SEASON PREVIEW PART 1/4: THE VIEW FROM THE FRONTLINE

“A season preview is never late, Frodo Baggins. It arrives precisely when it means to.”

Hi Deckies! It’s your once quarterly pal Brian here! The state Poasting Board came through and stated we needed to do one post per year to renew our Failure In Analysis License in Washington State so dag nabbit, let’s get it over with and smile for the DMV camera.

Here it is! The series nobody asked for a week late! Whatever *this* is will have provided a 10,000 ft overview of Marineria just as the ballclub gets rolling if I have succeeded. If you want pixel-perfect descriptors of Mariner Guys and Dudes, look elsewhere, but if ya want the quick n dirty, welcome to the speakweirdly, the password is Forksdown.

Some disclaimers, I read my work last year (shudder). I felt it leaned wayyyyy too much into the numbers, so unless they’re superduper bonkers or essential in telling the elevator pitch story of the player at hand. The links go to Fangraphs (except one easter egg) if you’re interested in self-perusal and want to know more.

Before reading, you’re going to want to know a general outline of 20-80, the Super Duper Insider Lingo, which is tossed around by Self Important Folks Like Myself to describe baseball players’ skills. It typically follows what would be an even distribution of talent. I think it is a pretty good way of thinking about baseball, and a lot of things, in general.

Player grades in this series are based on the work of the VIBES printout and Al Gore’s rhythm, which surprisingly naturally dovetails with the MMO Holy Trinity of character archetypes. The number of question marks next to a grade indicates uncertainty around what bucket upward or downward the grade belongs. Terms you’re gonna see in this series are…

Sword: For hitters, a simple measure of how dangerous this player is with the bat in hand. Rolling Hit/Power/Eye into one, a combination of Vibes & wRC+. If I may reference cricket, the ability to “take a wicket” for pitchers. The ability to pick up strikeouts is a pretty good indicator of overall swordsmanry for pitchers.

Shield: For hitters, the ability to add value while in the field. Combination of general vibes and DEF on FanGraphs. For pitchers, the ability to avoid walks. Good generalized barometer of the pitcher’s skill in manipulating the strike zone and getting hitters out while (sigh) Controlling The Zone.

Magic: That little extra flourish. For hitters, that’s the havoc that the player can create once they’re on the bases in the form of taking an extra bag or getting steals. For pitchers, it’s the ability to generate groundballs and avoid conceding home runs. I like to think of it as the certain je ne sais quoi which keeps the ball in the yard.

FRONTLINE TALENT GRADE: C (It could be better, it could be worse)

PROJECTED STRENGTHS: Length of lineup, MLB bench, bullpen depth, potentially infield defense.

PROJECTED WEAKNESSES: Backend of rotation uncertainty, flyball pitching exacerbating a shaky outfield defense, potentially catcher.

MOST TALENTED PLAYER: Robbie Ray

#1 IN OUR HEARTS: Julio Rodriguez

SUPPORT: Check Back Soon 😉

UPPER MINORS: Check back after algebra

LOWER MINORS: Be nice to your mother to unveil

TOP PROSPECT: Get B in geography to unlock

ONFIELD MANAGEMENT: IDK maybe next week

OFFICE MANAGEMENT: Just a guy with a dayjob

OWNERSHIP: Holy cow I underestimated the amount of elbow grease needed here

FAN INTEREST: Give me two compliments to unfurl

PREDICTED 2022 RECORD: 3nd AL West, 86-76, in contention until last week of season.

THE FRONT LINE

If John Stanton had to win a 7 game series or light a five dollar bill on fire, these would be the players you’d see the most of…

ROTATION

SP
1
ROBBIE
RAY
70? SWORD50? SHIELD40?? MAGIC
SP2LOGAN
GILBERT
50
SWORD
55
SHIELD
40
MAGIC
SP3CHRIS
FLEXEN
40
SWORD
55? SHIELD45?
MAGIC
SP4MARCO GONZALES35
SWORD
55
SHIELD
40?? MAGIC
Two Damage Dealing Princes seeing how high they can fly and two Healer/Tanks living on the edge

ROBBIE RAY (70-50-40)

