Thanks to a heralded crop of prospects and a big-league roster bursting with promise, optimism about the future of the Seattle Mariners is on the rise. Fans are beginning to believe the youngsters will eventually spearhead Seattle’s return to MLB relevance for the first time in nearly two decades. The national media has even begun taking notice of the scrappy squad from the Pacific Northwest. Still, everything isn’t as rosy with the youth movement as the Mariners’ respectable 8-5 start suggests.
Unfortunately, the kid’s bats have been mostly dormant through the first two weeks of the season. It’s the Mariners’ oldest position players – Kyle Seager (33) and Mitch Haniger (30) – who are actually driving the team’s early success. A comparison of the pair’s combined production to their teammates underscores the importance of maintaining a veteran presence in a young lineup.
|Exit Velocity (MPH)||90.2||85.9|
Essentially, Seager and Haniger are the engines propelling the Mariners’ lineup right now. Yes, 26-year-old Ty France is hitting, as most team observers believed he would. The third-year player is slashing .271/.386/.438 with a 140 OPS+. But after France, there’s a shortage of good news stories regarding Seattle’s young hitters.
To be clear, the early struggles of the Mariners’ inexperienced position players isn’t an indictment of the strategy of building a youthful, athletic roster employed by GM Jerry Dipoto. The organization’s rebuild is on the right track – even if the kids are scuffling at the moment.
Still, the first two weeks of 2021 serve as a reminder that young players are likely to struggle, as they adjust to big-league competition. It’s part of the development process. That’s why the steadying influence of Seager and Haniger in the clubhouse and on the field is so vital to the kids. It gives them time to blossom into full-time major leaguers.
Imagine for a moment that Seager and Haniger weren’t in the picture. The Mariners wouldn’t have a player with over 1,000 career plate appearances. In fact, the veteran duo has nearly twice as many career plate appearances (7,144) as the rest of the 40-man roster (3,880). As the following illustrates, the vast majority of position players have yet to reach the 500-plate appearance milestone. That’s not even a season’s worth of experience for a regular.
|Under 500||Under 600||Under 900||1,500+||5,000+|
|Kyle Lewis||Tom Murphy||J.P. Crawford||Mitch Haniger||Kyle Seager|
Fortunately, Mariners fans don’t have to worry about life without Seager and Haniger. That’s assuming each player remains healthy and Dipoto doesn’t get the itch to trade the thirty-somethings this summer. Yes, all good things must come to an end. But resisting the urge to deal would be prudent – at least in 2021.
Names like Taylor Trammell, Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Cal Raleigh, and Logan Gilbert dominate the conversation when we discuss the Mariners’ future. But only one of these promising players – Trammell – is in the majors. The 23-year-old has experienced several positives – a team-leading eight walks, crushing two home runs, and a few web gems in the field. Unfortunately, Trammell is leading the majors with an alarmingly high 45.7-percent strikeout rate. Moreover, he’s scuffled on the base paths. There’s a lot to like about the kid, but there’s plenty of room for growth too.
And that’s why having leaders, such as Seager and Haniger in the lineup and Marco Gonzales on the pitching staff matters. Not only have these established players struggled during their careers, they’ve fought their way back to have success. Each can provide mentorship to Trammell and other youngsters that can’t be quantified by statistics – conventional or otherwise. Furthermore, proven veterans take pressure off the young guys by delivering results – like Seager and Haniger have thus far.
The Mariners’ endgame is to create a competitive roster teeming with young, controllable players – that’s a good plan. But baseball is hard. The kids are already facing adversity and will continue to encounter it on the path leading Seattle back to postseason relevance. That’s why keeping a few veterans around to serve as guides is more important than ever to the kids and to the franchise’s long-term success.
My Oh My…
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