BUMP AND STACY

Mariners Spring Training: Aaron Goldsmith breaks down 3 M’s standouts

Mar 20, 2023, 3:11 PM

Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Mariners LF Jarred Kelenic watches White Sox RHP Reynaldo Lopez with hitting coach Tony Arnerich on Feb. 27. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

We are less than two weeks away from Mariners opening day against the Cleveland Guardians at T-Mobile Park, and there have been plenty of positive storylines in their month-plus so far at spring training.

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Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Monday to discuss some of the standouts for the M’s in Arizona. Here’s a look at what he had to say about three players in particular.

Robbie Ray

The veteran left-hander had a good season in 2022, his first with the Mariners, but it wasn’t to the same level as his 2021 American League Cy Young Award-winning campaign with Toronto. Ray has appeared to have a fire lit under him this spring, however, with increased velocity on his fastball and the addition of a splitter to his repertoire that also includes a tough slider.

On Sunday, Ray struck out nine White Sox hitters over four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks. For the spring, he has 21 punchouts in 12 innings.

“He looked dynamite yesterday,” Goldsmith said, adding that while Ray maybe hasn’t faced the toughest competition, the improved quality of his stuff is obvious. “… There’s a noticeable increase in the crispness and the overall quality for Robbie now compared to maybe at any point last year. That’s a big statement to make, but the velocity is at a point right now that I don’t think we ever saw last year. I mean, we’re seeing basically sitting 95 (mph), popping a 96, 97. We certainly didn’t see that high-end last season from Robbie, and also the slider looks even sharper this year.”

Goldsmith said that Ray’s splitter “seems to be a really good offering,” but it’s not exactly what’s new that stands out the most about him.

“The thing that I am most encouraged about with Robbie Ray – and that’s not to say that I had any concerns about Robbie, I didn’t and I don’t – but the thing that I like the most… he is going back to what made him a Cy Young winner. He is going back to what made him a $100 million free agent pitcher, and that is four-seam fastballs at the top rail of the strike zone, nasty, vicious sliders, and now he’s added the split.”

Ray turned to a two-seam fastball with sinking action midseason last year to keep hitters off-balance, and Goldsmith noted that while it helped, it didn’t exactly play to Ray’s strengths.

“The two-seamer last year was kind of a storyline for Robbie in the back half of the season, and it was a necessary tool that he implemented and just created because of the Astros in particular, but he used it of course (against) all the other teams he faced also. But that’s not Robbie Ray,” he said. “I mean, I think there’s a fine line between a pitcher evolving and also a pitcher knowing what got him there and what makes him an elite-level starting pitcher. It’s this kind of power stuff from the left side from Robbie Ray that makes him an elite-level guy, and now he’s doubling down on it and the stuff looks even better.

“That’s not to say that the two-seamer will never be thrown again, but I firmly believe after speaking with him that it’s fastballs up, sliders down, occasional splitter, and then an even more rare two-seam fastball. That’s what made Robbie Ray a Cy Young winner, and that’s the type of guy that the Mariners signed but we didn’t always see last year. That’s not to say didn’t have a good season but we didn’t always see that form of Robbie Ray, and credit to him for making it work in another form, but I like the fact that his plan going into the season is to get back to the guy that he was prior.”

Jarred Kelenic

The player grabbing most of the headlines from Mariners camp has been Kelenic, the 23-year-old former top prospect who has struggled to find consistent success over two big league seasons. He’s had a fresh approach on display in Cactus League action, however, and as a result leads the team in the majority of meaningful offensive statistics.

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Of course, with Kelenic’s history it’s tough to know how much to buy into what he’s doing in February and March.

Goldsmith shared his read on Kelenic’s spring.

“You can be really excited by what you see, but you can also be realistic about it,” he said. “… The four home runs Jarred (has) hit were basically grooved fastballs right down the middle. Now does that mean that it’s a bad thing that Jarred Kelenic hit those, on average, I don’t know, like 450 feet and clear the batter’s eye with one of them? No, that’s exactly what he should do if he’s at his absolute best, whether it’s in Arizona or in Seattle. And we’ve seen Jarred and any other player foul those balls straight back or swing and miss. So he’s doing the best-case scenario for those types of pitches, which he should be given credit for this time of year in particular.”

That being said, Goldsmith explained why Kelenic’s statistics could mean more than those of another player like veteran AJ Pollock, a former All-Star who joined the Mariners in free agency to platoon with Kelenic in left field. That all comes down to confidence, which Kelenic could certainly use when facing big league pitching.

“I think him posting these numbers, even though it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you anything, it’s really good for Jarred. I’m really happy for him. He clearly put in work during the offseason, he looks better, he looks confident, he looks comfortable, and we’re seeing the process pay off with results. So he’s in a great spot right now and we all hope it continues. … His process seems to be absolutely spot-on, which is what the Mariners want.”

Cooper Hummel

There aren’t many Mariners swinging the bat as well as Kelenic this spring, but Hummel is one of the closest. A local product who spent time in both the Seattle and Portland areas growing up, Hummel tied Kelenic for the team lead in Cactus League home runs with his fourth on Monday, bolstering the case of the offseason trade acquisition from the Diamondbacks to break camp with the M’s.

“I think there will be a place (on the Mariners roster) – it sure seems like at least – at some point this season for Cooper Hummel, and maybe that is a part of the opening day roster,” Goldsmith said.

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Hummel is a uniquely versatile player who splits time between catcher and the outfield, has experience playing around the infield and hits from both sides of the plate. Seattle may be in need of his services with utility man Dylan Moore, who is penciled in as a platoon partner for Kolten Wong at second baseball and occasional shortstop when J.P. Crawford rests, likely to miss opening day with an oblique strain that comes on the heels of his recovery from offseason core surgery.

“The intrigue around (Hummel) is that he’s this multi-positional type of player. He can play all over the place, he even can catch,” Goldsmith said. “Obviously the Mariners are really set in their catching position with Cal Raleigh and Tom Murphy, but I would say Cooper Hummel would be a tremendous emergency catcher. That’s not going to really be where he finds the majority of his playing time it would appear right now, but I think there could very well be a bench position for Cooper Hummel.

“Obviously the Dylan Moore news creates a trickle-down effect in terms of now opening up another spot. Sam Haggerty fills Dylan’s role at least for the time being because of the oblique… and add to that the fact that (Moore) didn’t start his spring training yet. He was about to make his Cactus League debut (last Thursday) and was injured, so he has to start from ground zero in this. … I think Coop could have a little bit more of an opportunity now.”

You can listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with Goldsmith in the podcast below or the video near the top of this post.

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