Through the first 1/16th of the Major League Baseball season, the Seattle Mariners are floating just above the .500 mark at 6-5. They’ve given fans some reasons to cheer (young, exciting players) and some to jeer (no more “Louie Louie” during the seventh inning stretch), but what is real and what is false in some of the things they’ve shown to start the season? Let’s find out with three truths and lie about the Mariners’ season so far.
Matt Brash is the real deal: Sure looks like the truth. Through two starts, he’s already shown what he can do with a fastball that hits 97mph and a wipeout slider. He held the Astros hitless through five innings on Sunday, including five strikeouts. One of which simply made Jose Sire look silly waving at a slider that had vanished from the strike zone.
If anything is holding Brash back, it’s his control- he also walked six Astros – but he made up for that by inducing weak ground balls at all the right times to get five double plays. Mariners fans should prepare themselves to make whatever deal with Devil they need to do to make sure Brash’s right arm stays in proper functioning order because if it does, he has the potential to form a disgusting top of the rotation combo with fellow young gun Logan Gilbert for years to come.
The bottom of the team’s roster is…weird: Truth. The Mariners broke spring training without an actual centerfielder on the roster, no true backup outfielders, and three catchers. Sometimes you do what you need to do to make all the puzzle pieces fit, but it has made for some odd lineups to start the season. Before the season, the team’s leadership stated it wanted to rotate numerous players through the designated hitter spot, which they’ve done. However, a not-insignificant amount of the time has been devoted to getting one of the team’s two backup infielders (who by default is now an outfielder also), Abraham Toro, at-bats. They’ve also used it to try and keep Luis Torrens, a catcher who is not great at catching, in the game. Both outfielder Mitch Haniger and Torrens, who recently went on the Injured List with Covid, figure to see lots of time at Designated Hitter. However, former rookie of the year Kyle Lewis, who is rehabbing his way back from injury, also figures to need to take up time at the spot. When Lewis returns, the Mariners will have two injury-prone outfielders who should probably not be in the outfield and a catcher who can’t catch all vying for at-bats. And they still don’t have anyone to spell rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez in Centerfield, where he is playing out of position. Something will have to give eventually.
It’s time to hit the panic button about the team’s young outfielders: Lie. Neither Julio Rodriguez nor Jarred Kelenic has gotten off to blazing starts this season. Both are hitting below .200 on the season, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to start thinking about shipping either one to Tacoma. Rodriguez hasn’t flashed any of his power potential yet, but to be fair to him, neither has much of the Major Leagues, as home runs are down across the board. What Rodriguez has shown is speed and the ability to play decent centerfield. He’s 4/4 on stolen bases and has shown the ability to work walks. Remember, he has barely played half a season above High A ball, and skipped AAA entirely, so there will be some growing pains. As for Kelenic, it’s understandable for fans to be worried. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire in 2021, but despite a slow start to 2022, there is reason for optimism. The Mariners left fielder is among the league leaders in barrels and max exit velocity, meaning that when he squares up a pitch, he turns it into a laser beam. Both of his home runs this season have been rockets off the right field fair pole in T-Mobile Park, and they may have left dents:
Kelenic’s biggest problem continues to be consistently putting it all together. While he has some of the hardest-hit balls in major league baseball this season, he is also in the bottom 11% of average exit velocity, meaning that if you take away those laser beams, you get a bunch of weak ground balls. If he can iron out his swing, everything will be fine.
The Mariners bullpen will again be the team’s biggest strength: Truth. Even if the Mariners’ young starting pitchers go through some rough patches, or if Robbie Ray doesn’t fully regain his Cy Young form, if they can keep the game close, the Mariners bullpen gives the team a chance to dramatically shorten any game. Get ready to hear the names of Diego Castillo, Paul Sewald, Drew Streckenrider, and Andres Munoz called a lot this season. Those four can close out a game from the sixth inning on, and any of them is capable of taking on the ninth inning. Munoz, in particular, is one to watch. The fireballing youngster can hit over 100 MPH on his fastball and combos it with a mid-80s wipeout slider that is simply devastating to any hitter sitting on the fastball. Watch this slider to finish off Jose Altuve on a 3-2 pitch last Sunday. Altuve is one of the best contact hitters in baseball and was left flailing for strike three on a nasty Munoz slider on Sunday: https://www.mlb.com/video/jose-altuve-strikes-out-swinging-ut0lyw. That slider is devastating, but it takes confidence to throw a slider on a 3-2 count to a good hitter knowing it will wind up out of the strike zone. If Munoz keeps that confidence, he will be a late-inning force for years to come.