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Mariners Table Setter: 3 questions for the final 3 weeks of the season

Mariners 2018 first-round pick Logan Gilbert has been at the alternate training site in Tacoma. (Getty)

The Mariners have no All-Stars this year because there will be no All-Star Game, but they did get somewhat of a surprise All-Star break this week due to their entire three-game series with Oakland being postponed after a member of the A’s organization tested positive for COVID-19.

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As such, that gives us a chance to take a step back ahead of the final three weeks of the season and ask three big questions regarding what we could see from the M’s.

Here’s what to keep in mind as Seattle enters the stretch run beginning with a series opener Friday against the Texas Rangers.

Which big-name prospects will make their Mariners debuts?

There are two big names at the top of this list, and both just happen to be first-round draft picks from 2018: Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert.

I don’t know if either will get the call to come up from the alternate training site in Tacoma and make their MLB debuts, but I will say I would be more surprised if neither did than if both did. Gilbert is probably the most likely because at 23 he’s over two years Kelenic’s senior, plus he has the added benefit of experience from his college career. It might also be harder to find innings in the outfield for Kelenic than to get an opportunity for Gilbert to throw a few innings to open a game like Seattle did with Justin Dunn late last year.

Oh, and why could it be hard to find time for Kelenic in the Mariners’ outfield? Well, Seattle just acquired Taylor Trammell from the Padres, and he also is a pretty good candidate to get the call to make his debut. Trammell is the Mariners’ new sixth best prospect on MLB Pipeline’s rankings (Kelenic is No. 1, Gilbert is No. 4), and at 22 and as a first-round pick from 2016 who spent all of last year at Double-A, he also has the jump on Kelenic in experience.

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If I had to guess, I’d say Gilbert will get a couple short starts towards the end of the season, Trammell will get a little time with the big club after getting himself established with the organization in Tacoma, and Kelenic continues to angrily try to hit balls from the batter’s box of Cheney Stadium onto the roof of Bellarmine Prep while Seattle plots to lets him loose in 2021.

Will Luis Torrens emerge as a viable option at catcher?

The Mariners quickly added Torrens to their roster after last Sunday’s huge trade with the Padres, optioning Joe Hudson to the alternate training site, which means Seattle’s catcher position is no longer made up entirely of Joes (Hudson and Joseph Odom). I’m particularly aggrieved by this development because it dashed my hopes of a daily 710 ESPN Seattle segment called “WHICH… JOE… IS CATCHING?” (nobody liked this joke on Twitter last weekend so you all have to read it here now).

OK, I’m way off topic. Back to Torrens.

The 24-year-old backstop is probably the least-heralded part of the Mariners’ return in the deal, but he also will have the best chance to establish himself in their lineup immediately. With 70 MLB games since 2017, he has the most experience of any catcher in the entire organization now, and for the first time since he was 21, he should get regular playing time in the majors (he appeared in just 14 games combined with the Padres since 2019).

It sounds like Torrens has the skills behind the plate – general manager Jerry Dipoto said as much when discussing the trade during Monday’s game on 710 ESPN Seattle – but he has yet to show his bat can play above the minors. At least Torrens hit .300 with 15 home runs and an .873 OPS in 97 games in Double-A last year, and Dipoto said he’ll “get most of the reps for us here in September,” so we should get a pretty good idea what Torrens is capable of right away. Hopefully he gets a chance to cut down some runners early on because if the throw in the video below can be a regular occurrence, that would be fun to watch.

Does Ty France push Shed Long at second base?

There have been a number of positive developments in the big leagues for the Mariners this season. Shortstop J.P. Crawford has looked great in the field and has had some excelled at times in the leadoff spot. Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield have had some really impressive outings on the mound. Kyle Lewis is, well… Kyle Lewis is awesome.

Shed Long Jr. as Seattle’s starting second baseman, meanwhile, hasn’t gone so smooth. He has looked better in the field after some shaky moments early on but the bat hasn’t come around yet. He has three home runs and five doubles, which isn’t bad for 122 plate appearances entering Friday, but his .170/.238/.295 slash line is rough. And to be fair, he’s not the only rookie in Seattle’s infield with numbers like that. First baseman Evan White is slashing .163/.228/.356. The difference is nobody’s coming for White’s job, but somebody might be for Long’s.

That would be Ty France, another addition from the trade with San Diego. France can play third, second and first, with third being his natural position, but the Mariners still have Kyle Seager so don’t expect him to get too much time there. And despite White’s struggle to find consistent success at the plate, his glove is so good and the Mariners are so committed to him at first that France, whose is decidedly not known for his defense at any position, would only play there when White gets a day off.

So, second base it is.

France and Long could actually be perfect for a platoon situation – Long hits from the left side, France from the right, and the designated hitter spot could get France extra at-bats along the way. But a platoon can also be a competition, and if the 26-year-old France ends up slugging – which he’s apparently quite capable of doing – the best spot on the field for him just may be the one that has mainly been Long’s this season.

Follow’s Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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