The foundation of How High the 2022 Seattle Mariners will be able to stack their dubyas will be built upon the left arm of a portly yet undeniably athletic Robert SweetTeaSweetie Ray. Consistently amongst the league leaders in strikeouts, our Ex-Jock-Who-Is-Somehow-A-Professional-Athlete shaved nearly a whole dadgum walk/9 off his previous career-best en route to winning the 2021 Cy Young. Always with an extra crispy fastball and slider, Ray tantalized for darn near the better part of a decade and finally put it all together once he put on the tighties in Toronto. Legit concerns exist about Ray backsliding to his previously barely palatable walk rate, and he’s, even in 2021, been somewhat flammable in terms of getting a problematic contact. Even if there’s an expected step back from his bootylicious 2021, he’s still a peach of a pitcher…

LOGAN GILBERT (50-55-40)

Though not an 80-grade baseball pessimist (55 going on 60 in the Premium Deck Section), I have reached an uneasy truce with the sunny side regarding one Logan BigHatAllCattle Gilbert. From the time he started pitching in organized baseball, Gilbert showed a virtuosic penchant for CTing The Z. If any player is a demonstrated success for organization pitching development philosophy, it’s our stringy little guy. Already able to get above-average results with his fastball and curveball, reports from spring hint at an improved slider. One can dream on Cy Young votes should feel for the changeup improve. With a track record of limiting hard contact throughout his minor league career (Loagie did get a case of The Gophers in the bigs), I, The Gatekeeping Knower Of Baseball, grant you, the Chill And Cool reader, permission to get hype RE:YungFlorida…

CHRIS FLEXEN (40-55-45)

The biggest non-bullpen revelation of the 2021 Mariners was one Christopher BigFlexi Flexen. After a sabbatical in the KBO, Flexen showed the ability to be the cat in the cat and mouse change of speed game. It may have taken some time, but as larger pitchers (per conventional wisdom) take longer to develop, and Flexen is Now With Cutter, we could be looking at a fully realized MOTR Dude. Suppose you’re looking to stay in the pessimist camp. In that case, Flexen isn’t overpowering and likely isn’t ever going to retire hitters with anything other than guts n guile. It remains to be seen if the league just needs another look to get the hard contact conga line going or if Chris Flexen is the Greatest Pitcher To Ever Walk The Earth…

MARCO GONZALES (35-55-40)

I won’t mince words; Marco Gonzales was a bad second half away from punching his ticket to DFAistan (lovely in the summer, I hear). After a brutal start to the season, Marco became a believable imitation of the Good Marco that we have known and loved in the past. Gonzalez leaned heavier into his changeup usage in 2021, and per pitch values, it’s the straw that stirs the drink now. As with Flexen, the concern with Marco will always be his ability to work a delicate balance between controlling the zone and replacing a windshield in the parking lot as there isn’t classical sitdown stuff here. Grumpiness aside, if there’s something close to Summer Marco in 2022, he can still be somebody that can be counted on to make clutch starts and break losing streaks…

LINEUP

CBIG
DUMPER
40?? SWORD60??? SHIELD45
MAGIC
1BTY
FRANCE
55
SWORD
35
SHIELD
40
MAGIC
2BADAM
FRAZIER
45
SWORD
60
SHIELD
50
MAGIC
3BABRAHAM
TORO
50?? SWORD50??
SHIELD
50? MAGIC
SSJ.P.
CRAWFORD
50
SWORD
60
SHIELD
45
MAGIC
LFMITCH
HANIGER
55
SWORD
35
SHIELD
40
MAGIC
CFJULIO RODRIGUEZ55?
SWORD
50??
SHIELD
50? MAGIC
RF JARRED KELENIC50?? SWORD40?
SHIELD
50
MAGIC
DH JESSE
WINKER
60?
SWORD
30?
SHIELD
45
MAGIC
Looks long, kinda strong (especially against right handed pitching), let’s see how they get the friction on…

CAL RALEIGH (40-60-45)

