and the ones that do won’t be there until 2-6 years later. This year the draft has been cut to five rounds by the owners, which is unfortunate for nearly everyone else involved. I’m not going to really get into all of that. Go read Baseball America or Fangraphs or something if you want opinions or details. There’s enough else to think about, so I’m going to pretend this draft is otherwise normal, that baseball isn’t on the edge of not having a season, and that we’re not in the midst of the craziest year in decades.

I’m going to break this into some categories, because it’s easier to write and easier for you to read. Also, I haven’t written one of these in a long time and I’m out of practice!

Where do the Mariners stand in all of this?

After their horrendous 2019 season, the Mariners pick sixth overall, their highest pick in quite some time. It’s a shame to lose 35 rounds of picking sixth in each round, but such is life. The sort-of silver lining is that they’ll likely either roll that pick slot over to 2021 if no season happens, or they’ll probably have an even higher pick if they play, because they will be very bad this year. 2021 could be a ridiculously deep draft class, with many players who would have been picked in rounds 6-40 returning to college. Also, the Astros have no first round pick this year because they’re cheaters, so that’s nice.

Anyway, this is purported to be a good class, deep in pitching especially. The Mariners will have a great shot at getting an impact player at #6, and with the way the draft slotting system works, they should have good money to find a high upside talent in the second or third round, if they so choose. Real quick, each pick has a dollar value assigned to it, and those values combined make up the team’s draft pool. They can spread the money around their picks however they want, so long as they sign the pick. If they don’t sign someone, that pick’s slot value disappears from the pool. Sometimes a team will draft a guy they know they can sign for cheap, so they can devote most of that pick’s slot value to another guy who wants more money to sign.

The Mariners have just over $10,000,000 for six picks, with a little wiggle room if they want to pay taxes. If they go too far over that though, they’ll lose picks next year. They’ll pick sixth in each round, with a bonus pick after the second round they received for Omar Narvaez.

How has the lack of baseball this year affected the draft?

The answer to this remains to be seen. The main issue is that amateurs had next to no season, if they played at all. It makes scouting more of a guessing game. Teams are mostly going by last season, and whatever they can glean from a few games this year and interviews over the computer. The MLB draft is a mystery in a regular year, so who knows what this draft will look like down the road. I don’t envy the scouts who’ve had to prepare for this, but it’s impossible to say yet how the actual draft picks will turn out.

On the professional side, the biggest effect is the shortening of the draft. Owners are worried about money, for good reason, although some are probably also being cheap. With likely no minor league season at all, it kind of makes sense, but things could look very strange on the player development front in a season or two. I should also note that teams can sign undrafted players, with a bonus limit of $20,000, which is nothing. It’s a shame for the players and will put stress on colleges who are going to be short on scholarships, not to mention being short on money to pay for the scholarships. It’s all a mess.

There’s also talk that some teams won’t be able/willing to spend their full bonus pools and will draft accordingly. That would have a huge effect on the draft and be great for teams that can spend. No one really knows if this will actually be an issue though.

Enough of that. Who are the Mariners going to draft?

This is a draft generally regarded as having six standouts at the top, which is nice since the M’s have the sixth pick. That being said, I have no idea what the Mariners will do. They’ve leaned heavily toward college pitching the last couple of years, and there’s a deep crop of it in this class. They’ve also said this spring that they’re looking for up the middle impact players, so who knows what they’ll do. I’ll get into individual players more below.

Teams don’t really draft for need in baseball, but these are the areas I see the M’s needing help in the future, loosely in order:

Infield: The M’s have basically one non-1B infield prospect (18 year old Noelvi Marte), and a few guys who could possibly develop into something. They badly need some impact guys, especially at shortstop. A third baseman would be nice as well.

Top of the Rotation Upside: Obviously every team needs this, and it’s easier said than done. The team has really restocked their rotation depth, but lacks a guy with true ace potential. Logan Gilbert looks like the best bet, but most forecast him as a good #2 type.

Catching Depth: I’m not saying they need to look for a starting catcher this year, but outside of Cal Raleigh, there’s very little catching in the system with big league potential.

So Who Are They Going To Draft?

As I said, there are six guys considered to be the top tier, but really there are three that stand out from that group. 1B Spencer Torkelson is nearly a lock to go first, and 3B/OF Austin Martin and LHP Asa Lacy should follow in that order. I think there’s a tiny chance Martin could drop, but we’ll plan on those three being off the board. If Lacy drops, it’ll be because of injury concerns that would likely push him down further than the Mariners.

I’ll rank the remaining options, based on my preference. Please remember this preference is not based on any scouting acumen of my own. I just listen to people who know more than I do, and watch a video on Twitter occasionally. The M’s could very easily pick someone else, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad pick.

  1. Nick Gonzales, 2B/SS – Gonzales is a little guy who hit .423 last season, with good power. He sounds a little like Dustin Pedroia. He likely won’t stick at shortstop, but otherwise he’s a perfect fit for the Mariners. I’d be ecstatic if he fell to them. He’s a fun guy to watch and maybe the best all-around hitter in the draft, and fills a huge hole in the M’s system.
  2. Zac Veen, OF – Veen has shot up draft boards this spring and is likely the only high schooler the M’s are considering. The lefty has potential to be a monster in the line up. He probably won’t stay in center field, but that’s okay. There had been nothing linking him to Seattle until the last couple of days, which makes me wonder if they’re trying to hide their interest. Regardless, I think he’ll be off the board when they pick, but there’s a good chance he or Gonzales are available.
  3. Emerson Hancock, RHP – A big righty from the University of Georgia, Hancock was the favorite to go number one overall six months ago. He’s (reportedly) dropping because of lackluster performance in his limited starts this season. There’s also concern he may not have a true out pitch. What he does have is 4 good or better pitches, lots of velocity, good command, and proven performance in the SEC. He’s no guarantee, but he could easily be atop a rotation in four years.

