When I was in high school, I had a teacher who had some interesting ideas regarding sports and fandom. His favorite baseball team is in the National League, so every year he chose an American League team to root for so he can keep up with the players and transactions in the other league. I decided to start doing that too, and it’s been nice to keep up with the AL while getting my NL fix from the New York Mets.
This year, the AL team Mets fans should follow is the Seattle Mariners.
This is a young team that is fun to watch and plays with a lot of energy. They’ve been on the rise for a few years now, with a loaded farm system and an absolute madman of a GM in Jerry DiPoto, who loves to make trades. In 2021, they shocked the world by winning 90 games and being eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season, but the run they made in September captivated fans everywhere.
Their lineup is really deep and has a lot of versatility. Behind the dish, Tom Murphy will get most of the starts, with Luis Torrens being the backup. At first base, they’ll have some combination of Ty France and Evan White. At second, it’ll be a blend of Abraham Toro and Adam Frazier. J.P. Crawford will be the everyday shortstop, with a super-utility guy in Dylan Moore as a backup. Eugenio Suarez will likely get the lionshare of playing time at the hot corner. Most of these guys can play multiple positions and will move around as needed.
The outfield is where this team really excels. Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, Jesse Winker, and former Mets prospect Jarred Kelenic will be the starters in one role or another. Winker will probably get a lot of at-bats as a DH, so that leaves Haniger in right, Lewis in center, and Kelenic in left. They also have a mega-prospect who will come up this season, who I’ll get into later.
Their rotation is solid and getting stronger. Robbie Ray is coming off a Cy Young season in Toronto and Marco Gonzales has been an underappreciated starter for a few years now. Former Met Chris Flexen had a great season next year at the back end of the rotation. Logan Gilbert came up and showed flashes of dominance in his rookie season, and they’ve got more guys coming.
Their bullpen is solid as well, with Diego Castillo, Drew Steckenrider, Andres Munoz, Ken Giles, and former-Met Paul Sewald. Munoz is an electric young arm to watch coming off injury, with a fastball that hovers around 100 and a nasty slider. Even if he has a rough start, there’s enough depth here to let him figure it out. All of the veterans I mentioned have similar profiles to Munoz, so he can learn a lot from them.
I’ve mentioned their prospects a few times now, so let’s dive into that. They have six prospects on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list, and three of them should be up this year. Julio Rodriguez is the outfield mega-prospect, ranked #3 overall in MLB. He has a 70 grade hit tool, 65 power, 55 run, 60 arm, and 55 field, good for an overall score of 70. He has the potential to be a dominant force for years to come.
The other two guys we will likely see this year are both pitchers. Georg Kirby is the #32 overall prospect in the MLB and number three in the Mariners’ system. He has a 70 grade fastball, a curveball, slider, and changeup all at 55, and his control is excellent at 65. Matt Brash is the other one at #98 in MLB and sixth in the Mariners’ system. He has an elite fastball-slider combon, both scouted at 65, with an average chaneup and curveball as well. Many seem to think he ends up as a dominant, two-pitch reliever, which is possible, but he’s still a starter for now.
As of Wednesday, March 30th, they are projected to win 83 games, which I think is a little low. They are by no means a World Series favorite, but I would expect 85-87 wins, which is definitely in wild card contention with the expanded playoffs now. I would also expect them to add players at the trade deadline, given that Crazy Jerry is never satisfied and he knows his window is opening. They've got Major and Minor League players they can trade if the right opportunity presents itse- I mean, when DiPoto makes it happen.
One of the new rules I’m really looking forward to in the new CBA is that every team will play every team, beginning in 2023. Every year, we’ll get to see teams like this, along with other AL superstar players like Shohei Ohtani, Luis Robert, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Shane Bieber. That’s going to be awesome.
But, at least for this year, the Mariners are the AL team I’ll be following.