The Seattle Mariners have been through a lot these past few decades, and as the 2020s began, things didn’t seem to be getting any better. That’s no longer the case and things are about to heat up.
Side Note: Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein’s Dorktown: The History of the Seattle Mariners is a thing of beauty. If you haven’t seen it, here’s all 3+ hours.
You’re welcome. Enjoy. Let’s talk about the current state of the team and their future.
The Seattle Mariners
2020: Record: 27 – 33
2020 Finish: 3rd in the AL West, 9th in the American League
Surprises in 2020
There was no Mariners player who had a better season than Kyle Lewis. That’s a scientific fact. The 2020 Rookie of the Year burst onto the scene, taking full advantage of a shortened season on a team with very little to gain and even less to lose.
Leading the Mariners with 54 hits and 11 home runs, Lewis at times felt like the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr. In fact, let’s see if you can tell their rookie season slash lines apart.
- Player A: .262/.364/.437, .801 OPS, 126 OPS+
- Player B: .264/.329/.420, .748 OPS, 108 OPS+
These numbers are almost identical, adding to the level of difficulty in determining which player owns which statistics. Kyle Lewis is Player A and Griffery Jr. is Player B. They are essentially the same dude.
Yes, Griffey played in almost twice as many games and it will be a bit of a learning curve for Lewis as he plays his first full season. That’s a fair point, but the numbers still line up. The only metric where double his stats wouldn’t catch or get close to Griffey are Lewis’s doubles. Every other statistic tracks. That’s wild.
But that’s also good news for Mariners fans. The rise of Ken Griffey Jr. was essential to the Mariners success in the 1990s. If Kyle Lewis can continue to blossom into one of the premier outfielders in the game, perhaps history can continue to repeat itself in Seattle.
Disappointments in 2020
While the younger players on the Mariners roster are showing up, it’s the older M’s that faltered in 2020, namely Yusei Kikuchi. The oldest member of the rotation by age, but by no means experience, once again failed to live up to his Japanese League numbers.
Yes, the leagues are different, but Kikuchi is struggling to keep his head above water right now, and he’s the second-most expensive player on the Mariners payroll behind Kyle Seager.
There were some signs of improvement from Kikuchi in 2020, as his WHIP returned to a normal level, and his K/9 jumped up to 9, but the rest of his numbers were pedestrian. That’s a problem, and it’s one that’s going to force the Mariners to make a decision regarding his future with the club.
With a mutual option looming after this season, Kikuchi is running out of time to show his value to the Mariners’ Front Office. With a potential rotation of studs in the making, Kikuchi needs to position himself as a veteran presence. The Mariners will need an anchor to their rotation, and right now Kikuchi isn’t fitting in with their future plans.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Things could have gone a lot worse to the Mariners in 2020, which leaves a lot of room for optimism in 2021. Unlike past seasons where the fans were subject to watching mid-level MLB talent, the upcoming season provides something more exciting: growth.
The Mariners have a young core of talent that they have cultivated over the last few seasons. Some of that talent has come in big blockbuster deals, and others like the deal that landed then J.P. Crawford were quieter.
Looking at the roster from last season, it’s clear to see the Mariners haven’t reached their final form. We have still yet to see the full fire of a rotation that touts Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, and Nick Margevicious. Even White’s first foray in the Majors wasn’t as we’d have hoped, but there’s still time to develop.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
After the 2019 season, Kyle Lewis was ranked the 10th prospect in the Mariners farm system, with Evan White ranking 4th. At the top of that list are names we’re still waiting to see at the major league level. Logan Gilbert and George Kirby are still pitching their way through the minors, and Kyle Lewis’ future outfield mates in Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are waiting in the wings.
This Mariners team is about to get very fun, very quickly. So if you’re an M’s fan, the time to get excited about the future is right now.
Projected 2021 Finish: 82-80, 3rd in the AL West
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