One of these three (or the three mentioned above them) will be available when Seattle picks, and I’d love to have any of them. There are concerns with all of them, but each has clear potential to be an all-star.

Of course, the Mariners might go a different direction. Max Meyer should go right around this area. He’s a shorter pitcher with possibly the best fastball and the best slider in the draft. I like him, but there’s a real risk he ends up in the bullpen. Heston Kjerstad is a slugging college outfielder who would save them a little money for later picks. I don’t think they’d take him over Gonzales or Veen, but if they’re gone, he’d likely be the next hitter on the board. I don’t love him, but there are worse picks. There are other college pitchers they could go with, but none I like better than anyone already listed. An interesting name to watch is Mick Abel, a high school pitcher from Oregon. He’s probably the top high school pitch in the draft, and may end up being the best pitcher overall. High school pitchers are incredibly risky, but I wouldn’t be at all mad if he were the pick.

So there you go. Assuming baseball resumes someday, the Mariners are actually stockpiling a lot of talent. It’s a shame they’ll only add six players, but they should be six good players. The Mariners have actually become good drafters, so don’t worry too much. We’ll just hope whomever they pick will see the field before next summer.

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Present and Future Mariners – 2B/SS/3B

I’m back in record time for the second post in this series. I’m speculating on what each position will look like for the Mariners in 2020, as well as what future years might hold. Today, we finish our trip around the infield, a set of positions that might be the most lacking in talent of any in Seattle’s rapidly improving farm system.

Second Base

Second base in Seattle is in the strange position of returning a starter who will almost assuredly not be the starter in 2020. That starter is Dee Gordon, who will likely fill a utility role for the club in 2020. That is, if they can’t trade him before the season starts. I’m sure they spent all offseason trying to move Dee, but to no avail. It’s not impossible that Gordon returns to being a solid starter somewhere, but his past two years have been poor. Combined with $13 million remaining on his contract this year, it’s no wonder he’s been difficult to trade. I expect they’ll eventually move him, along with a lot of money to cover most of the contract, and receive next to nothing in return.

Why trade him at all, you ask, if you’re going to pay for him anyway and you won’t get much back? Good question, but the answer is Shed Long. The diminutive infielder with the great name and big lefty swing is the present at second base in Seattle, and the M’s want him to get lots of at bats. Whether he’s the future or not will hopefully be answered by the end of the season. Shed’s defense is okay at best, but there’s reason to hope for improvement, as he’s relatively new to the position and has the athleticism to be at least solid. It’ll be up to him to put in the work this year to improve. However his defense ends up, Shed’s bat is likely to always be his premier tool. He’s put up decent, and occasionally very good, offensive numbers throughout his career in the minors. His brief trial in Seattle last year was mixed, but he showed real promise toward the end of the year. He has a lot more power than his size would indicate, and it’s reasonable to think he could be an average or better starting second baseman. I’m not sure I’m convinced, but Shed’s certainly interesting enough to warrant a season seeing what he can do full time.

I’m not sure there’s anyone else in the whole system who’s currently playing second base and could be an impact starter in the majors. There are utility types, including Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes at or near the big leagues. Donnie Walton, who spent last year in double A, might have a shot. He’s currently the definition of a utility man, but he’s beloved by his teammates and a coach’s kid who seems like he might keep beating the odds to end up a starter.

After 2020

If Shed Long doesn’t lay claim to the position this year, I have no idea what the Mariners will do going forward. If Shed is okay but not great, they’d probably give him a little longer for improvement. If he’s not eventually the long-term answer, they’ll likely have to acquire a second baseman. That might mean free agency, but I could see the team stocking up on middle infielders in the next two drafts and seeing if one of them can blow through the minors quickly.


Shortstop is very settled for 2020, but the long-term future is still up in the air. J.P. Crawford came over in trade as a failed top prospect, known for a solid all around game. He showed flashes of being an above-average starter, but his consistency, especially with the bat, was lacking. He started well, and posted a .983 OPS in 16 games in June, but he fell apart from there, batting well below .200 the rest of the way. Whether it was the result of fatigue or the league simply figuring him out is hard to say. He’s gotten bigger this offseason, and 2020 will be a huge year for him to establish himself as an offensively viable starting shortstop. I have high hopes, as he’s still quite young and came through the minors pretty quickly. Luckily for him, last season brought drastic improvements to his defense. I shouldn’t say luckily, as it’s clear he put in a ton of work. No one will forget his incredible backhand stop and no-look, falling down throw, but he was dependable and often spectacular for most of the year.

The only real hope for a big time talent behind Crawford is an 18 year old who has yet to play a game in the United States. Noelvi Marte put up a monster season in the Dominican Summer League last year and will make his debut stateside this season, likely either in low A or possibly short season Everett. He has all the potential to be a big time prospect and player, especially offensively. He has a long ways to go, but he could move quickly. He’s likely not quite as talented as Julio Rodriguez, but he’s on a similar development path, albeit a possibly slower timetable. He may have to move off shortstop eventually, but that’s not definite, and he should be able to shift to third or second if he does.

