MLB Team Previews

Seattle Mariners 2020 Season Preview

John Lepore | February 22nd, 2020

We head to the Pacific Northwest to check in on the Seattle Mariners. They have a few young hitters ready to possibly make an impact this year, but will they have enough pitching to compete in the American League West?

Make sure to check out our other Team Previews here.

The Seattle Mariners finished 68-94 last season and in the cellar in the AL West. They were no match for the Houston Astros or the Oakland A’s. The Texas Rangers even finished 10 games ahead of them. Jerry Dipoto needs to figure out a way to get the Mariners somewhere they haven’t been since 2001…the playoffs. Let’s take a look at what his squad brings to the field this season.

C/IF Projections

C: Tom Murphy
1B: Evan White
2B: Shed Long
SS: J.P. Crawford
3B: Kyle Seager

Murphy will now be the main catcher in Seattle. He has some pop and is a good catcher defensively. I would expect a nice season from him with 20-25 HRs even if his plate discipline is not that good (6.8% BB rate, 31.0% K rate). Evan White is ready to burst onto the scene and with a six-year/ $24 million contract he signed in November, there aren’t any pesky service time issues to worry about. He raked last year at Double-AA and could be in the running for a ROY award this season. Shed Long flashed a little power/speed combo last year with five HRs and three steals in just 168 PAs. Add in the 12 doubles and Long could see some solid numbers this year as he progresses. Crawford’s plate discipline is solid (10.9% BB rate, 21.0% K rate), but he doesn’t do much else. He may take a slight step forward this season, but he will likely remain below average at the plate and in the field. Seager, for the first time since 2011, played fewer than 150 games. He still managed 23 HRs with a .332 wOBA and 110 wRC+. While his defense has fallen off a bit the past few years, Seager is still about average at third base.

OF/DH Projections

LF: Kyle Lewis
CF: Mallex Smith
RF: Jake Fraley
DH: Daniel Vogelbach

Lewis had a cup of coffee last year with the Mariners and will be starting this season with the big club. It’s tough to tell where he is in his development, but he has some pop and will need to have better plate discipline. Smith regressed badly last year. Despite leading the AL in SBs with 46, he slashed .227/.300/.335. No one will ever mistake Mallex for a masher, but he needs to get back to his 2018 Rays days to give the Mariners some value. Jake Fraley is another player with a small track record, playing in only 12 games at the major league level. His stats in the minors last season though were pretty impressive. Fraley slashed .298/.365/.545 with 19 HRs and 22 SBs in 99 games. Haniger’s timetable is up in the air right now so Fraley should see a sufficient amount of time in right field to show if his power/speed combo is for real. Vogelbach got his first taste of regular playing time in 2019. He had an elite 16.5% BB rate and blasted 30 HRs. He and Seager are the only reliable power bats in this Mariners lineup.

Starting Rotation Projections

Marco Gonzales
Yusei Kikuchi
Justus Sheffield
Kendall Graveman
Taijuan Walker
Justin Dunn

Gonzales enters as the Mariners’ “ace” this season. He was solid last year, throwing over 200 innings and finishing 16-13 with a 3.99 ERA. While he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, Gonzales is a steady and reliable presence at the top of the rotation and should put up similar numbers this season. Kikuchi’s introduction to the major leagues did not go as planned. Although he did make 32 starts, he got roughed up to the tune of a 5.46 ERA and a 1.515 WHIP while allowing 36 HRs. Seattle is hoping he will adjust this year. Sheffield is yet another Mariner who got a small taste of the majors in 2019. The positive is that he struck out 37 in 36 innings which is right in line with his minor league numbers. The negative is that he was hittable and allowed too many baserunners (44 hits, 18 BBs). Graveman didn’t pitch last season after having Tommy John surgery in July of 2018. With the procedure 19 months in the rearview mirror, the 29-year-old should lock a spot in the rotation with modest expectations. Walker comes back to the team that drafted him out of High School in 2010. He is coming off TJS as well and actually made it into a game for the Diamondbacks at the end of last year. Depending on a return of velocity, Walker could be a solid back end piece. Dunn was pitching well at Double-AA last season so he earned a call-up in September. Although he couldn’t find the plate in his debut (5 BBs in 0.2 IP), Dunn settled down to pitch another six innings only allowing two hits and striking out five. His stuff is very good and he’s thrown over 135 innings each of the last two years so his workload shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Bullpen Projections

Yoshihisa Hirano
Matt Magill
Sam Tuivailala
Erik Swanson
Carl Edwards Jr.
Dan Altavilla
Nestor Cortes Jr.
Phillips Valdez

Hirano had a very good 2018 and a bad 2019. His true talent is likely somewhere in the middle. He strikes out about a batter per inning and induces soft contact (29.3% HH rate, 5.2% Barrel rate). After coming over from the Minnesota Twins last year, Magill was solid for the M’s logging 22.1 IP with five saves and a solid K/BB rate (28/5). Sam Tuivailala was another solid bullpen piece last year. He threw 23 innings and had 27 Ks while allowing only a single HR. The rest of this pen is a hope and a prayer. Swanson and Cortes can’t keep the ball in the yard. Edwards Jr. and Altavilla throw gas but don’t know where it’s going half the time. Valdez is unproven and has mediocre stuff and command at best.

Players to Watch For

Jarred Kelenic – The prized prospect hit well in the minors last year. In 117 games, Kelenic put up a .291/.364/.540 slash, hit 23 HRs and chipped in 20 SBs. He is the 11th ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He has an advanced approach at the plate and is very athletic. A true five-tool player, Kelenic should make the majors this year, and it may be sooner rather than later if any of the Seattle outfielders struggle.

Logan Gilbert – The big righty is number 38 on MLB Pipeline’s top 100. In three stops last season, Gilbert put up a 2.13 ERA in 135 innings with a 165/33 K/BB rate. Opponents hit just .198 against him. He has a solid frame at 6’6 and 225 lbs. so durability isn’t a question. While the former first-rounder only has nine starts at Double-A, he will be 23 years old in May. He may start the season in the minors, but if Gilbert continues to dominate hitters, he should see the major league rotation by the All-Star break as there isn’t much standing in his way.

Joey Gerber – In two stops last year Gerber threw 48.2 innings in 44 appearances putting up an impressive 69/19 K/BB rate while only allowing two HRs. He has a solid frame at 6’4 and 215 lbs. with a fastball that sits 95-97 and a wipeout slider. There is no proven closer in camp, and it’s unlikely that any of them grab and hold that job. Gerber could be up this summer if he keeps closing out games at Double-A Arkansas.

Prediction

The Seattle Mariners have a ton of young players who will be in the starting lineup on a regular basis this season. There are question marks all around the diamond. They have a solid farm system and some of those guys just need time at the major league level to cut their teeth. The pitching staff is not good. Both the rotation and the bullpen stink. Although they have a few promising players, they are at the very beginning of a rebuild. Barring a miracle, the Mariners will challenge for the worst record in the American League. They finish 56-106.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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