Who is the Next Mariners Superstar?
In the late 90’s, there was no question who the face of the Mariners was. Junior, with his sweet swing and his backward hat, was synonymous with Seattle. During the early 2000s, Edgar was nearing the end of his career with a bang.
The mid-late 2000’s, Ichiro iconic routines in the batter’s box turned families around the globe into Mariners fans. After winning the Cy Young in 2010, Felix Hernandez dominated his opponents on the mound. From 2015 to the end of last season, Nelson Cruz and his towering blasts sent fans into a frenzy.
Now, as the Mariners enter a new phase in their history, the question begs to be asked: Who is the next Superstar of the Seattle Mariners?
Obviously, that player may not even be in the organization yet. But, that’s no fun. So, looking at both current Mariners as well as the farm system, a few candidates do stand out.
First off, Seattle’s starting shortstop J.P Crawford. Crawford came over in a deal with Philadelphia that sent Jean Segura, James Pazos, and Juan Nicasio to the Phillies. In return, the Mariners got a 24-year-old shortstop with less than 200 at-bats. After injuries soured the Phillies on Crawford, they became willing to move him and he ended up with the retooling Mariners.
This year, Crawford has a 1.3 bWAR while hitting .247/.333/.406 with four home runs in 60 games. He struggled mightily in July, hitting just .167 for the month but is aided by his .338 performance in June.
He still has plenty of work to do against lefties, hitting .167 on the season against southpaws with only one extra-base hit. Crawford has plenty of time to improve before the Mariners plan to contend again.
Obviously, I cant write an article without mentioning Daniel Vogelbach, so I’ll keep it short. Vogey is just 25 years old and leads the Mariners in home runs with 26. He was the Mariners only All-Star and should be able to lock down the DH spot for years to come.
Similar to Crawford, Daniel also needs some work against left-handed pitchers but at least he is actually getting a chance to face them now.
Down on the farm, the possibilities are abundant. Cal Raleigh, Kyle Lewis, Justin Dunn, and Evan White are all solid options but I’m going to focus on three that really stand out to me.
Logan Gilbert, who is in his first pro season, is setting the world on fire in the Minor Leagues. The 22-year-old has already made his way to AA Arkansas after owning an ERA below 2.00 in both Modesto and West Virginia.
He has struck out 130 hitters in just 109 innings between the three levels and while his 3.80 ERA in AA doesn’t stand out nearly as much as his two previous stops, it won’t stop anyone from ranking him on the Top End of the Mariners prospects list.
He is the epitome of the M’s “Control the Zone” mantra, having only walked 25 batters over those 109 innings. As Arkansas’ season draws to a close, Gilbert will be showing his talent in the postseason along with a rotation that includes Justin Dunn, Ricardo Sanchez, and Justus Sheffield. Speaking of Sheffield…
After being acquired in a deal that sent James Paxton to New York, Sheffield seemed to be the future ace of the Mariners. He posted amazing numbers in Spring Training but was sent down to AAA Tacoma due to a lack of rotation spots.
There, he struggled, like everyone else has in the PCL, and eventually got demoted to AA Arkansas. There, he has posted a 1.49 ERA while striking out 71 hitters in 66 innings pitched. Sheffield is still just 23 years old and is now facing hitters that are his age. It’s very likely that we will see him in a Mariners uniform before seasons end for September callups.
After he was traded to Seattle, many began tagging him as more of a reliever, which oddly always seems to happen when the Yankees trade away a prospect… Anyways, Sheffield has a chance to lead a Starting Rotation that is currently desperate for talent in the coming years.
Looking to another trade that came from New York, Jared Kelenic seems to be the leading candidate for the newest Mariners superstar role. In 2019, he has hit .297/.373/.531 with 16 home runs between West Virginia and Modesto.
He is just 20 years old and has dealt with a few injuries but that hasn’t stopped him from leaving his mark on the Mariners organization. He is one of many outfield prospects that make up the Mariners system and certainly one of the most prominent.
While he may not make the big league club straight out of Spring Training in 2020, he has a chance to make his debut later in the season. He is a massive part of the Mariners plan for contention by 2021.
Of course, there are also players such as Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte who are still in the lower end of the Minors which makes their timelines a little harder to predict. Of course, if none of the others hit, these two are not a bad fallback plan or even the superstar after the next one.
For now, though, I think Jarred Kelenic is the most likely to end up amongst the names of Griffey, Edgar, Felix and Ichiro in Mariners lore. Seattle fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years, even if the current state of the team doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Until then, M’s fans will be forced to do the same thing they’ve been doing for over a decade. Wait. But those big names are coming, and some are already here.