Ah yes, it’s that time of year once again. The football season has come to a close and that means its time for Mariners baseball. Along with the imminent arrival of Spring Training comes Sodo Mojo’s annual “My Guy” series.
This will be my third year participating in the My Guy series. Not to toot my own horn, but the first two years have been pretty successful. In fact, both players that I picked represented the Mariners in the MLB All-Star Game.
In 2018, Edwin Diaz was the pick for My Guy. All Diaz did was go out and pitch one of the greatest seasons in recent history, boasting a 1.96 ERA with 57 saves. He struck out 124 batters over 73.1 IP, good for an ERA+ of 208.
In 2019, I went with the infamous Daniel Cornelius Vogelbach. Vogelbach hit .310 with 8 home runs through March and April. He had as many Strikeouts as he did walks. Eventually, the league adjusted to Vogey and he finished the year 1.4 bWAR and a 108 OPS+.
This year will be an interesting one. The Mariners are going to play a plethora of young players so little is known about how they will perform. I tinkered with the idea of a player like Kyle Lewis or Justus Sheffield but in the end, I went with the bounce-back candidate of CJ Edwards.
Edwards, who likes to go by CJ instead of Carl, had an awful 2019. Over just 17 IP, Edward’s pitched to an 8.37 ERA with a FIP of 5.74. He was good for a -.5 bWAR and just a 54 ERA+…
However, in 2018, Edwards pitched to a 2.60 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 52 innings. He had an ERA+ of 161. He did have a 6.2 H/9 leading to a rather high WHIP but he was still effective.
So what is it that led to such a down year for Edwards? First off, he dealt with injuries. He spent time on the IL three separate times for varying arm issues and was eventually traded to the Padres.
His command became a real issue. His BB/9 rose by nearly 7 after never posting a season about 5.5. His K/9 rate dropped from 11.6 in 2018 to 10.1 in 2019. His HR/9 went from 0.3 in 2018 to 1.6 in 2019. Needless to say, 2019 was a lost season for the slender right-hander.
Edwards will still be just 28 years old in 2020 and is a decent bet to succeed as a reclamation project. And if anyone likes reclamation projects, its Jerry Dipoto.
If the Mariners can find a way to unlock whatever it is that Edwards lost last season, they have an incredibly valuable trade chip at the 2020 trade deadline. Late inning reliever is the most sought after commodity for teams vying for a postseason spot and Edwards is the perfect candidate to fill that role.
The Mariners have made humongous strides in their pitching development over the past couple of years. They have targeted pitchers that have something that separates them from the rest. Take Brandon Brennan for example. The Mariners took him in the Rule 5 draft knowing that his changeup was underused. He ended up being one of their best pitchers in 2020.
For Edwards, his Fastball Spin Rate separates him from the pack. His spin rate is ranked as one of the best in the game, spinning north of 2,600. Oddly enough, his velocity has slowly been declining over the past few years. Whether that has something to do with the aforementioned arm injuries or some sort of mechanical issue, only time will tell.
The Mariners have found success employing pitchers with a high spin rate, such as Austin Adams. Brian DeLunas seems to play a massive part in the development of pitchers and finding their biggest advantage. Edwards should be no different.
The Mariners should have no problem inserting Edwards into the closing role should he prove to be healthy during Spring Training. While the opportunity for saves will not be abundant, serving and succeeding as a team’s closer only increases a reliever value come the trade deadline.
Pairing a healthy CJ Edwards with the Mariners pitching development staff seems to be the perfect marriage. If Major League Baseball decides to de-juice the ball, Seattle may reap the benefits in the very near future.
Usually, it would be hard to say that a player who didn’t spend the entire year on the team was a successful “My Guy” pick. But I believe that if Edwards is traded at the deadline in 2020, especially with his three years of club control remaining, it would be a huge win for the Mariners, their future and my My Guy track record.