On our Press Box podcast on Friday, host Larry Weir asked me what fans of the Seattle Mariners can look forward to the rest of the summer. I had trouble coming up with a suitable answer.
Then in a production meeting later in the day, our intrepid sports editor Ralph Walter bemoaned the lack of compelling story lines surrounding the team and wondered aloud how to fill our summer sports sections relying on a team as bad as the M’s look right now.
(A quick aside: Ralph knows squat-all about baseball. In our fantasy baseball draft this spring where each owner has to have a theme to the players they draft, his was “players I’ve actually heard of.”)
It’s tough to be positive about a team that for the past 44 games has played at a .250 clip – a 40.5 win pace over a full season.
As I stammered to answer Larry’s question, I came up with a couple of mildly interesting aspects of the Mariners going forward this summer.
First of all, Daniel Vogelbach is worth watching. He had worn out his welcome in AAA and needed only playing time at the big league level to prove if he belonged. So far, so good for the M’s favorite large adult son.
He’s slashing .245/376/.572 with 15 homers through 194 plate appearances entering play on Friday. Watching him adjust as American League pitchers adjust to him throughout the season will probably be as interesting as it gets for the faithful.
Another guy to keep an eye on is Mitch Haniger. The follow-up to his breakout, All-Star campaign has been less than stellar thus far, and the next several months will tell if the M’s have a cornerstone or baseball’s equivalent of a one-hit wonder.
Hopefully GM Jerry Dipoto hasn’t already missed his window to trade Haniger for good value.
J.P. Crawford seemed like he might be fun to watch, but his 17-game stint this season has now been delayed by an ankle injury expected to keep him out the next four to six weeks.
On the pitching side, there’s not a whole lot to look forward to. Marco Gonzales got off to a real nice start, going 5-0 in April, but in his subsequent six starts he has gone 0-5 with a 5.86 ERA, with just 18 strikeouts over 27 2/3 innings.
Like Haniger, Gonzales is a guy the M’s thought they could count on, so the next four months will be telling about his future with the club.
Really, the only other interesting thing about the staff is Yusei Kikuchi’s progress as he transitions to the American game.
The M’s spent a ton of money on him (three years, $43 million) with three team option years on the back end, and while his pedigree showed enough promise that he could handle being an integral part of an MLB staff, right now his strikeout rate (6.7 per nine innings) and percentage of balls put in play against him (72 percent, nine points higher than league average) are both red flags.
One thing Mariners have do have to look forward to happens Monday through Wednesday – the MLB amateur draft. The M’s hold the 20th pick in the first round. It’s impossible to predict who the M’s might have on their draft board, but the first round this year seems light on top high school prospects.
One player who almost certainly won’t be available to the M’s at No. 20 is Seattle high school phenom Corbin Carroll from Lakeside High School, the state Gatorade baseball player of the year. He should be in play anywhere in the high-to-mid-teens (and has been committed to UCLA since his sophomore year), but if he’s still on the board when the M’s select, Dipoto should RUN to the podium to call out the centerfielder’s name.
The possibility exists that the M’s nab a college player closer to the show, like last year when they selected Logan Gilbert out of Stetson University. The 22-year-old spent a month dominating Low-A hitters for West Virginia in April and was promoted to High-A Modesto, where he’s doing the same thing against California League competition for the Nuts.
So there’s another bright spot.
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