Mariners Spring Training recap: The good and the bad

Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley of the Mariners in Spring Training.

MESA, ARIZONA – MARCH 03: Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley of the Mariners high five during a Spring Training game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Now that Mariners Spring Training has come to a close, the work has just begun for the Mariners. Opening Day is right around the corner and the team will square off against Kevin Gausman and the San Francisco Giants at T-Mobile Park.

Although Spring Training is a way for players to get the rust off before the regular season and isn’t the most reliable source for analyzing stats, there are still plenty of learnings. So, let’s quickly go over the good and bad things we saw from the 2021 Mariners Spring Training.

Mariners Spring Training – The bad parts

There were a handful of players that struggled with the bat but not a whole lot was expected from them going into camp. These players include Brian O’Keefe, Eric Filia, Luis Liberato, Sam Travis, and Jose Godoy.

But, there were also some players that we are very familiar with that did not perform to our expectations. J.P. Crawford hit .128 in Arizona and did not record an extra-base hit. This is particularly worrisome because he finally became a reliable offensive bat last season.

Crawford was once a highly-touted prospect in the Phillies organization and we saw glimpses of what scouts had raved about last season. The 26-year-old’s xBA, xSLG, xwOBA in 2020 were at a career-high and it looks like he’s trending in the right direction. I am hoping his Spring Training numbers were just a sign of rust.

Both of the Mariners catchers also struggled in Arizona. Tom Murphy and Luis Torrens both hit below the Mendoza Line and posted a sub .650 OPS. Torrens was 6-for-34 and hit only two doubles. Murphy was 8-for-42 with four doubles and one home run. The soon-to-be 30-year-old also struck out 17 times, which was tied for most on the team.

Donovan Walton, Evan White, Dylan Moore, Mitch Haniger, and Sam Haggerty barely hit at or above the Mendoza Line. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Walton to start with, and the focus here is on White, Moore, Haniger, and Haggerty.

Evan was off to a slow start in Spring but was able to turn things around and ended with a .222 batting average, which is good and bad. Mitch was the opposite and was off to a hot start, and cooled down to bring his average down to .234. Dylan finished with a .231 average and Sam finished with a .239 average and struck out 17 times, like Tom Murphy.

As far as pitching, the main area of weakness was in the bullpen. We had several important bullpen pitchers with ERAs larger than 7.00. Keynan Middleton finished with a 10.13 ERA a 1.75 WHIP and a .355 opposing batters average.

Paul Sewald, Joey Gerber, and Rafael Montero also struggled with an ERA in the 7.00 to 8.00 range. Although all three struck out batters at a good rate, they allowed too many hits.

A little further down the list, Will Vest finished with a 5.91 ERA. He was inconsistent for the most part but when he could locate his pitches, he looked fantastic. The same went for Kendall Graveman who also posted a 5.91 ERA.

One of the biggest surprises for me was Marco Gonzales‘ Spring Training. The Mariners ace finished with a 6.32 ERA while allowing 22 hits in 15.2 innings. Not a very ideal line from the Gonzaga product…

To finish it off, Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield both posted an ERA in the mid-5.00s. Both allowed way too many walks. Although they struck out one batter an inning on average, the walks and hits combined hurt them.

Mariners Spring Training – The good parts

Although there were a handful of bad parts, there were plenty of great things that we saw in Mariners Spring Training. First things first, the M’s finished first in walks, stolen bases, and fifth in doubles via Alex Mayer.

The whole team did a great job of staying patient and drawing walks. I don’t know if it was a point of emphasis or a result of wild pitchers, but it is a good sign. Although J.P. Crawford’s bat was one of the bad things, he also drew 12 walks to lead the team. So even though he hit .128, his OBP was .346.

Jake Fraley also walked 11 times and hit .250 to end Mariners Spring Training. Fraley struggled badly at the beginning of the camp but made a remarkable comeback and finished with a solid stat line.

As far as stolen bases, Sam Haggerty led the team with seven, followed by Fraley (4), Crawford (3), Moore (3), JROD (3), and others.

The Mariners also hit plenty of extra-base hits this Spring. As Mayer noted, the M’s hit the fifth most doubles in the MLB. A lot of the starters added to this number. Taylor Trammell led the team with six, followed by Kyle Lewis, Ty France, Dylan Moore, and Tom Murphy.

As far as individual highlights, Taylor Trammell was one of the best parts of Spring Training. He hit three home runs while also stealing two bases. He was also great on the defensive side of things and made a few highlight-reel plays. The only downside was his 17 strikeouts.

Ty France had an amazing Spring hitting five home runs, hitting .327, and slugging .714. Kyle Seager had a quiet but great month with a team-leading .350 batting average and nine walks to raise his OBP to .469.

Our top two prospects showed out in Arizona which was a promising sign of their development. Jarred Kelenic batted .300 and added two home runs. He only struck out once in 20 at-bats which is an amazing sign of his plate discipline. Julio Rodriguez batted .313 and also hit two home runs. JROD struck out more frequently than Kelenic but he demolished baseballs.

To close out our hitters, I have to give kudos to Evan White. He struggled with strikeouts in his rookie season but was able to cut down this month. The Gold Glove first baseman only struck out 10 times out of 45 bats which is better than I expected. White hit two doubles and two home runs, while also driving in 16 runs.

Last but not least, we have to highlight our pitchers. Anthony Misiewicz, James Paxton, Aaron Fletcher, Drew Steckenrider, Ljay Newsome, and Erik Swanson all posted sub-3.00 ERA. The first three threw sub-2.00 ERAs. Besides these six, Yusei Kikuchi and Casey Sadler also deserve respect for their Spring. Kikuchi was more consistent this Spring and didn’t allow many hits.

Sadler finished with a 4.00 ERA but that’s not representative of how well he pitched. If it weren’t for one bad outing, he would have had a sub-2.00 ERA. He was the best reliever on the team for a while alongside Misiewicz. Sadler struck out 13 batters in nine innings.

Some other highlights, Justin Dunn looked like a new pitcher. His stats weren’t great, but his fastball is much harder than in the past and his slider looked great when he was able to locate.

Again, Spring Training isn’t the best representation of how one would perform. But, it is all we fans have to look at prior to the season. Let’s hope the hot bats and arms stay hot, while the cold bats and arms get warmer! This year will be different, trust me.

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