This is an article I don't like writing. You have to sit down and try and think about some players that could struggle or disappoint in the upcoming season for the Mariners. It always happens. You take a look at the lofty expectations you're placing on the team, but have to take a step back knowing that there is going to be someone who struggles.
Here are the three candidates that I think we need to keep an eye on in 2023 as Mariners who might struggle.
Why not make everyone mad right away?
Now, I don't think he is going to struggle. But I could definitely see it. Kirby, for the most part, had a dominant 2022 season. He was one of the better rookie pitchers in baseball, and if not for Julio Rodriguez and his emergence, many fans would be leaning on Kirby as the top young player in the Mariners system.
I'm a little worried he might hit a sophomore slump.
Going 185 innings for the first time, he might end up with a 3.85 ERA, have a short stretch where he struggles with his command, and has another blow up game where he gets lit up like a christmas tree as he did in Baltimore last year.
Then, in 2024, he comes out and finishes 3rd in AL Cy Young voting with a 16-6 record and a 2.44 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.
I was super close to putting France on the breakout list (spoiler, that's coming out later in the week). When he is healthy, the dude is a .315 hitter. He just can't stay healthy though, and I'm worried it is going to happen again, and last a bit longer this time. It'll cause him to have a long slump where he hits around .210, and finishes the year with his worst BA and hits .262.
Then he wins the batting title in 2024 while playing 158 games and hitting .324 with 21 HR, 108 RBI, and finishes 2nd in GG voting at first base.
Murfee came out of nowhere last year to dominate for the Mariners out of the bullpen. It was a wonderful surprise for fans. By the end of the year, the tone had changed from "What? Murfee?" to "WHAT! Murfee!!!!!!!" The bullpen can be a fickle spot. Just ask Drew Steckenrider. I really don't want to lay that level of struggle on someone, but it seems like for someone to come up and dominate like Murfee, it could so easily turn the other way if things aren't going perfectly.
It's going to happen. It always does. If it doesn't? Well, it's rare, and I'll see you in the World Series Mariners fans.