General manager Jerry Dipoto called the Mariners 2019 season one of retooling though I am sure most of us call it a rebuild.
Though the Mariners only won 68 games on the season, we did see some positive sights on the 2019 team. One of those spots was at catcher where starter Omar Narvaez had an outstanding season with a batting average of .278 along with 22 home runs a career-high.
Also, his backup Tom Murphy had an outstanding season as well. The Mariners acquired him from the San Francisco Giants on March 29. He ended up with an average of .283 with 18 home runs in a part-time role.
Neither Narvaez or Murphy would remind anyone of Dan Wilson defensively though I believe they did improve over the season. The question will the Mariners keep those two together next season.
Cal Raleigh, the Mariners 3rd round pick in 2018 and the team’s number seven prospect, is expected to be on the team in 2021 or 2022. He played most of this season in single-A Modesto before finishing the season at double-A Arkansas with many of the Mariner prospects. He likely will start 2020 again at Arkansas or in triple-A Tacoma.
I believe where he begins will depend a lot on where the Mariner top prospects begin their season. I am sure the Mariner brass will want Raleigh to work with the pitchers he will someday catch in Seattle.
For the first half of the season, Daniel Vogelbach was a pleasant surprise, leading the Mariners in home runs with 30 on the season. However, he only hit .208. He slumped badly after the all-star break primarily he wasn’t able to hit left-handed pitching.
He was designated hitter for exactly half of the Mariner games and played first base in 57 games. He was adequate at first base but his future is at designated hitter likely in a part-time role unless he can find a way to hit left-handed pitching.
Another player unexpectedly made his way to become part of the rebuild was Austin Nola. The Mariners signed him as a minor league free agent during the off-season. He began the season in Tacoma, but when the Mariners traded Edwin Encarnacion to New York Yankees in the middle of June, they recalled Nola for his first time to play in the major leagues at the age of 29.
In Tacoma, he was the catcher for many of the games but in Seattle they had him play mostly first base. His versatility helped the Mariners at times play Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy in the game at the same time one catching while the other was the designated hitter. With Nola, the Mariners didn’t have to worry if either Narvaez or Murphy were hurt in a game they could move him into the catcher’s position.
Until Evan White, the Mariner’s future first baseman is ready to play in the major leagues they have Nola to play a significant time there plus he can play second, third, and the outfield too.
Another surprise was Tim Lopes who, like Nola, was a career minor leaguer as well. He did an excellent job just like utility player Dylan Moore playing outfield without any prior experience. Both Lopes and Moore were infielders. This gave the Mariners more versatility.
Lopes in 111 at-bats he had one home run and drove in 12 runs along with six stolen bases. His batting average was .270; pretty good for the first time in the major leagues. Whether Lopes will make the Mariners roster coming out of spring training in 2020 or not, he has shown he does belong in the major leagues.
Shed Long and Kyle Lewis played almost every game in September, showing they will be in the rebuild of 2020 and should be on the Mariners when the team is competing for the playoffs. During September, Long primarily played in left field because the Mariners wanted to see how he could play in the outfield. Most of his time next year will probably be at second base along with an occasional game at third.
Depending on whether the Mariners trade second baseman Dee Gordon or not will decide how much Long will play second base. The Mariners are hoping Long will be in the lineup on a regular basis though he could split time between second, third and left field.
Long spent most of his time with Seattle in September though he was on the team in May when Dee Gordon was on the injured list. In his time with Seattle, he batted .263 with an on-base percentage of .333. In September the Mariners used him in the lead-off spot where he did a good job. Whether he will be at lead-off in the future only time will tell.
Kyle Lewis came up in September when the Arkansas Travelers season ended in the Texas League playoffs. He showed he is ready to play for the Mariners by hitting six home runs in his first ten games, a major league record. He ended up with a batting average of .268.
Most of the time he played in right field. However, next season with the return of Mitch Haniger he will probably play in center or left field. Unless Haniger is traded during the off-season, the outfield could look like Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, and Mitch Haniger.
The outfield should be a bright spot next year in the rebuild. Outside of September, there wasn’t much to say about the outfield other than infielders playing the outfield.
JP Crawford did a good job at shortstop when he was called up in May. He showed his spot in the rebuild is working. His hitting was up and down with a final batting of .226 with seven home runs.
He hit in the second spot of the lineup most of the season showing he belonged there. He had 21 doubles on the season, which is a good showing, especially playing in T-Mobile Park. His fielding was good and should be improved in his second season with the Mariners. At this point, he will be the Mariners shortstop.
In the starting pitching, Marco Gonzales was the bright spot winning 16 games though he could have had 18 wins if the Mariners had any offense in his last two starts. Yusei Kikuchi didn’t have a good rookie season; however, I hope he will be a bright spot in the rotation next year along with Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn both showing promise in September.
The Mariners bullpen wasn’t good at all in the first half of the season for the reason all were gone when the second half happened. The bullpen did a much better job after the all-star break. Erik Swanson a former starter showed he can be a good reliever out of the bullpen.
Brandon Brennan when healthy was a good surprise with the Mariners acquiring him in the Rule 5 draft. Austin Adams showed his stuff and enthusiasm when healthy, unfortunately, he will be lost for a while having to undergo ACL surgery during the off-season.
At 68 wins I know there are negative spots as well but I won’t get into them. Might as well look at the good things that happened and how things improved over the season though wins may not have improved.
The Mariners can add at least ten games to the win total in 2020 it will show the rebuild is working. I am not guaranteeing ten more wins but it would be nice. The next year 2021 when the Mariners have all or most of their top prospects on the roster we will see what the future will look like and whether the rebuild is a success.
The Oakland A’s showed this year you can’t just be the wild card team the Mariners have to strive to take over the division from Houston. That is the goal to go toward too. Go M’s.