After 2020

The best case scenario at shortstop for Seattle is that Crawford blows up this year and looks like an impact player. Shortstop is still the most important position on the field. Crawford showed he can play the position, and if he can develop into an above average hitter, the Mariners will have a playoff level player. In theory, that could allow Marte to shift to third eventually as well, where the M’s have a black hole of talent. There’s not much in the system outside of those two, but they’re two pretty good lottery tickets.

Third Base

Speaking of people the team would probably like to trade, Kyle Seager is still here. His 2019 season was delayed by injury, and then he was very bad, and then he was pretty good. It seems entirely possible that he’ll be back to something in the realm of vintage Seager, but he could also just be bad. The team will keep trying to trade him, but due to well-publicized contractual issues (he gets paid a lot more if he’s traded, basically), it may not be possible unless he turns in a big first half. I’m guessing he plays the year in Seattle, but they manage to move him next offseason.

While I understand why Dipoto would want to move Seager, namely his contract, I also think it’s a little strange, because the team has almost no talent behind him. It’s not like there’s a top prospect they need to give at bats. There are the aforementioned utility guys who could fill in for a while but aren’t likely long-term answers. Two prospects have a shot, albeit a small one. Joe Rizzo is a short guy who has made slow but steady progress through the system and will likely be in double A this year. He’s known as a hitter, and 2019 was by far his best season, but middling power and mostly unimpressive numbers leave me doubtful. He has defensive questions as well and is no lock to stay at third base. Further down, Austin Shenton was a 2019 draft pick who had a nice debut in Everett before falling off some when he moved up a level to West Virginia. He profiles similarly to Seager, actually, but it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll perform this year. He has a shot, but he’ll have to answer a lot of questions. Really, the future at this position is likely Noelvi Marte, but it would be better if he can stay at shortstop.

After 2020

I have no idea. Seager will likely still be here next year, but there is no definite long-term third baseman in the system, in my opinion, unless it’s Marte in three or more years. I see an impact veteran addition here in the near-ish future.


For all the improvements the Mariners have made to their farm system, these three positions have seen the least talent added. Crawford and Long have real shots to be starters, but otherwise the future is resting on Noelvi Marte, who would be graduating high school this year if he were born in the United States.  I expect additions here, both at the major league level in the next few years and with major reinforcements through the next few drafts. These are some of the most important positions on the field, and the Mariners just need more bodies.

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Present and Future Mariners – C/1B/DH

The Mariners are going to be bad this year. When the general manager of the  team tells you they’re going to be bad, that means they’re really going to be bad. In year two of their rebuild, the team might push 100 losses.

Despite that, I’m kind of looking forward to this season. There’s young talent on the opening day roster, with more coming in the next months and years. There’s never any guarantee in baseball that young prospects will pan out, but I’m looking forward to getting excited about some new guys for the first time in a long time.

This series (I’m being optimistic calling it that, since I average about a post a year right now) will look at each position for 2020 for the Mariners, as well as give thoughts on how the next few years might play out.


In 2019, Omar Narvaez turned in the best offensive season the M’s have had from a catcher in recent memory, and then was promptly traded this offseason. It think it was a necessary move, as Narvaez was bad with the glove and seemed unlikely to improve, but replacing his offense might be tough. Luckily, last year’s backup Tom Murphy had a solid season with the bat as well, and is much better defensively. He’ll take over as the starter in 2020, and the team will hope he can replicate or improve upon last year’s numbers. It’s no guarantee, but Murphy’s a good gamble to take. If he can stay close to his .858 OPS from last year while starting over 100 games, he’ll be a well above average major league catcher.

Backing him up will be Austin Nola, who played about half of last season in Seattle, mostly at first base. He was a big surprise as an older guy who had bounced around the minors before delivering a solid batting line in the big leagues. I’m skeptical he can replicate the performance, but as a backup catcher who can play a solid first base as well, he doesn’t need to be great to add value to the team.

In the minors, the M’s really only have one solid prospect. That’s Cal Raleigh, who will likely start the season in double A. That’s where he ended a really solid 2019, which saw him hit 29 homers, mostly in High A ball, where he spent his first 82 games. His offensive numbers dropped in the final month plus in double A, but they weren’t disastrous. It’s not easy to find switch-hitting catchers with power who are also solid defensively, so Raleigh will get plenty of chances to be the catcher of the future. He’ll need to watch his strikeout numbers and continue to improve his defense, but he’s an interesting guy to keep an eye on. This season will show a ton about what we can expect from him. There’s not a lot else in the minors, but watch for Jake Anchia a level or two behind Raleigh. He has power potential but tons of strikeouts.

After 2020

The future catcher position is a little up for grabs. Murphy could continue last year’s trajectory and take hold of the job for the foreseeable future, but my guess is he gets exposed a little this year and settles in as a good backup. Raleigh seems like a 50-50 bet, at best, to be a long-term championship level starter. There are interesting options here, but I kind of expect the Mariners to be in the market for a free agent catcher in a year or two.

