Another Seattle Mariners season is upon us and once again the team has very low expectations. The franchise is in the middle of the longest playoff drought in professional sports — at 19 years — and there is little reason to believe that the streak will be broken this time around. However, 2020 brings excitement in the form of young players who will look to make their cases as mainstays on the roster in the present and future.
In 2019, the Mariners had one of the hottest starts in MLB history going 13–2 in their first 15 games bringing hope to a fan base desperate for a winning team. Sadly, the team could not keep their pace and wound up finishing the season with a record of 68-94 — their worst record since 2011. This was expected, as the team was in the beginning stages of a rebuild which resulted in fielding an almost completely new roster from the year prior.
It is now year two of the rebuild, and although fans should not expect a playoff-caliber team, there will be a large amount of young talent on showcase for most of the season to go along with older players who will bring a veteran presence to the team. Here are a few of the projected starters you should keep your eye on.
OF Kyle Lewis
Kyle Lewis is a 24-year-old out of Mercer University. He was the Mariners first-round draft pick in 2016 and made his Major League debut this past season. Lewis has faced multiple injury issues throughout his Minor League career but posted his first fully healthy season this past year which resulted in his first call up to the bigs.
Hitting a home run in each of his first three games — only the second person in history to do so — Lewis had one of the hottest starts a player could have. He is now projected as an opening day starter and is excited about the opportunity.
“You know with this organization and the state of it right now, the state of the roster, I feel like there’s opportunity there,” Lewis said in an interview with 710 ESPN. “And for me, if that door is open, I’m gonna try to bust through and take hold of it.”
SS J.P. Crawford
J.P. Crawford is 24 years old and was acquired by the Mariners via trade in 2019 that sent all-star Jean Segura to the Philadelphia Phillies. Crawford was regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball as he worked his way through the ranks of the minor leagues. He made his major league debut in 2017 and appeared in 23 games — unfortunately, he struggled to play at the level he could. After an underwhelming 2018, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto saw this as an opportunity to give Crawford a fresh start.
Crawford began the year in AAA Tacoma but injuries on the big league club led Dipoto to call him up, which is where he was given the opportunity to be the everyday shortstop. He assumed this role for the rest of the season and made outstanding plays on both defense and at bat, further showcasing himself as an all-star caliber player. Toward the end of the year he faced struggles but hopes to learn from them and put together a solid 2020.
“My role changed drastically from last year,” Crawford said in an interview with the Seattle Times. “Last year, I was trying to make the team and show people what I could do. No one had ever seen me over here before. But this year, I’ve got to be a leader.”
1B Evan White
Expected to make his Major League debut on opening day as the team’s starting first baseman is Evan White. The 23-year-old out of the University of Kentucky was the Mariner’s first round pick in 2017. White has worked his way from being an average prospect to being just outside of the MLB’s top 50 prospects list.
White had a .293 batting average accompanied by 18 home runs in 2019 where he spent his entire season in AA Arkansas. He is known for his gold glove caliber defense and if he is able to put up numbers like he did this past season, he could find himself as an all-star in the upcoming ones.
Record Prediction: 74–88
I firmly believe that the Mariners will be better than what most experts are predicting. If the younger players start playing to their potential to go along with the talented top prospects waiting for their call in the minors, this team could easily win over 70 games.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
- 2B Shed Long
- RF Kyle Lewis
- 3B Kyle Seager
- C Tom Murphy
- DH Daniel Vogelbach
- 1B Evan White
- LF Jake Fraley
- SS JP Crawford
- CF Mallex Smith
Projected Starting Rotation
- Marco Gonzales
- Yusei Kikuchi
- Justus Sheffield
- Kendall Graveman
- Taijuan Walker