Mike Salk’s 3-Point Mariners Preview: Biggest hope, biggest fear, more
After months of waiting for the 2022 Mariners season to start after a 90-win 2021 campaign, opening day is nearly upon us.
With what should be a very exciting season of baseball in Seattle about to start, what better way to get ready than with some Mariners superlatives? That’s something that Mike Salk tackled during Wednesday’s Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM.
Here’s a breakdown of three things he has his mind on.
Biggest hope: Jarred Kelenic
There’s plenty to be hopeful about for the Mariners in 2022, but Salk says he’s especially hoping for a good year from outfielder Jarred Kelenic.
“I really hope Kelenic has the year where he exceeds the projections for this season,” Salk said, “because everything’s kind of built on how he didn’t play all that well last year, right?”
Kelenic made his highly-anticipated MLB debut last May but struggled mightily in his first taste of big league action. He would be demoted in June, recalled roughly a month later after the All-Star break, and then play the rest of the season with the Mariners.
All in all, Kelenic slashed .181/.265/.350 with 14 home runs, 43 RBIs and six stolen bases in 93 games. He finished the year strong, slashing .248/.331/.524 with seven home runs, 20 RBIs, 14 extra-base hits and three steals over his final 29 games. Those numbers over a 162-game stretch would equate to 39 home runs, 112 RBIs, 79 extra-base hits and 17 stolen bases.
Despite the strong finish to 2021, many projections have Kelenic struggling again in 2022.
“All these things out there try to predict and project what players are going to do, but it’s based on what they’ve done in the past,” Salk said. “And so the hope is that Kelenic just went through the worst couple months of his life and now he’s feeling it and feeling better. So my No. 1 hope for this year is that Kelenic exceeds those projections and starts to become the player that he was always projected to be.”
Biggest fear: Starting pitching depth
The Mariners went out and signed 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray this offseason, and they return Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert in the rotation. But even with that promising foursome and electric rookie Matt Brash making up Seattle’s five-man turn, Salk is a little worried about that unit in 2022.
“For me, the biggest one is probably just starting pitching depth as your fear that, if I were (manager) Scott Servais, if I were (general manager) Jerry Dipoto, that keeps you up,” he said. “That’d keep me up every night. ‘Just where are we going to get enough starting pitchers?’ You’ve got five in your rotation to start and then you like what (top pitching prospect George Kirby) can bring you.”
After that? It gets a bit murky.
“I mean, hopefully Roenis Elías ends up being healthy enough to play and pitch and help you down the line,” Salk said of the 33-year-old left-hander on a minor league contract. “Maybe Justus Sheffield rounds back into form. I’ve got a lot of question marks there. You’ve got the kid from San Diego, (Nick) Margevicius … I mean, there’s a couple of these sort of pitching depth maybes.”
“Jerry wanted another premier arm. He wasn’t able to find that,” Salk added. “He told us that he wasn’t going to let opening day be a benchmark or an end date to look for that, so I’m sure that the search continues, but that’s still a concern for me.”
Most confident: Fan experience
What Salk is sure of when it comes to the 2022 Mariners is that this team will be fun and an enjoyable one for fans to follow.
“I said fan experience … I’m just kind of keeping it a little bit broad, but just that this is gonna be a fun team,” he said. “Everyone’s gonna be able to find something they like about this team. I think whether it’s the Kelenic or Julio (Rodríguez) back and forth, maybe it’s J.P. Crawford again, who just was such a revelation with his personality and the smile and everything last year. Maybe it’s going to be (Jesse) Winker. Maybe it’s (Eugenio) Suárez and the whole ‘good vibes (only)’ thing. You’ve got Matt Brash to latch on to if you’re looking for something new. Robbie Ray, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, has shown up and that’s kind of exciting and his grunting and all that. I just think the fan experience for this team should be excellent.”
Listen to the full discussion at this link or in the player below.