First Base

Suddenly, the future is now at first base. This offseason, Evan White signed a six year contract. That’s a long deal for anyone, but especially for a guy who hasn’t played above double A. It’s a bit of a risk, but if White is even an average starter, it’s an incredible deal for the Mariners. White is an interesting guy. He’s best known for being the best defensive first baseman alive, which is fun. He has a solid bat, but his power is still hope as much as reality. I think there’s room to believe he eventually hits 30 homers, but an average closer to 15 is probably more likely. Unless he looks completely over-matched in spring training, he will be the opening day starter, and with no incentive to send him down with his contract, he’ll have all the leash he needs to succeed. I’d love a .270/.350/.450 line from him this year, but even a tick less would be a solid debut.

There’s no real backup option to speak of, so if White struggles and needs to go to Tacoma for a while, I would guess Nola would take over and they’d call up whatever catcher is in Tacoma. I think there’s a 50% chance of this happening at some point. White’s young and could easily need a little seasoning. There’s not a lot of first base depth worth mentioning in the minors either, although it tends to be a position for guys with good bats who can’t play defense, or who get beat out at their regular position. The Mariners have a lot of outfielders who might fit this description in the next few years.

After 2020

This position belongs to Evan White. There is no doubt about this. If he can’t handle it, the Mariners will have to convert an outfielder or something else along those lines, or they’ll have to acquire another first baseman. Personally, I believe in Evan White and think he’ll be at least an average starter, with a shot at being an all star.

Designated Hitter

I often skip over DH in these type of discussions, but we have to talk about Daniel Vogelbach. Everyone wants Vogey to succeed. His first few months of 2019 were so much fun, with him blasting balls off the Hit It Here Cafe and just generally being a lovable teddy bear. And then the wheels came off, and he ended up barely hitting .200, with an OPS under .800. That’s not acceptable from a DH, especially one with mammoth power and a great batting eye. I have no idea what 2020 will bring. I could certainly see him righting the ship and solidifying into a good or better bat. Unfortunately, if I had to bet, I would go the other way. I hope not, because a big time lefty slugger would help this rebuild tremendously.

If Vogelbach doesn’t turn it around in the first half of this season, there’s no real reason to keep him around. As much as everyone loves him, his only job is to hit, and so far he’s struggling to do that. If the team does have to move on, I would expect the Mariners to use DH as a spot to give young players at bats for the next couple of years, rather than finding one guy to play it every game. I’ll leave it at that, since there’s no way to know what even 2021 would look like if Vogelbach doesn’t establish himself as the team’s future designated hitter.


The positive here is that there are good options, both now and in future years, at these positions. The negative is that none of these positions is close to settled. That’s going to be a common theme for every position on the team, though. The main goal for this year is to settle at least a few positions, so the team can focus their energy and assets on the roster holes that remain.

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Are the Mariners Any Good in the Draft?

The Mariners roster, even into the minor leagues, does not have a lot of clear answers. What is clear, is that the Mariners just need more players. Good players, if we can be picky, but in some cases, just more players in general would be a good thing.

Prior to last offseason, the Mariners had the worst farm system in baseball. There were few impact prospects and little depth. Some positions had no prospects with realistic chances of making the majors, which is pretty rare. The offseason trades of Diaz, Paxton and others brought in a huge amount of talent, but the system is still only middle of the pack. It’s tremendously better, but far from overflowing with talent.

Luckily, the MLB draft begins this Monday, and the Mariners will add 35-41 players to their organization (depending on how many they sign). I personally think the baseball draft is more interesting than the other more publicized NFL and NBA drafts, but I can understand why few people follow it. The Mariners will draft 41 players, and I will have maybe heard of three of them. Then they will all go to the minor leagues, and if we’re lucky four of them will be in Seattle in four or five years, and maybe a couple more will follow eventually, and the rest we will never hear about again. It’s a weird process.

Want to hear something strange and depressing? Kyle Seager is the only player on the Mariners current 25-man roster who was originally drafted by the team. Some of that is the result of Jerry Dipoto’s countless trades, but a lot of it is due to some really bad drafting. That simply has to change if the Mariners are going to contend anytime soon. Dipoto’s regime has had three drafts, and I’m honestly not sure how they’ve done. It’s still too early to judge any of them fully, but I’m going to run through real quick and see what we can find out.


First Pick: Kyle Lewis, OF

I was incredibly excited and surprised when Lewis dropped to the M’s at #11. He was expected to be a top 5 guy, with a power bat and the athleticism to play center. And for about a month he looked amazing. Then he destroyed his knee in a collision at the plate, and it’s taken nearly three years to get him consistently on the field again. Hope is far from lost, but he’s off to a slow start in double-A this season. I could just as easily see him regaining his form and being an all star in Seattle as I could see him never finding it and fading quietly into retirement. This was a good pick that has met nothing but bad luck.

Best Pick: Um, none?

This draft does not look great. 2nd rounder Joe Rizzo’s hitting okay in high-A this season, but right now he looks like a fringe big leaguer at best. There are some potential bullpen arms, led by Matt Festa, but no sure things. I’m not saying there’s no hope left, but it doesn’t look good. Interestingly, their last pick was Adley Rutschman, a catcher who went to Oregon State and will likely be the first player taken this week. I’m sure the Mariners drafted him knowing there was no way they would sign him, but it’s still a depressing what if to think about.

Best Late Pick (after Round 10): Reggie McClain, P, 13th Round

He’s the pick in part because his name is Reginald Kristen McClain. He’s also had decent success as a starter and reliever and is currently in Tacoma. He’s got a chance to make the bigs, which is more than we can say for most of these picks. If Eric Filia could stop getting suspended for (allegedly) smoking pot, he’d be the choice here.

