The Return of Kyle Lewis: What to Expect for Stacked Mariners Outfield
Mariners fans got treated to a decent performance in 2020 from a young and talented centerfielder. Kyle Lewis, the now 26-year-old Georgia native took home the Rookie of The Year Award in 2020, the fourth ROTY winner in Mariners history. Lewis was expected to have a monster follow-up season, but injuries halted his 2021 campaign.
Fans across baseball, including myself, believed Kyle Lewis was someone to watch for in 2021. But in Spring Training prior to the ’21 season, Lewis suffered a bone bruise in his right knee, an injury he’s unfortunately been used to. This would later be diagnosed as a meniscus tear, ultimately landing him on the 60-day IL in early June.
Surgery followed in a hurry, and despite hopes for a late-season October comeback, his season was cut short. In that time, Lewis slashed .246/.333/.392 in 36 games played in 2021.
With Kyle Lewis making his way back to the Seattle Mariners lineup, what will the already stacked outfield look like?
Lewis, the former first-round draft pick by the Mariners in 2016, is currently on the teams’ 10-day IL and is expected to make a minor league rehab stint soon, which is encouraging to fans and the Mariners front office. The 6’4 220lb outfielder will have to earn his spot back, which shouldn’t be a problem for a talented, multi-tool player like Lewis.
If he can bring his outstanding rookie status with him, Kyle Lewis will fit right in. The number three overall MLB prospect Julío Rodríguez made the Mariner’s Opening Day Roster and has already stamped his position with the team, being the starting center fielder for the entire opening series and possibly more.
Jarred Kelenic, a second-year outfielder has also been utilized as a top player at the center field position and will certainly split time with Rodríguez and also get extra plate appearances in the DH spot. That is three guys (Rodríguez, Kelenic, Lewis) vying for a starting center field position.
Truthfully, I’m not mad about the abundance of talent on this team, but it’s got to be hard deciding who gets to see the field. On the other side, there’s Mitch Haniger, who finished fifth in Total Home Runs in the American League last year (39) and has cemented his right field status with the M’s and could be labeled a captain on this team.
All-Star Jesse Winker, who was acquired via trade from the Cincinnati Reds along with third-baseman Eugenio Suarez, will assume the left-field duties in most games. Winker seems to have that top roster spot in left, but like JK, he will also see time at DH.
Winker will almost 100% be in the lineup if there is a righty on the bump as well. That is because in 2021 he hit .346 with 21 home runs and 56 RBIs against righties. Against left-handed pitching, Winker hit .176 with 3 home runs and 15 RBIs.
There will be a lot of flip-flopping between the outfield spots throughout the year, even before Lewis comes back. But when he does, it will become even more common.
I expect the Mariners to keep five outfielders on the 26-man roster, which will need to be finalized by May 1st. It is unlikely Lewis will be back by May 1st, so roster moves will get interesting once Lewis makes his comeback. Until then, the outfield will stay the same. Pitchers will be the main positions being moved around.
One thing to note, Seattle has another prized possession in the minor leagues – Taylor Trammell. The 24-year-old speedy outfielder has been on the Mariners radar over the last year, playing in 51 games in 2021, slashing .160/.256/.359. Starting the year in Triple-A, Trammell was off to a hot start this year but appeared to have injured his hamstring on April 7th running to first base. He has since been put on the 7-day IL.
It is unknown whether Kyle Lewis or Trammell will get a roster nod in the next month, as it’s depending on who’s ready. Lewis seems like the obvious option, and if that’s also Seattle’s decision, it seems Trammell’s season will remain in Tacoma for 2022. That is depending on the status of Julío Rodríguez as well as infielder Dylan Moore; if Moore underperforms, that could create space for Trammell. Let’s just say this team has options – they just need to stay healthy.
Lewis’ comeback will likely be by the start of June. The Mariners’ outfield will consist of Kyle Lewis (CF), Jesse Winker (LF), Mitch Haniger (RF), Jared Kelenic (CF) and Julío Rodríguez (CF). And don’t forget to get excited about the other guys.
Options for roster shifts include:
- A catcher being sent down; likely Luis Torrens. Technically the M’s don’t need 3 catchers.
- Carrying one less pitcher. Instead of 13 pitchers, carry 12 in order to support 5 outfielders and 6 infielders, as well as 3 catchers (if needed). 13 pitchers/2 catchers would be ideal.
- Be aware if Julío underperforms, he may be sent down, thus creating room for Trammell if he’s healthy.
- Infielder Dylan Moore is also on the radar. Depending on his performance, he could be a moving piece as well.
With each outfielder having the option to flip flop depending on pitcher handedness and DH, there should be room for all. And a scary lineup it shall be for the second half of the season and more. We’re just getting started. Get the popcorn ready, Mariners fans!