Mariners Fans think Cal Raleigh will have an OPS of 125+ or better in 2023

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

I know I'm not the only one that is getting antsy for the start of baseball season. Sitting here and listening to the Spring Training games scratches the proverbial itch, but it isn't quite the same as regular season baseball. I've been thinking alot about the Mariners lineup and have wondered which hitter might be the one to step up and make more of an impact in 2023.

Looking at the team stats from last year, you can see that the Mariners have 4 hitters that posted an OPS+ of 125 or better. Well, qualified hitters that is, since Tom Murphy had an OPS+ of 164 in 33 ABs and Brian O'Keefe had a mark of 152 from his 3 ABs. Julio Rodriguez led the way with an OPS+ of 147, Eugenio Suarez was 129, Teoscar Hernandez was 127, and Ty France was 125. (The France part amazes me with how much he was hurt.)

For those unfamiliar with OPS+, it takes a players on-base plus their slugging percentage and adjusts for league and park factors. The league average is always 100, so each step away from that is a percentage point better or worse than the average. That means Julio was 47% better than the league average last season.

The Mariners actually had a handful of hitters threaten to break that 125 mark and join the group of four from above. Sam Haggerty was a 116, and the only player I didn't include in the poll for this question who was close last season. Here's the question we posed to the fans on Twitter.

I think it was a fair group of 4 players to include in the poll. For those unfamiliar with Twitter polls, you can only include four options at a maximum. Cal Raleigh ran away with it, and it's understandable why. Big Dumper was great after June 1st last year, hitting .230/.303/.530 with 23 HR and 19 2B in just 300 AB. He injured his hand badly at some point, but fought through it and helped the Mariners break the drought. (That shirt is amazing, by the way)

A full, somewhat healthy season from Raleigh should push him above an OPS+ of 125. It's worth remembering that he was hitting .129/.205/.314 through his first 25 games last season, so expectations shouldn't be that we are going to see a 35 HR season from Raleigh, even though it's fun to think about. I can totally see why fans think he will break that mark and join the others.

Dylan Moore was far and away last place here, and I find that sort of funny. With the Mariners having a deeper lineup, Moore should see a similar amount of ABs as he has in seasons past. Somewhere in the range of 200-250, but they should primarily be against LHP, which is what he excels at. In 2022, he had an OPS+ of 126 against them, slashing .247/.393/.402. He actually faced RHP slightly more last year, but we shouldn't see that this season due to that deeper lineup.

Kolten Wong is interesting to me. I'm a big advocate of his addition to the team being a great one, and think he is going to be a great piece in the 2023 lineup. Last years 118 OPS+ was actually the best of his career... but it could be better in 2023 for the same reason as Dylan Moore. Wong struggled at a ridiculous clip against LHP last season, hitting .138/.266/.175 in 80 AB. Meanwhile, he had an OPS+ of 139 in 350 AB against RHP while hitting .277/.389/.489. There is your 2B platoon in those two hitters.

Lastly, we have the dark horse in Jarred Kelenic. He finished second in voting, and I think a big part of that is fans secretely believing in him still, even if it's not the vocal agreement on social media. He's looked good in Spring Training (I know, it's Spring) but it's the approach changes that have people excited. Is a .230/.311/.425 really that hard to believe? Maybe with 20-25 HR? He's another who may see additional success from a platoon, splitting time with AJ Pollock in LF and RF when Teoscar plays DH.

In the past, we probably would've been arguing about which Mariners hitter would be the only one about 125. We had one in 2021, one in 2020, zero in 2019, and three in 2018. So, it's been a while. In fact, the last time the Mariners had five or more somewhat qualified hitters with an OPS+ of 125 or higher was in... 1996, and that's only if you count Mark Whiten and his 163 AB. Paul Sorrento was close at 121. There was also 2001 that was close, but Mike Cameron was a 123.

For those complaining that the Mariners haven't done enough, seeing something like that is a good reminder that, while there is still room to improve the lineup, they are in a much better spot than they have been in a LONG time. Let's hope we see a bunch of these hitters flirt with that 125 OPS+ mark in 2023.