Overview: Like I said, this draft wasn’t great. It’ll be okay if Lewis regains his form, but even that’s not really enough to save this class. At the time of Dipoto’s hire, I was surprised he retained Tom Allison, who ran the drafts for Zduriencik. The Mariners may very well end up with nothing to show for the whole draft, save a few decent relief innings from Festa and a couple of others. Hopefully, they get more than that from Lewis and/or Rizzo, but the odds aren’t great..


First Pick: Evan White, 1B

White was a slightly underwhelming pick at the time, because he didn’t have a ton of power and his calling card was athleticism and gold glove defense at first base. That’s a weird profile for anyone, much less a top 20 pick. It became clear the Mariners think he has more power in his bat, and his second half last season showed they might be right. He’s off to a slower start in double-A this season, but he still looks like the first baseman of the future. Whether he plays more like JT Snow or, I don’t know, Paul Goldschmidt is unknowable at this point.

Best Pick: White, so let’s talk about 2nd Rounder Sam Carlson

This draft may rest on whether Carlson can return and flourish after Tommy John surgery. A high school righty with a big arm and heavy sinker, Carlson has yet to throw a pitch for the Mariners. He might see action later this year. If he could return to his earlier promise, he could be a top of the rotation starter in four or five years. Right now he’s just another sign of the Mariners bad luck (or bad scouting).

Best Late Round Pick: Sam Delaplane, RHRP, 23rd Round

Delaplane, as of Wednesday, was third in the Cal League (High-A) in strikeouts. As a reliever. He’s striking out nearly two batters an inning. I don’t know if his stuff’ll play as he gets closer to the bigs, but you can’t do much more than what he’s doing.

Overview: This was the first draft run by Scott Hunter, who took over when Allison moved up in the organization. It’s not a bad draft, in part because Dipoto traded a good share of the players in the top 10 rounds almost immediately to build last year’s team. We can argue whether that was a good choice, but it’s one way to get production from a draft. There are some good arms in the farm from this class, but this draft will ride on how White and Carlson develop. Interestingly, the M’s picked up another first rounder from this class when they got Justin Dunn in the Cano/Diaz trade.

2018 (It’s way too early to evaluate this, but we’ll take a look anyway)

First Pick: Logan Gilbert, SP

Gilbert was a workhorse out of Stetson University. In keeping with Mariner tradition, he came down with mono after being drafted and didn’t pitch until this spring. This was probably a good thing, as he was a little overworked in college and his velocity had dipped, but it felt very Mariners-y. Gilbert looks like a phenomenal pick. He’s already gone through Low-A and is throwing well in High-A. He has four pitches and throws in the 90s. Barring injury, he looks like a solid big league starter. Whether he can become close to an ace might depend on whether his velocity bumps back up into the mid- to high-90s. I think he’s the system’s top starter prospect by far. 2021 is a reasonable ETA.

Best Pick: Probably Gilbert, but let’s say: Cal Raleigh, C, 3rd Round

Raleigh was a college catcher with good defensive skills. More rare is that he’s a switch-hitter with good power. He’s playing well in High-A right now and could very well be a starter in Seattle down the road.

Best Late Round Pick: Damon Casetta-Stubbs, RHP, 11th Round

The 11th and 12th rounds are where teams try to grab high upside high schoolers who may not sign. The reasons for this are complicated, but Casetta-Stubbs fits the bill. He’s a big time arm from the northwest, and I’m sure the M’s were thrilled when they were able to get him to sign. He’s made seven starts in low-A with mixed results at best, so I’m curious if they move him to Everett when their season opens. Regardless, he has one of the most projectable arms in the system and could move up prospect ratings quickly.

Overview: Again, it’s way early, but this class looks better. Second rounder Josh Stowers has already been traded, but he brought back Shed Long, so that looks good so far. The first 10 rounds have more upside than the previous few classes, while the later rounds are heavy on relief arms, with a couple of interesting bats thrown in. It might only look good because they haven’t failed yet, but I don’t cringe looking at this group, so that’s a start. It helps that they traded for #6 overall pick Jarred Kelenic, who is off to a monster start. The M’s say he was their top player in the class, which might just be talk, but I kind of think it’s true. He looks extremely good.

So that’s one terrible draft, one mediocre at best, and one with promise that hasn’t proven anything yet. The Mariners pick at #20 on Monday, but they do have 4 picks in the top 100 this year, so we’ll at least have some new names to talk about. The Mariners are past the point of their top pick immediately becoming their top prospect, but they still badly need to hit on this class if they want to continue to restock the system.

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Checking On The Mariners

A third of the way through the season, the Mariners are right where I thought they’d be. Barring a crazy comeback, they’re about to be 24-33. Before the season, I would’ve said they’d be solidly under .500 but far from the worst team in the league, and that’s right where they are.

I can’t take a lot of credit, though, because how they got here is weird as can be. As you might have forgotten by now, the M’s ran to their best start in history, sitting at 13-2 a few weeks into the season. They’ve gone 11-31 since. Both of those numbers are kind of amazing. Much like the hot start, this slump won’t last, but the team has enough real issues to likely keep them from ever getting back to .500. I would guess they end up as one of the better bad teams in the league, if that makes any sense.

Regardless of how they got here, the focus of this season has always been the future. The Mariners are on record as planning to contend again next season or 2021. Personally, I think next season is a pipe dream, but 2021 isn’t out of the question. I’m going to run through the roster and see what progress they’ve made toward that end. This isn’t going to mention everyone; it’s more of a check-in on who might be moving toward establishing themselves as a future foundation piece.