Always right on that fringe of “Not A Stud, But Not Quite An OrgGuy” (work with me here), Calverton BigDumper Raleigh may be holding the key to the upper bounds of projections for the 2022 squad. At the time of his ‘mup, Raleigh was one of the best hitters PCL and the hottest hitting catcher in all minor league baseball with a niftygalifty pre-pandy track record in the lower minors to boot. The concern with DumperTheProspect was his ability to handle a big-league staff and withstand the rigors of the most demanding defensive position in baseball. Seemingly the second Raleigh entered King County from Pierce, his poles flipped (my bet is a Freaky Friday situation with Luis Torrens, but we cannot comment further into ongoing investigations). According to multiple defensive metrics, BeegDump was among the best, if not hanging with rarified air guys as a defensive catcher. Unfortunately, part of this alleged demonic possesery meant he hit like a pitcher on Xanax. Ok, that’s too mean, but he was one of the 20 worst hitters in baseball. If Oh Dumper My Dumper can maintain his unexpected and titillating gains behind the dish and just get to within a country mile of league average with his power/hit offense, Cal’s gonna be dumpin’ in Seattle for the next decade…

TY FRANCE (55-35-40)

Perhaps the most significant Mariner lineup development in 2021 was Ty France going from PCL Destroyer to Legit First Division Dude. His bat will allow him to be said Legit Dude even if he has to clang it up at 2nd, 3rd, or even LF. I would like to see the org try and squeeze all the standard mitt juice they can from Tyberiandawn before moving him to the end of the defensive spectrum line full-time. This being said, being a fantastic first baseman is nothing to sneeze at (note: what are we sneezing on then). France offers a potential EscargotMode if he can start turning some hard-hit grounders into some tastier confit de dingars….

ADAM FRAZIER (45-60-50)

It was a tale of two teams for Adam “Tossed Sa-lads and Dou-ble Plays” Frazier. The 98 games Frazier played with an imminently forgettable Pirates squad would’ve represented an across the board career year for the projected primary 2022 Mariner keystonian however, the 57 game sample with the SoCalDads was eerily in line with his career-worst year of 2020, and the reason he was available for a low minors guy and upper minors relief depth in a trade. Should Fraizer revert back to simply his back of the baseball card contributions vs. The Dark Times In Dad City, he’s still a handy player who isn’t helpless at the dish and plays a scratch 2sack with hidden value as a basepath magician. As it stands now, he’s the strong side of a potential triangle platoon with Eugenio Suárez and Abraham Toro at second and third.

ABRAHAM TORO (50-50-50)

Though he won’t draw the start on opening day (authors note, he didn’t!) Suppose everything breaks right for your 2022 Seattle Mariners. In that case, Abraham Toro will have continued his inevitable upward ascent towards the Rarified Air Of Dudedom. Due to the circumstances around his acquisition and a Certified Ufda of a September, the rooters seem to be down on The Most Handsome Mariner. Throwing that all aside and Playing Baseball On A Spreadsheet, Toro is a switch hitter who just turned 25 with fantastic adjusted splits across multiple minor league seasons and outperformed the more ballyhooed and right handed hitting Eugenio Suárez in 2021. Stretched (but arguably playable) at second, Toro should be more comfortable third and get some time in left field. There is no drool-inducing 60 anywhere in his game, but 50-55 is across-the-board within the realm of possibility. That, to me, is Dudely. Heck, maybe he can even be a part of An All Catcher Lineup on Manager Pencils Himself In Day

J.P. CRAWFORD (50-60-45)

With the retirement of Kyle Seager, John Paul Paul John Crawford (now freshly extended!) is taking the mantle of both GoodClubhouseGuy and BoringlyGoodPlayer for your Seattle Mariners. An inarguably good-to-great defender who’s coming into some power at the plate, Crawford likely is what he is at this point in time, a 2-3 win (good to borderline great) shortstop who could you know conceivably have a bat good enough to avoid DFA at 2nd or 3rd if the defense backs up. Due to a paucity of talent caused by organizational “frugality,” Crawford has been over-extended as a top-of-the-lineup fixture. He may be able to thrive with protection around him further down in the order…

MITCH HANIGER (55-35-40)

The wheels ultimately came off of his defense. No one can harbor visions of palatable CF defense anymore for one Mitch Haniger and maybe drinking the seawater if they view him as anything more than a cross-your-fingers-and-hope option in RF/LF at this point. I’m starting with the Grump Stuff because I want to get to the stupid sexy lumber that powers the Mitchbus. Hitting the living daylights out of baseballs early and often is the name of the game for Mitchapalooza. According to his expected wOBA in 2021, he actually underperformed despite a near career year at the plate. With an anticipated return to health of Kyle Lewis, the emergence of Julio Rodriguez, the addition of Jesse Winker, and a stated desire to give Abraham Toro some reps in the corner outfield, Mitch won’t be asked to take on the herculean task of playing 157 games again. I’m excited to see him yet another year removed from a Gutierrian spate of wildly bad injury luck…

