That is how many years it has been since the Seattle Mariners last played a postseason baseball game. They have come close many times during that stretch, most recently in 2018 when they won 89 games. Since then, they have shipped off star players such as Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano to contending teams and embraced a full rebuild last year. Last year, the Mariners started off 13-2, the best start of any team in Major League Baseball. However, they followed that up with a six-game losing streak and had a disastrous 7-21 record in May. They would have a losing record every month the remainder of the season and finish 68-94.
While the result was disappointing after a promising start, it was needed during this rebuild. The Mariners have five top-100 prospects according to mlb.com. Letting the prospects develop during this time is much needed and there is no rush to win. The Houston Astros, sign-stealing scandal aside, are still the dominant team in the American League West and have way too much talent for Seattle to contend with. The Texas Rangers look like a solid team with three good starting pitchers and a decent lineup. The Oakland Athletics are no pushovers as they won 97 games a year ago and are still a playoff contender. While the Los Angeles Angels have arguably a worse pitching staff than the Mariners, their lineup is impressive and can be a threat on any given day.
With the bigger picture established, what can Mariners’ fans expect to see from the squad this season?
The lineup mostly stays the same with a couple of differences. The main difference comes in the form of youth. Evan White, the 58th ranked prospect, will assume duties at first base after his promotion from the minor leagues. Right fielder Mitch Haniger is still recovering from multiple core and back injuries, prompting a rotation of Mallex Smith, Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley. When discussing the infield, J.P. Crawford and Shed Long Jr. will play second and third base, respectively. This season will be crucial for their development as the team tries to build a future core lineup.
The veterans on the team are highlighted by third baseman Kyle Seager, who hit 23 home runs with 63 runs batted in (RBIs) and an OPS of .789. Designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach is the power hitter for the lineup as he hit 30 home runs last year, but struck out 149 times. Catcher Tom Murphy broke out last season with a good .858 OPS in only 75 games played. However, he has a broken foot and the Mariners will have to turn to Austin Nola to fill in at catcher for their opener tonight at Houston.
For the pitchers, Marco Gonzales will once again be the ace of the rotation. The rest of the rotation is made up of players with poor results and a lack of experience in Yusei Kikuchi, Kendall Graveman and Justus Sheffield. Matt Magill will provide the closing duties for the Mariners as he went 5-2 as a reliever last season.
The Mariners head into this season already banged up with small expectations. The most important thing for Seattle to do is to not make any rash decisions and stay the course. They have a lot of youth and inexperience on the roster and they are going to struggle. Last place is expected so the team should focus on developing players and giving new players reps. Let the rough season play out. It just might pay off in the long run as the team continues to accumulate and develop their farm system.
The Mariners will face all four of their division rivals twice and 20 games in the National League West. They open the season tonight at Houston.