With the 2021 MLB season days away, let’s have a little fun with predictions for the Seattle Mariners.
Home Runs: Ty France, 33
Kyle Lewis has the best raw power on the roster but barring a better effort to get to his pull side and thanks to his penchant for swinging and missing he’s not likely to beat France at the long-ball game this season.
Batting Average (qualified only): Mitch Haniger, .279
I think there are a small handful of players that could challenge Haniger, and there’s a chance Haniger doesn’t end up qualifying in a Mariners uniform, but he’s the safest bet among projected regulars to hit .270 or better.
The only issue is if he’s traded he won’t qualify, at which point I’d pick France.
OBP (qualified only): Haniger, .358
SLG (qualified only): France, .518
Haniger is also a big-time candidate here, too.
Triples: Jarred Kelenic, 7
He’s not likely to start the season in the big leagues, but he’s a good bet to get 400-plus PAs and his combo of power and speed give him a chance to triple out quite well.
J.P. Crawford had four triples in under 400 plate appearances in 2019, so keep an eye on him, too.
Walks: Kyle Lewis, 64
I don’t expect his 14% walk rate to continue into 2021 but he’s always drawn 9-12% walks in the minors. Ten percent of 600 (PAs) is 60 and even in a mediocre-at-best lineup the top three regulars are likely to get at least that many trips to the plate.
For context, Daniel Vogelbach led the Mariners in PAs in 2019 with 558, and he played in just 144 games, just 129 starts. If Lewis starts 145 games, he’s clearing 600 plate appearances easily.
Strikeouts: Lewis, 144
This number could get out of hand, as he whiffed nearly 30% of the time a year ago, but I think if he struggles to such great lengths he’ll get time out of the lineup to work on things, which will limit the volume.
For context, his 29.3% K rate over 242 PAs in 2020 resulted in 71 strikeouts.
Stolen Bases: Dylan Moore, 22
We’re going to find out more about Moore in 2021 than all of 2020, but there are signs the on-base ability is legitimate (.358 OBP, 8.8% walks in 2020, 8.9%, and a +.94 OBP-AVG in 2019). He’s not a great athlete, but he has 55 speed and reads pitchers as well as anyone else on the roster.
Moore swiped 23 bags in his first 441 PAs in the majors, which included 104 times landing at first base via single, error, HBP or walk.
fWAR: Lewis, 3.9
He’s not a great CF glove, but he’s about average, and even if he hits .230-.240 he should post at least league-average on-base marks and hit 20-plus homers. As long as he stays healthy he’ll play 145-150 games and that’s a 3.5-win or better player, as a floor.
Innings Pitched: Marco Gonzales, 164
I figure 27 or 28 starts, six innings per start — he averaged 6.3 a year ago — and that gets me beyond 160 for the year.
Strikeouts: Yusei Kikuchi, 158
Paxton will have the best K% but the chances he remains with the team beyond July or stays healthy for 25-28 starts keep me off him as the leader here.
Kikuchi fanned 24.2% of the batters he faced a year ago with a 12.1% swinging-strike rate, so he’s a solid bet to get to 150 or so.
Walks: Chris Flexen, 68
Flexen can throw strikes, but his fastball value may struggle in the states and as a result, I fear he may nibble a bit. Certainly more so than Paxton, Gonzales, Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, and the Justin Dunn we’ve seen this spring.
But he’s also more likely to get tp 140-150 innings than is Dunn, who I’d bet has the worst walk rate among the six starters.
Saves: Rafael Montero, 31
Saves is a stupid stat — it’s super stupid and shouldn’t exist, and fantasy baseball is also stupid, so take that — but Montero is likely to get the vast majority of opportunities. If he stays with the club all year I think 30-plus is reasonable.
Pitcher fWAR: Gonzales, 4.1
Gonzales was No. 13 among starting pitchers in MLB year ago with a 2.0 fWAR in just 10 starts, which prorates out to 5.4 wins above replacement, even when considering he’s likely only tally 27 or 28 starts. While pace isn’t the best way to project, it offers an idea of how reliable Gonzales is.
The 29-year-old posted 3.7 fWAR in 2019 (34 starts) and 3.5 in 2018 (29 starts) suggesting 4.1 is anything but a stretch.
First prospect called up to 26-man Roster after Opening Day: Joey Gerber, RHR
This goes against my current Opening Day Roster projection, since I have Gerber on it, but I’m 33-33-33 in that prediction (Gerber-Swanson-Steckenrider), and if it’s not Gerber I think he forces his way up perhaps before the Triple-A schedule gets underway.
First player traded from 40-man roster between Opening Day and July 31: Jake Fraley, OF
Just a hunch that when Kelenic is summoned, they’ll need 40-man space in addition to the 26-man spot and whether Fraley is on the 26-man or not he could be moved via small trade to create space.
How many games does Kelenic play in Tripe-A Tacoma?: 0
Would it surprise me if he plays in Tacoma? No. But I think there’s a pretty good chance he hangs at the ATS for a few weeks and joins the 26-man later in April before the minor league season even begins, so…
Logan Gilbert MLB Games Started: 14
Over/Under 1.5 All-Star Selections: UNDER
I could see a second Mariners player sneaking in if a youngster like Lewis wins a fan vote after a Haniger or France gets the initial nod, but other than that I don’t think the chances are good Seattle gets more than one.
Next year and beyond, however…
Over/Under 162 Home Runs: OVER
They hit 60 a year ago in the 60-game season and will have Haniger back, France for the entire season, and likely add more power with their youth than they were running out there a year ago at 2B (Moore played mostly OF).
Over/Under 131 Stolen Bases: UNDER
I think Seattle will continue to run, but the pace they were on a year ago — nearly one per game — won’t continue over a full season.
Over/Under 4.5 Trades Made involving 40-man roster members between Opening Day and July 31: UNDER
I think the top three 40-man candidates starting the regular season are Haniger, Paxton, and Montero, with the national media’s mention of Seager being a bit obtuse without unpredictable contract restructure factors that are very, very rare in baseball.
Over/Under 72.5 Team Wins: OVER
While it is indeed one more year where development is more important than scratching out every victory possible, the roster has more overall talent, fewer holes, more upside, and more depth this year than the club that won at a 73-win clip a year ago.
I think on the low side, we’re looking at 70 wins or so. On the high side, this club could threaten .500, though the fact they aren’t likely at all to contend could rob them of key veterans in July that will hurt their chances to max out their win ability.
I’d wager on 75 wins.
Jason A. Churchill
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