Can Kyle Lewis and Evan White contribute to the Mariners in 2022?
The Mariners were one of the best surprises in MLB in 2021, winning 90 games and finishing just two games out of a playoff spot.
What made it more impressive is they did it without two players who have been seen as long-term fixtures in the lineup.
Those players are center fielder Kyle Lewis, who won the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Award, and first baseman Evan White.
Lewis started the year on the injured list with bone bruise in his knee. That knee is the same one he’s suffered multiple injuries to that have required multiple surgeries. After returning in late-April, Lewis played just 36 games before tearing his meniscus in that same knee. He finished 2021 slashing .246/.333/.392 with five home runs.
For White, he struggled mightily upon making his MLB debut in 2020, slashing .176/.252/.346 in 54 games. He also struck out in 41.5% of his plate appearances.
2021 was more of the same for White as he slashed .144/.202/.237, but he improved in the strikeout department with a 29.8% strikeout rate. But the 2020 Gold Glover played in only 30 games due to a hip injury that ultimately required surgery.
The Mariners clearly think highly of Lewis and White as they were first-round picks in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and in the case of White, the franchise inked him to a long-term contract before he’d ever played an MLB game.
But with injuries slowing Lewis down and with White coming off an injury and back-to-back tough seasons at the plate, are those two capable of making contributions at the MLB level in 2022?
That was one of many questions that Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser was asked during a recent interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy.
“With Kyle Lewis, the answer is yes as long as he’s healthy,” Glaser said. “We’ve seen what he’s capable of both offensively and defensively. But ever since he had a horrible knee collision shortly after he was drafted, he just has had a lot of setbacks with the knee and at times we’d think he was healthy and then something else comes up.”
But if Lewis can get over his latest knee ailment, Glaser has high hopes for the Mariners outfielder in 2022.
“If he’s healthy, the answer is absolutely yes,” Glaser said. “He should be the Mariners’ starting center fielder and build off a campaign that saw him win Rookie of the Year during the shortened 2020 season. But it’s just such a question mark with his health.”
With Lewis, there aren’t three outfielders currently better than him in the organization, so he doesn’t have that to worry about. That’s not the case with White as Ty France was the Mariners’ most consistent hitter in 2021 and he thrived defensively at first base after White went down.
“Evan White straight up has been passed up,” Glaser said. “Ty France is a better hitter. He right now looks like the first baseman. At the end of the day, it’s just going to be a matter of if Evan White can kind of get everything together a little bit and try and be the type of hitter he showed he could be in the minors.”
White holds a career .296/.361/.476 minor league slash line in 1,024 plate appearances and he’s arguably the best defensive first baseman in baseball, but only the glove has translated to MLB success thus far.
“Right now it’s Ty France’s job to lose and based on his track record, I don’t think anyone expects Ty France to lose it,” Glaser said.