Three surprise players for the Seattle Mariners early in 2021

Mar 7, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Luis Torrens against the Los Angeles Angels during a Spring Training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Luis Torrens against the Los Angeles Angels during a Spring Training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Although the 2021 season is still early for the Seattle Mariners, there have been some pleasant surprises on the team so far. From a pair of players that we received from our NL rival to a starting pitcher who filed up the video board with K’s during his first start of the season.

Now, there are more than just three positive surprises so far this season, but that’s the number I decided to use for a cutoff point. Let’s start off by saying thank you to the San Diego Padres, for not just one, but two (and yes, you could argue three) of our surprises to start the year.

Ty France

There was a lot of excitement around France once he was acquired by the Seattle Mariners. He had a great bat, and had been raking at El Paso and even in San Diego. Could it continue for the Mariners though?

The answer is a resounding yes, at least up to this point. If not for one of the other players that we got from the Padres, France would be leading the team in batting average. So far this season, he is raking with a .324/.4.39/.471 slash line, leading the team in runs scored with seven. Throw in two doubles and four walks, and France is one of the main non-prospect reasons to be excited about this Mariners team.

Ty France wasn’t the only one who came over in the trade from the Padres to the Mariners that has been a welcome addition to the team.

Luis Torrens

Torrens is actually the team leader in batting average so far at .333. He doesn’t actually qualify, as you need 3.1 AB per team games played, but he is close enough at 24 through nine games to count for me, especially as a catcher. So far, getting hits is about all you can see from his stat line, as he has only tallied one rbi and two runs. If he keeps hitting like this, expect more stat production to follow.

The more surprising part about Torrens is that he is providing adequate defense at such a young age. Remember, he is only 24 years old. For someone in the role of a backup catcher, it’s been extra comforting to know that whoever is behind the plate for the Mariners can provide Major League level defense, and be worthy at the plate as well.

Yusei Kikuchi

Kikuchi has thrown two quality starts so far. First, against the Giants, he pitched pretty well, giving up three through six while striking out ten. If you haven’t seen it, they update the screens in the park with an extra ‘K’ at the beginning of his name every time he strikes someone out. It definitely looks neat seeing KKKKKKKKKKikuchi above the bullpen.

He didn’t strike out as many during his second start, fanning six batters, but he gave up just two against a much more potent Minnesota Twins lineup. He’s kept batters off the bases pretty well, with a 1.17 WHIP, compared to a rate of 1.466 his first two seasons on the team. His velocity uptick last year was no fluke either, as he is averaging 94.8 MPH on the 4-seamer and 91.1 on the cutter.

That cutter is breaking an extra inch this year and is joined by the slider, which has gained three inches of horizontal break and just over five inches of vertical drop, while only going down 1.4 MPH, exchanging just a little velo for a lot more movement.

Sure, you could argue that Taylor Trammell is a nice surprise too, but that strikeout rate makes it hard to put him on the list. Chris Flexen could be on here as well but is usurped by Kikuchi. It’s a nice argument to have, knowing that there are so many pleasant surprises so far this season for the Seattle Mariners.

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