The Seattle Mariners were able to do the unthinkable in 2022. They broke the playoff drought that lasted longer than some professional players have been alive, which is crazy to say. But, it was done nonetheless, and no major media outlet predicted it would happen.
Instead, everyone had pretty average expectations for this team. Don’t make the playoffs, but don’t be a bottom-of-the-barrel type of team - is what most were thinking the Mariners were going to do.
But, they made the playoffs, won a playoff series, and played their tails off every game.
Now they have added some more talent, depth, and everything in between. The media, for the most part, has changed their expectations of the Mariners for 2023, and some players have things they would love to do in this new year.
This is the time of year when everyone evaluates how they played last year, and what they need to do better as spring training approaches. The new Mariners’ second baseman is a guy who thinks he can definitely get better from what he did last season. The Mariners posted their Pre-Spring Training Media Luncheon, and you can glean plenty from Kolten Wong's comments.
""You know, it's hard to really like justify each year...I feel like defensively it was a really down year for me. I'm always going to kind of go to my flaws before I go to my successes. So I feel like that was something that I've been working hard on this year. I feel like not having the shift is definitely gonna make it better for me. I felt like I was put in some situations last year where I just wasn't comfortable, and got some weird hops.” "- Kolten Wong
The shift did that for a lot of players, as Wong wasn’t the only one. So, let’s not look at that as a guy who can’t play defense, because he can. This is a former gold glove the Mariners are adding to their squad.
Wong thinks he has gotten better in some areas though, even as a 10-year veteran. He will bring some things that the Mariners needed more of last season - veteran experience.
"“I feel like I've been growing up a lot as a hitter and understanding the game that the older I got”"- Kolten Wong
The shift will not only help the team’s defense as a whole but it will greatly help Wong, who said he struggled with it at times in his career. The new 2023 rules state that the shift will be banned, which greatly helps the second baseman, as they did move around a lot and played different positions when in the shift.
Now, we get to see just how good of a pure second baseman Wong can be.
""I'm a guy that I like to use my feet, I like to be able to not calculate my steps, just understand what foot is important to catch the baseball... And sometimes when you're put in those weird positions, there's a lot of balls last year where, it was hit at me in such a weird position, I wasn't able to kind of like really work around it and get through. And I think that's why I was kind of getting caught in bad hops and had some bad things happen last year where I think this year is gonna give me the ability to use my athleticism and get to the ball, how I want to get to, the way that I know that I can get to corral it and still make a good throw.“"- Kolten Wong
We talked about the offense a ton last season, as they did have some very memorable moments. And sure, the offense is what the fans like seeing the most, but defense is just as important. Wong will bring both, hopefully.
Adam Frazier, who played second base for 156 games last season, had his moments in 2022. But, Wong is an upgrade in my opinion. He was better in virtually every basic offensive category.
Wong won’t blow you away by any means or have a huge jump where he is in the MVP race. But, he will bring consistency to the position, and the Mariners will be better off for it.