Let’s be honest, the title of this article would be alot more accurate if we were talking about two seasons in the future. But oh well, it’s almost Spring Training and pitchers and catchers are about to start rolling into camp and all fans deserve to be optimistic about their team…even if they happen to be a Seattle Mariner fan. So I put this together to give all of us M’s fans something to look forward to this spring, because there certainly won’t be much to be desired in the win column for the Mariners once the regular season rolls around. So here goes nothing.
There has been a changing of the guard in Seattle over the last 2 seasons regarding on field personnel and that means there will be some fresh faces on the diamond when the team gets down to Peoria on February 18th. Familiar names such as Robbie, Felix, Nelly and and even some lesser known names like Omar Narvaez and Wade Leblanc have moved on from the Emerald City for seemingly greener pastures. (Well everyone except Maybe Robbie, because he is a Met and I’m not sure if that equals greener pastures, but the sentiment remains the same, good luck to him)
That means fans will get to know some newer-ish names during Cactus League play that should inspire some hope down the line. Names like Kyle Lewis, Shed Long, Even White, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. (I know, I know I didn’t mention J-Rod or Kelenic, but for the sake of this article I’m focusing on guys who will be in the bigs sooner than later, this season or next most likely. For the time being, just spend some time daydreaming like I do about Kyle, Julio and Kelenic patrolling the outfield) So let’s take a look at who these players are and what they could bring to the big league club.
Kyle Lewis and Shed Long are the only players of the names I mentioned earlier who have ever seen big league action. Both burst on the scene last year making an immediate impact at the big league level, flashing a lot of reasons for fans to be optimistic about the future of the franchise and especially for these 2 potential cornerstone pieces.
Kyle endeared himself to the good folks of Seattle by blasting balls into near orbit on a nightly basis. Once called up to the bigs, Lewis was one of 4 players EVER, like in MLB history, to hit 6 home runs in his first four games. This is all after a significant injury almost derailed his major league dreams. I mean, as a rookie, he made Safeco field look tiny, and that’s no small feat. If this is any indicator of what is to come from him, Mariner fans have a lot to be excited about.
Kyle maybe save some home runs for the rest of us will ya? Actually please do not. Please feel free to deposit those baseballs over the fence whenever you please.
Not to be outdone, Shed Long in his first major league action compiled a .263 average, bludgeoning 5 homers, driving in 15 runs and swiping 3 bags. I’d say for a 24 year old, in a well-known pitchers park, with no real protection in the lineup, that’s pretty darn impressive. For a guy listed at 5’8” (which we all really know means 5’7” in the sports world) he has impressive raw power, just go back and watch some of his dingers he hit this season, they weren’t exactly cheapies. Besides the stats, just go watch the guy play, he just has “it”. What is “it” exactly? That I am not exactly sure of, but Shed Long certainly has “it” in abundance.
If this is truly just the tip of the iceberg for these 2 blossoming players, watch out. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, these two should be penciled into Seattle’s Opening day roster for our viewing pleasure.
Although White, Gilbert and Kirby (all first round selections) have not yet debuted at the big league level, they did have themselves quite a year down on the farm.
How often do players who have never played in the Major Leagues get a contract extension? Hint: Not very often. White however, was the exception to that rule. That should give you an idea about the kind of player the Mariners front office thinks White is and can be. The Mariner’s love the kids mental makeup and his athleticism especially for first base. On top of that, White put together a .293 average with 18 home runs at (AA) Arkansas last season even though his bat isn’t his calling card. White’s offensive stats might not blow anyone away once he reaches the major league level, but he should provide a professional at bat every time up to the plate along with stellar, run saving defense, which Dipoto covets. If White is the guy to stop the revolving door of first baseman for the Mariners for the next 10 or so seasons, I’m sure that it is something that we would all sign off on.
Now let’s talk about a couple of guys who could toe the rubber every 5th day for the Mariners for the foreseeable future.
When talking about pitchers, the only obvious starting point to evaluate one would be the flow, the lettuce…the hair. Just see Noah Syndergaard. The one and only reason he is a stud are his gorgeous blonde flowing locks, clearly not the overpowering fastball and unbelievable offspeed offerings. And that’s exactly why Logan Gibert will be the next true Ace for the Seattle Mariners, he has that hair. Ok, but all jokes aside, you can just see it. Gilbert has the size at 6’6”, the stuff a fastball in the mid 90’s and other quality offerings. Between three different stops in the minors he managed a 2.13 ERA, 165 K’s all while holding opposing batters to under a .200 average. That’s pretty dominating for your first professional season, even if it is in the minors. The kid is only 22 years old, and at this point I’m not even sure if the sky is the actual limit for him.
Speaking of pitching, let’s not forget George Kirby. Albeit a short minor league stint for his first professional appearance of only 23 innings, he has not offered one single free pass. Anyone you wanna slice that, it’s impressive to say the least, especially when you factor in 22 years of age. He has an absurd 25/0, K/BB ratio. So if I were you, I wouldn’t ask George to go on a walk, he simply just won’t do it.
Control is one of the biggests areas of concern for pitchers at any level and sometimes it’s something that a lot of promising young arms can never master, but for Kirby, that simply isn’t a problem and should help him ascend through the minors fairly quickly. Kirby is a strike throwing machine and his command is off the charts, you put him in a pitcher’s paradise like Safeco, errrrr I mean, T-Mobile Park (just doesn’t have the same ring, bring back the SAFE!) and that seems like a match made in baseball heaven.
With solid springs from White and Gilbert (Kirby is probably a little farther away) Mariner fans can expect to showcase their talent in Seattle sooner than later and give us a glimpse of what the future could have in store.
Listen Mariner fans, I can’t predict the future and I won’t make any promises I can’t keep, so I will not guarantee the playoffs or a year in which the M’s should make the playoffs. I know the past two decades have been brutal, but we did it, we battled through and I think that that’s the light you’re looking at, that light at the end of the tunnel down there. I think we may finally, FINALLY have some young pieces to get excited about. I believe if these youngsters are developed and brought along in due time, they can form a nucleus that Mariner fans could hitch their postseason wagons to for years to come once they are everyday major leaguers. (Can’t believe I’m saying the word ‘postseason’ as a Mariner fan, but I guess a guy can dream). But I honestly do believe this.
It will take some other things to fall into place for a postseason berth to be realized in the coming seasons (maybe starting with a certain division rival not using trash cans as cheating devices, that would definitely help.) around these players as they grow. Such things would be, trade acquisitions and free agents being lured to the Great Pacific Northwest, but there is certainly something to be excited about.
So as we turn the page and wish Felix and company nothing but the best, as we thank them for all the memories that will live on in the hearts and are etched in the mind on all Mariner fans, it’s some to find some hope for the future, even if it isn’t necessarily this season. (Unless we start deploying some sort of trash can cheating strategy, because I hear that could certainly expedite the process.) “The Kid ” isn’t walking through that door to turn around the franchise like he did many years ago. There are however, a bunch of kids, that maybe in a season or two, can be the new face of the Seattle Mariners and give us all hope that the postseason isn’t that far away. All we can do Mariner fans, as “The Offspring” once sang, is hope that “the kids are alright”
For now however, let’s just be patient, let the kids grow, enjoy some Arizona sunshine and enjoy the ride. This season won’t be judged by wins and losses as it’s not about that for the team this year. This season is to be judged by the growth of not only the players I referenced earlier, but an entire farm system burgeoning with young talent. The ride will be bumpy and there will be some rough patches along the way, but may the destination is worth the ride. And that ride starts February 18th at the Peoria Sports Complex.