Dipoto: 4 Mariners who can ‘change the way our team is perceived’

Mar 2, 2023, 1:49 PM

Mariners Robbie Ray...

Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray throws against the Padres on Feb. 24. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners enter 2023 with big expectations after a playoff appearance in 2022 and back-to-back 90-win seasons.

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The team has some big names like Julio Rodríguez and Luis Castillo who are expected to again lead the team statistically. But who are some players who, if they take a step forward, can really help the Mariners do big things in 2023?

Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto pointed to four players Thursday morning during his weekly show on Seattle Sports.

The first name is a bit of an obvious one: young outfielder Jarred Kelenic, who has a high ceiling but has struggled in his MLB career so far.

“If JK is able to break out and do the things that we think or believe he’s capable of, it just changes our entire view of our team, and that’s both internal and external,” Dipoto said. “And it’s part of what we’re betting on. We’ve bet on him, and I think he is going to deliver on that and we’re seeing the early stages.”

Dipoto on Kelenic: Mariners “couldn’t be more optimistic” about changes

The next two players Dipoto brought up were pitchers, and they may not be who you’d expect.

“The other guy who’s really shown up and can change the way we see ourselves is Robbie Ray,” he said.

Ray was Seattle’s prized offseason acquisition last year coming off a Cy Young season in 2021 for Toronto. Ray wasn’t bad by any means in 2022, but his 3.71 ERA and lower (for his standards) strikeout numbers didn’t live up to his billing as an award winner.

“Robbie’s a year removed from a Cy Young Award. His first two outings in the spring have been awesome,” Dipoto said. “It’s very 2021. Robbie Ray. I think we’re seeing a different version of him there.”

The other pitcher? Fellow southpaw starter Marco Gonzales.

“Very quietly since 2018, Marco’s third in the American League in innings, third in the American League in wins,” Dipoto said. “If this were 1977, we would be celebrating the things that Marco delivers every day, and instead we’ve dealt with a lot of scrutiny about the things he doesn’t do. But he does do a lot of really positive things and delivers a lot of quality starts and that type of depth makes us a different team.”

Dipoto said the Mariners are searching for “that one bat that clicks for us.” While Dipoto said he’s not “entirely sure” who that bat is right now, a former first-round pick comes to mind.

“As we cycle through the DH position, you want one guy to be able to step up and take a bulk of those (at-bats). That could be Evan White,” Dipoto said.

Dipoto: What Mariners are seeing from former top prospects Kelenic, White

White made his MLB debut in 2020, and while he won a Gold Glove at first base, he struggled mightily at the plate. That continued into 2021 until an injury, and he hasn’t played in MLB since May of that year due to a hip issue. White is now “as healthy as he’s ever been,” Dipoto said before spring training, and he recently blasted a home run in spring training action.

“(He’s) a guy we’re not really counting on coming into spring training (but) who I think has looked outstanding in the early going,” Dipoto said. “Again, trying to temper the enthusiasm, but he changes our team defensively if he hits. And he doesn’t have to hit fourth or fifth, he can hit seventh or eighth. If he hits, it just changes the way our team is perceived and the way our team functions.”

Listen to the full interview with Dipoto at this link or in the player below.

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Dipoto: 4 Mariners who can ‘change the way our team is perceived’