JULIO RODRIGUEZ (55-50-50)

VIBES was a year early on Julio, and the Patent Pending AI now projects him to hit 2.000, which is understood by us mortals to be impossible, but for Julio Rodriguez, impossible indeed may be a concept for someone else to deal with. You’ve likely heard voluminous praise, RE: Juuuuliiiooooo, but to me, his ability to overcome some serious professional adversity (a 2019 broken wrist and a 2020 pandemic, and Jiminy Christmas, the guy is in a foreign country and remember how much of a PoopHead you were at his age…) in addition to the at times wholly premature and overly focused spotlight (as well as for some reason, internal shitbaggery and shootfootery, goms) shined upon him by his employer. At the time of this typing, Julioooooooooooooo is planted firmly in Center until he either decides he doesn’t want to be here anymore or it proves too challenging a defensive assignment. I have no doubt that either this year or at worst sometime before he turns 24 (which is 3 years from now lol), Julioooooooooooooooooo will post the offensive line that is 10% better than League average; lock me up for hot taekrey, cops. There is a great deal of Doubt in his skill level compared to the other 30 major league everyday center fielders on defense, and it is yet to be seen how magical he can be once he reaches base; SuperFastJulio is a recent and welcome phenomenon, who are we to disbelieve now. Again, with all the unfair pressure that has been forced upon this effervescent young maestro, Julio has done nothing but exceed wildest expectations, and heck, why not this year as well…

JARRED KELENIC (50-40-50)

The team’s primary center fielder in 2021, Jarred Kelenic, also figures to get plenty of it that’s there even though he is listed as in RF now for the purposes of this article. For OurLilPossum, there will be games in center, there will be games in left, and one can still cross their fingers and hope that Jarred Kelenic can hit well enough that a half-day off at DH some point time in 2022 is in the cards. A crackerjack of a September was the post hotbox gas-station-sea-breeze air freshener that mostly cleared up the fetid stench of his summer. Still, the smell isn’t yet entirely out of the fabric. Our lil’ possum guy was STRUH-GA-LING to the tune of the worst debut for a 21-year-old ever until he charmed us all with his “heck the world” demeanor and clutch hitting. Though the palate was largely cleansed, there is an argument that I subscribe to that the organizational pennywise pound foolish behavior foisted unfair expectations on a player who was obviously caught in the baby deer stage of being ever so slightly too good for the minors (his AAA numbers, though initially horrifying, rebounded spectacularly) but yet right on the cusp of big-league playability. Essentially, he’s recovering from being his own bridge. We can’t forget that our tinkerin’ lil’ guy was once a consensus top prospect and is seen by the scouting community as above-average across the board, with the potential to be a rare 60 level swordsman. The jury is still out, but if anyone is gonna do some bustin’, he’s already busted out once

JESSE WINKER (60-30-45)

All of these can be true:
Jesse Winker is a demonstrated butcher in the outfield (note, he deeked us spectacularly on opening day). If anything, he should be given a first baseman’s mitt and a daily Perry Hill session.

Jesse Winker offers nothing on the bases and isn’t getting any younger or faster.

Jesse Winker hits like Miguel Olivo’s career mark against left-handed pitching.

Jesse Winker is the best position player under the employment of the Seattle Mariners at the time of this writing.

Suppose you grew up during a time on the internet. In that case, let’s call it from 2008 to 2017; you will have seen the “one weird trick” advertisements you were opening up your email if you didn’t install an ad blocker. Jesse Winker has found That One Weird Trick, and that one weird trick is moiderizing right-handed pitching. He is among the best, if not the best, hitter of the most common pitching type that exists; he could even get worse on defense in the back and on the bases and still be imminently playable if he can continue to hit right-handed pitching as he did in 2021 and his career before that. Existing research has shown that his platoon splits, especially against left-handed pitching, don’t necessarily improve with time. He likely will not learn to gloss over his weakness; instead, look for Winker to maximize his supernatural talent with the bat against right-handers if there’s any improvement left. More than likely, WYSIWYG, but WYG is a first division regular and a chance for a younger generation to have their own “Raúl Takes Pride In His Defense” gifs…

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