We’ll start on a high note. Omar Narvaez is currently among the best offensive catchers in the league. His defense has been mediocre at best, but it’s still been better than I expected, and seems to be improving. The glove has a bit to go before he’s a no doubt starter for a pennant winner, but if he can continue to improve, the bat is more than enough already. Tom Murphy has also been a welcome surprise after the terrible back ups the team has had lately. It seems unlikely both are around in two years, but there’s no reason why they can’t be.


This is a jumbled mess. The best bet for 2021 looks like JP Crawford at short, despite what looked like a bad ankle sprain a minute ago. He’s hit very well in his month or so in the bigs, and while he’s not likely going to ever win a gold glove, he’s been solid and a huge defensive improvement over Tim Beckham. Beckham isn’t a bad utility guy, but he’s on a one year deal and I’m sure would like to start. I could see him taking over second base, but he’s not a shortstop and mostly likely will not be a Mariner in 2020, and maybe even in August this year. Seager looks great in his week back, but who knows what’s going to happen with that contract situation. Shed Long is hitting well right now, but I’ll need to see more, especially with the glove, to count him as a definite piece of the future.

That leaves plenty of options but not much clarity. First base looks similar. Daniel Vogelbach is everyone’s new favorite, and for good reason. He and Narvaez are the clear biggest developments this season. I see no reason why Vogey can’t continue as a middle of the order bat. The question is whether he can ever be more than a designated hitter. Being able to play first semi-regularly would be very helpful. Ryon Healy seems to have settled as the definition of average, which generally isn’t good enough for a first baseman. That leaves a hole, with a couple of other potential options. Evan White is off to a slow start at Double-A, but he has time to right himself after suffering an early injury. His potential gold glove defense is enticing after watching this year’s squad fumble the ball all over the place. Another option I haven’t seen mentioned is Domingo Santana. I have no idea whether he can field a grounder, but he certainly struggles in the outfield. If the team likes his bat enough to keep him around, he’ll likely have to find a new position, given his defense and the outfield options in the minors. Overall, the infield has by far the most questions and fewest future options in the system.


The outfield looks better, but there are plenty of questions here too. Despite his slow start, I have no worries about Haniger. The only way he’s not a solid contributor in 2021 is if Dipoto decides they’re better off trading him for a couple of young pieces. I already mentioned Santana. I like his bat. He’s plenty good enough to be a streaky, slugging left fielder, but I don’t know if the defense will ever be good enough for Safeco’s big power alleys. There are other options for the corners in the minors, but no one that can be penciled into the line up yet. Jake Fraley, acquired from Tampa for Mike Zunino, has been excellent in double-A. His running mates there, Kyle Lewis and Dom Thompson-Williams, have athleticism and interesting tools, but are currently missing the production to match.

In center, Mallex Smith looks revitalized by his short minors stint. He’s a solid piece when he’s hitting and running like the last few games. I think he’s a better fit as a very good fourth outfielder, but that’s dependent on finding a gold glove-level center fielder who is around league average at the plate to supplant him. Maybe Braden Bishop could fit that bill, but there’s no way to tell yet. The only other in-house option is Jarred Kelenic, who was promoted to High A tonight after torching Low-A the last two months. He won’t be 20 until mid-July and is looking like a future star, and possibly more than that. Opening day 2021 is probably too optimistic for him to make Seattle, but a debut sometime that year isn’t out of the question.


Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the pitching staff, so this is going to be short. Marco and Kikuchi look like solid members of the 2021 rotation, barring injury or something else unexpected (that always goes without saying about pitchers). I don’t see any other current big league starters being part of a contending rotation going forward, at least on a regular basis. Erik Swanson and Justus Sheffield have promise but plenty to work on still. They should both see more big league time before the year’s over. Justin Dunn, obtained in the Cano-Diaz deal, is in a similar situation at AA. Further down, Logan Gilbert, last year’s first round pick, is carving through both levels of A ball. He could be on a similar timeline to Kelenic, although 2022 seems a more likely ETA. While a few bullpen pieces are starting to emerge, anyone trying to forecast the 2021 bullpen this early is crazy. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the whole pen turns over by then.


There’s plenty to like about this team, despite the horrible play of late. The farm system has performed well thus far too. There’s still a lot of questions to answer, though. They’re going to need a lot of things to go right, and likely a few notable free agent signings, if they really hope to contend in 2021. These are the Mariners though, so that’s nothing new. There’s always 2022!

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How Do The Mariners Succeed in 2019?

The Mariners are about three hours from the first pitch of the season. Everything about this opener is strange, starting with the fact the game will start at 2:30 AM in Seattle. I’m pretty sure they play Oakland in every opener, but this time will be in the Tokyo Dome. Even stranger will be having someone other than Felix on the mound, for the first time since 2008. In fact, with Kyle Seager’s injury, the only holdover from 2018’s opening line up at the same position will be Mitch Haniger.

So, what should fans expect, or even hope for this season? Usually with a rebuilding team, the answer is pretty easy: progress from young players, but not so much that the team plays itself out of a top draft pick. Baseball, and this year’s M’s team in particular, is a little different. Top draft picks are nice, but they’re no sure things in baseball and take a long time to develop. The Mariners aren’t tanking for Zion Williamson.

