Mariners Takeaways: Dipoto’s thoughts on Frazier, Kelenic, Julio, Winker

Apr 21, 2022, 2:30 PM
Mariners Adam Frazier...
Mariners 2B Adam Frazier celebrates in the dugout after scoring against the Astros on April 15. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners are enjoying much better offensive performance during their run of five wins over their last six games, scoring an average of 5.5 runs over that period.

The scary thing for Seattle’s opponents is that not everybody in the M’s lineup is producing.

Jerry Dipoto Show: Mariners “very excited by the complete nature” of the team

Top of that list is Jesse Winker, who was maybe the most intriguing pickup the Mariners made this offseason for their offense.

A 2021 All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds, Winker is one of the premier hitters against right-handed pitching in all of MLB. Unfortunately he’s been on the business end of bad luck more often than not in the first 12 games of his Mariners career. He’s had multiple long drives die on the warning track in the cold April weather and is hitting just 6 for 38 (.158).

As if that wasn’t enough, in Wednesday’s 4-2 Mariners win over Texas, he scorched a line drive at Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe with two runners on and no outs in the first inning. Lowe picked the ball just before it hit the ground and ended up turning a triple play to end the inning.

“I guess the BABIP results have really bitten Jesse Winker,” Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Thursday morning during his weekly appearance on Seattle Sports Station. “Last night, drilling a ball into a into a triple play – there were multiple instances where we had we hit a ball on the screws and it didn’t fall in.”

Winker’s BABIP – batting average on balls in play – is just .182 this season. The good news is that first, the 28-year-old left fielder actually leads the American League with 13 walks, and second, he owns a .309 career BABIP, and it’s generally accepted that a low BABIP will find its way back up over a season.

Another reason this could all be good news? Should Winker’s production pick up, it’s only going to make Seattle’s offense more dangerous.

“We’re still performing offensively, so you know when those balls do start falling, it’s fun to think about what that might mean for the team,” Dipoto said.

Here’s a look at some other thoughts the GM shared about M’s hitters on The Jerry Dipoto Show.

The Julio and Jarred check-in

Close yes will be kept on 21-year-old rookie Julio Rodríguez and 22-year-old second-year player Jarred Kelenic all season, as the two were the biggest prospects of the Mariners’ rebuild that began after the 2018 season. Like Winker, they’re both also off to slow starts, though Dipoto remains encouraged by what he’s seeing.

Kelenic owns a .167/.244/.361 slash line entering Thursday, but he had big hits to help the M’s win two recent games, including a 110 mph bullet of a home run off the foul pole in right field Tuesday.

“I’m thrilled with the homestand that Jarred has had,” Dipoto said. “After a fairly slow start through (the season-opening series in) Minnesota, it started to click for him on that last day in Chicago and I think he’s had a really nice homestand. You know, mostly smart at-bats, he’s hit the ball hard, I think he’s playing a really good right field and it’s coming together.”

Rodríguez, meanwhile, has a .154/.233/.179 slash and has struck out 18 times in 43 plate appearances. He’s seen more breaking balls than any other everyday player in baseball, and also has had third strikes called on pitches outside of the strike zone an inordinate amount of times. Even so, he has a hit in five of the last six games – mirroring the Mariners’ run of wins over that period.

“I admire the way that Julio is handling this,” Dipoto said. “He’s had a particularly difficult first dozen games in the big leagues in a lot of ways, most especially the propensity for seeing a breaking ball, and frankly the width of the strike zone has been a little bit challenging. He’s handled it really well. He smiles, he understands that this too shall pass. I’m very pleased with the way he’s played on this homestand.

“He’s showing you all the things you can do. He’s played good defense, he’s getting his hits, he’s coming up with a couple of key hits, taking the walk when it’s there, and eventually the strikeout number is going to come down when the strike zone shrinks a little bit. And eventually he will get fastballs to hit when all of a sudden those balls that are four, six inches off the plate are no longer strikes and (pitchers) have to come back over the plate. … I’m very confident in where Julio is and emotionally how he’s handling this.”

The Mariners’ new man on top

How about a highlight from the Mariners’ lineup?

Adam Frazier, Seattle’s new leadoff man, has been the team’s hottest hitter ever since the M’s started this homestand last Friday. The 2021 National League All-Star second baseman also scuffled on the opening road trip, but he’s had at least one hit in each of the five games at T-Mobile Park so far this season. He’s 11 for 21 (.524) with a walk, three doubles, a triple, a stolen base, four runs scored and five RBIs on the homestand.

“From just a baseball intangibles perspective, he’s one of those guys that really stands out from the first moment that you see him,” Dipoto said. “He does all the little things on the field. He’s a smart baserunner, it’s good at-bat after good at-bat, he swings at the right pitches, he has a lot of contact in his game – which is not common really in today’s game – and he has the ability to play different positions.”

The Mariners have had their eyes on Frazier, 30, for a while, but it wasn’t until this offseason that Dipoto was able to get him in a trade with the Padres, who had beat Seattle to the punch to acquire Frazier at the 2021 MLB trade deadline.

Dipoto: “Championship teams have Adam Fraziers”

“We were at the goal line in acquiring him right before the trade deadline,” Dipoto said. “At the time he was with Pittsburgh and we wound up coming up against it, we fell short, and ultimately he landed in San Diego. We pivoted in a couple of different directions but we’ve always had interest in Adam. … When we went into this offseason understanding that the Padres had a little bit of a flood, they had a few too many position players and Adam might be someone that they would consider moving, (I) just tapped in with with (Padres GM) A.J. Preller, we talked about it and we were able to wrap it up pretty quickly. And I’m thrilled we did because he fits us perfectly.”

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday morning on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM, and the Seattle Sports app. You can hear this week’s full episode in the podcast below or at this link.

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