With a young core of players with potential, Mariner fans have a lot to be excited about in 2021 and future years.
The 2021 MLB season is here with all 30 teams officially reporting for spring training and preparing for the upcoming year. After a shortened 2020 season along with the ongoing pandemic, there were doubts about whether this year’s season would start on time. But teams are competing in their annual spring training games and the season is on track to start on time, with or without fans in stadiums.
The Mariners find themselves in a very optimistic position heading into 2021. Last season, their young core of players showed significant growth and if these players continue to grow into the potential they have, then this team could surprise some people.
Leading this young core is center fielder and 2020 American League rookie of the year, Kyle Lewis. Lewis finished with a slash line of .262/.364/.437 to go along with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. It has been a long time since Mariner fans have had a player to be as excited about as they should be for Lewis. He brings energy wherever he goes and will likely be in the Mariners lineup for years to come.
Two other young players who made an impact and showed promise in 2020 were shortstop JP Crawford and first baseman Evan White. This was Crawford’s second full year as a Mariner where he significantly improved his batting average while also winning a Gold Glove award for his outstanding defense. This season will act as a make or break year for Crawford as the club may search for other options at shortstop if the improvement does not continue. However, I like what I saw from Crawford and I expect to see him continue to be in our future plans.
White has been labeled as the first baseman of the future and flashed this potential during his rookie season. White struggled at the plate for the majority of the season, finishing with a .176 batting average but there is reason to believe this will improve. His exit velocity of batted balls shows that he is making hard consistent contact, so if he can cut down his strikeouts, then improvement is almost guaranteed. White would also join Crawford to win a Gold Glove as well, who was the first rookie first baseman to do so since 1957.
Returning to the lineup in 2021 is catcher Tom Murphy and right fielder Mitch Haniger. Murphy missed the entire 2020 season due to a foot injury but has fully recovered and hopes to build off a breakout 2019 where he hit .273 with 18 home runs.
Haniger has not seen action since the first half of 2019 due to a variety of injuries. Hopes were high after being named an all star in 2018 and Haniger looks to get back to this level of play now that he is healthy. He is one of the players that has stood out to me in Spring Training and looks to be back to his old self.
Along with this promising lineup is a young and upcoming pitching staff that showed a lot of improvement in 2020. Leading the starting rotation is Marco Gonzales. Gonzales had a career year in 2020 posting a 3.10 ERA and would have likely set career highs in wins and strikeouts, if not for the shortened season.
Returning to Seattle is veteran starting pitcher James Paxton, known around here as “The Big Maple.” Paxton was extremely valuable in his first stint in Seattle and solidified himself as one of the league’s best pitchers. This led the Mariners to trade him to the Yankees during their rebuild but he struggled with injuries in New York and was never the same pitcher he was in Seattle. Paxton hopes to bounce back in a familiar setting this upcoming season while also bringing good veteran leadership to a young rotation.
Even with all the promise the major league roster is showing, the Mariners also have the no. 2 farm system in all of baseball including the #3 and #4 overall prospects in Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic. Both Kelenic and Rodriguez are predicted to make massive impacts on the team once called up where we could see Kelenic as soon as opening day.
Overall, there is a lot to be excited about this year with the Seattle Mariners. With a promising and young core group of players along with one of the top farm systems in baseball, this team will be in contention for a playoff spot this season. The future is now in Seattle.
- JP Crawford – SS
- Dylan Moore – 2B
- Kyle Lewis – CF
- Kyle Seager – 3B
- Mitch Haniger – RF
- Ty France – DH
- Evan White – 1B
- Tom Murphy – C
- Jake Fraley – LF
- Marco Gonzales
- James Paxton
- Justus Sheffield
- Chris Flexen
- Yusei Kikuchi
- Justin Dunn