Further confusing expectations, this M’s squad might not be that bad. They’re not going to be good, to be clear. A .500 season would be an overachievement. As they started trading off veterans this offseason, people assumed they were going to completely tear the team down and 100 losses would be an inevitability. Instead, they kept Haniger, Gonzales and a handful of others, added pieces at the big league level or close to it, and took back a bunch of veterans in salary swaps.

The upshot is a team that won’t contend (barring something crazy), but shouldn’t be horrible, while having the clear expectation of being good in a couple of years. It’ll be a weird year. So, what would make this a successful season for the M’s? Here are my thoughts.

Young Players Emerge

This is a staple of rebuilding seasons and goes without saying. Nothing is more important this season than having young players improve and hopefully establish themselves as big leaguers. The difference between winning in 2021 or not could very well be JP Crawford and Domingo Santana demonstrating that they are capable professionals, and that starts sometime this season. While most of the young prospects won’t start the year in Seattle, plenty of them should make an appearance before the summer ends. Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, Blake Bishop, maybe even Evan White should see the majors, and if they can quickly show they belong, that will make the rebuild quicker and simpler.

The Mariners have plenty of young veterans who could establish themselves with a solid season. Santana is one of the most intriguing, as a guy with big time power who’s only a season removed from playing very well in the bigs. Mallex Smith and Omar Narvaez are other additions who have had offensive success, but need to show it again and improve their defense. Holdovers like Ryon Healy, Daniel Vogelbach, and Dan Altavilla need to rebound or demonstrate that they are capable of producing. That’s to say nothing of Kyle Seager, who, while out for a couple of months to start the year, needs a major rebound year to either become tradeable or hold down third again.

Trade The Veterans

You would think there are no veterans left, but there are some prime candidates to be moved if they can rebound. Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce are obvious, as potentially productive guys with big salaries. Dee Gordon is a prime candidate if he can rebound offensively. The biggest trade chip may end up being Hunter Strickland, if he can re-establish himself as a solid closer or set-up man. It still wouldn’t be a shock to see Haniger moved, but it will take a major return. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone go, and if the Mariners can be creative to upgrade their talent, they should do it.

Add Talent

This will mostly come from trades, but there are other ways to find talent. The Mariners should maintain enough flexibility to bring in waiver claims or anyone else who might hit the open market. Every year, guys with talent are cut or can be had for next to nothing in trade. The Mariners are in a position to give players a shot if they want to.

Get Better in the Second Half

Improvement as the season progresses is a sign the young talent is coming together. It also provides some momentum going into the offseason and 2020, when Dipoto and company are hoping the team can start to contend.

Make the Baseball Entertaining

Baseball is usually more fun if your team is winning, and the Mariners aren’t likely to do a ton of that. Lately I’ve come to appreciate the ways players and teams can be fun regardless of the results. This team could be fun. The athleticism got an upgrade with Mallex Smith, and a healthy Dee Gordon might rebound and give a shot of energy with his speed and smile. The team still has some decent power, especially in Haniger and Santana and the 1B/DH guys. The pitching isn’t the most dominating bunch, but seeing Sheffield debut at some point will be fun to follow. All through the first part of spring training, the buzz around the team was how they seemed excited to be there and to have their chance. If that carries into the season, I think we’ll see it on the field, if not in the win column.

Watch The Minors

This is a whole other post, but the M’s farm system should be fun to follow for the first time in years. They’ve had the worst system in baseball recently, but have jumped to middle of the pack with all of their trades and some improved drafting the last couple of years. Tacoma will have some talent and is always a fun place to watch a game, but many of the top prospects will likely start in double-A or lower. Jarred Kelenick and Julio Rodriguez look like they’ll start next to each other in the outfield in low-A. They’re the two most prospects most likely to turn into superstars. Short of Marco Gonzales winning the Cy Young, or Mallex Smith morphing into Rickey Henderson, nothing is more important to the Mariners future than the farm system having a breakout year.


Very little could happen this season that would shock me, which could be fun or could be terrible. At the very least, it’s nice to have some new faces to learn. Let us know what you’re watching for in the comments. Go Mariners!

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2016 Mariners-Crown Em’

Besides being humans and playing baseball for the Seattle Mariners, can you think of something in common between Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and Seth Smith? This group are the only Mariners that will take part in the opening day ceremonies next week that did the same last year with the M’s. The other 18 men were not on the M’s opening day roster in 2015. A lot can, and has, changed in the past few months for the Mariners and many other teams around the league. Though I would imagine a 72% overhaul of opening day rosters from one year to the next is higher than league average, by a considerable margin. If I had the time I’d like to know if it ranks as the most changed roster, which it well may. It’s all to be expected when a new manager and general manager are brought in, as is the case with Seattle. But is all the change a good thing? Time will tell, but in this case, I think it is.

A year ago I couldn’t go a day without reading a new predictions tweet or article that had the M’s in the World Series. It was all a bit surreal. This year, most pundits see the M’s extending their 13 year postseason drought another year. This makes sense given how 2015 played out, to say nothing of the prior decade. But aside from expectations, there is good reason to think the M’s actually look a good bit better today than April, 2015. Below are how the opening day rosters compare. The 18 new faces all have a player they are essentially replacing, as the chart shows. As for the impact column, that is my opinion whether the current player is an upgrade (+), downgrade (-), or no real change (o).

2015 2016 Impact
James Paxton Wade Miley +
J.A. Happ Nate Karns o
Danny Farquhar Nick Vincent +
Charlie Furbush Mike Montgomery
Yoervis Medina Joel Peralta o
Tyler Olson Vidal Nuno +
Fernando Rodney Steve Cishek o
Carson Smith Joaquin Benoit o
Tom Wilhelmson Tony Zych o
Mike Zunino Chris Iannetta +
Jesus Sucre Steve Clevenger +
Logan Morrison Adam Lind +
Brad Miller Ketel Marte +
Willie Bloomquist Luis Sardinas +
Dustin Ackley Nori Aoki +
Austin Jackson Leonys Martin +
Justin Ruggiano Franklin Gutierrez +
Rickie Weeks Dae-Ho Lee +
Felix Hernandez Felix Hernandez o
Hisashi Iwakuma Hisashi Iwakuma o
Taijuan Walker Taijuan Walker +
Robinson Cano Robinson Cano +
Kyle Seager Kyle Seager o
Nelson Cruz Nelson Cruz o
Seth Smith Seth Smith o

There are dozens of variables and caveats to an exercise like this, and we can differ on opinion, but I see the M’s upgrading in 14 spots this season, downgrading in 1 (though Furbush is still on the roster), and staying even in 10. Each spot is a case by case assessment but in general I’m looking at the performance of the 2015 player versus the reasonable expectation/projection of the 2016 player. Let’s dig in a little further.

Starting Pitching
The rotation is deeper and projects better in 2016. Felix is Felix, no reason to expect he won’t be an ace and in the thick of Cy Young contention. A year ago Paxton broke camp as the #2 starter, this year he is healthy but in Tacoma. Not many teams have a #6 guy like James, who still has a high ceiling. Wade Miley was brought in to replace Iwakuma, but then Iwakuma returned after all, which was a bonus. Taijuan returns to the rotation and is poised to build off his rookie campaign. Tai was terrible in April and May last year, but found his rhythm in the summer. Happ for Karns feels like a wash for 2016 but Karns will be a key piece for years to come.  Few may realize he actually started the third game for Tampa Bay last year, and was a key piece of their rotation all year. Thanks to retaining Kuma and adding Miley, I think the rotation is significantly improved.

There’s no disputing the bullpen is the biggest question mark. I won’t try to convince anyone that the pen will be good, but honestly can it be worse than last year? I don’t know that it can and I like Dipoto’s strategy of completely overhauling the pen and bringing in a heap of arms which will sort itself out as the season goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the M’s give 15+ guys a chance in the pen this year. Whether the depth is any good is TBD but there are reinforcements if a couple guys get hurt (Scribner, Cook, Furbush) or potentially suck. Last year few alternatives existed, which is a huge reason why the bullpen went from bad to disastrous. Cishek and Benoit will go a long way in determining the success but I feel a little better about the bullpen with Vincent’s acquisition today. The bullpen can’t be worse and maybe it isn’t a ton better, but ’16’s version looks poised to improve on ’15.

Gone are LoMo, Brad Miller, Austin Jackson, and Ackley. In are Lind, Marte, Leonys, and Nori Aoki. Gimme that 4 for 4 trade any day! Beyond the areas of change, the lineup, at least at present, does not look to have a black hole (Zunino is in Tacoma). Seager, Cruz, Cano, and Seth Smith are all back, and while Cruz may not match last year’s incredible season, Cano is finally healthy and I imagine Seager and Smith will continue their career norms as above average players. I have some worries about this lineup, given the offensive woes that seem to haunt the M’s, but on paper it looks league average and capable of 4 runs/game.

Say goodbye to Rickie Weeks, Ruggiano, Sucre, and WFBloomquist. They’ve been replaced by Dae-Ho Lee, Gutierrez, Steve Clevenger, and Luis Sardinas. Again, anyone not willing to take that 4 for 4 trade? Seems like a no brainer. The bench will be better, quite significantly in my opinion.

The theme of Dipoto’s offseason was constructing a roster built for Safeco Field. That hadn’t happened in a long time. To do so, Jerry brought in guys who get on base and can field their position, above average in most cases. Aoki and Leonys are instant upgrades to the outfield, which had been a glaring weakness during the Jack Z era. Marte isn’t flashy but he makes all the plays you’d expect at short stop, something that cannot be said of Brad Miller. Sardinas is a terrific defender, WFB is not. The defense is vastly improved.

MLB is a 162 game season, so depth is pretty important. Jack Z learned the hard way that you can never have enough pitching and catching. Dipoto is all about accumulating guys who can play in the majors, particularly if they’ve tasted some success. You need depth, so in addition to the 25 guys who will take the field in Arlington next week, there had better be a plethora of other options. Paxton, Zunino, Taylor, Romero, Blash, O’Malley, Furbush (DL), are all still in the organization and can step in. You also have Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell, Efren Navarro, and Rob Brantly, plus another 5-8 bullpen candidates (Roach, Parker, Guaipe, Aro, De Fratus, Scribner, Cook) . Last year, that sort of depth simply did not exist, particularly in the bullpen and at catcher.

To recap, I feel better about all areas of the 2016 Mariners as compared to last year. Most fans probably feel the same about their team, hope springs eternal and all that. But last year’s team won 76 games, so it will take a big jump forward to be in playoff contention. The rest of the AL West, mid-season acquisitions, how Servais adjusts to managing, and of course injuries, slumps and so many other factors will help determine how the season shakes out, but the Mariners should not be bad. In fact, they should probably be good.

Dipoto makes some tasty Kool-Aid, and I’m drinking it. Crown em’.

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