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The hottest Mariners takes for the 2023 season from Seattle Sports

Mar 30, 2023, 12:47 PM | Updated: 1:32 pm

Mariners J.P. Crawford Ty France...

Ty France congratulates J.P. Crawford after Crawford's home run against Atlanta on Sept. 9, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The sky appears to be the limit for the Seattle Mariners this season.

Drayer’s Mariners Preview: What to watch as the 2023 season begins

They’re coming off back-to-back 90-win seasons, won a series after making their first postseason in two decades, and played the eventual World Series champion Astros tough in three games even though Houston swept Seattle in the American League Division Series. The M’s look like they got better this offseason, too, making upgrades at some key positions while at the same time several up and coming players are in line to take another step in 2023.

Just how good will the M’s be this year? And which players will be leading the charge?

Throughout the week on the air and behind the scenes at Seattle Sports, we’ve been talking about our hottest Mariners takes for the 2023 season. Read the collection we have of them below, and let us know on social media what your hottest M’s take is.

Brandon Gustafson, SeattleSports.com

The Mariners will finish with four 30-homer sluggers

The Mariners have a lot of thump in their lineup, and manager Scott Servais has made it no secret that home runs have been a key to Seattle’s success the last two years.

So this year, I expect the bombs to keep on coming. And then some.

I predict the Mariners will do something they’ve never done in franchise history, and that’s have four players each finish the season with 30 or more home runs.

The M’s have come close a few times in team history, having three players with at least 30 bombs, but never four. I think that changes this year with Julio Rodríguez, Cal Raleigh, Eugenio Suárez and Teoscar Hernández all ranking among MLB’s home run leaders.

Rodríguez nearly reached the mark last year with 28 in his rookie campaign, but he didn’t hit his first big league home run until May 1. From that point on, he was on a 41-homer pace over a full 162-game season, and he really found his power game as the season progressed.

Raleigh was in a similar boat as he had 27 homers in just 119 games last year, and most of that came after a slow start to the season. From June 1 to the end of the year, he belted 23 of his 27 home runs, good for a 39-homer pace over 162.

Suárez blasted 31 home runs in his first year with the Mariners, leading the club in what was the fourth 30-homer season of his career.

As for Hernández, the new guy in Seattle’s lineup, the two-time Silver Slugger hit 32 home runs in 2021 and 25 in 2022. He did that despite missing 31 games in 2022, hitting the injured list early in April and struggling upon his return in May before finding his footing come June. Hernández hit 23 of his homers between June 1 and the rest of the season, a pace of 35 homers over a full season.

Having four sluggers hit 30 home runs would not only be impressive, it would put the Mariners among elite company. Only 13 teams have had four players hit 30 or more homers in a single season, with the last being the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros, both in 2019. Minnesota had five players that year with 30 or more homers, an MLB record.

With Rodríguez, Raleigh, Suárez and Hernández blasting baseballs into outfield seats, the Mariners will finish in the top five in MLB in team home runs in 2023.

Brent Stecker, SeattleSports.com

The Astros will look mortal, and the Mariners will capitalize

Every time the Mariners made a move this offseason, or perhaps even more so when they didn’t, there was hand-wringing about the gap they need to close with the defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros.

The Mariners won a wild card to reach the postseason in 2022, which is nice and all, but it’s clear how important it is to a fan base and organization dead-set on seeing a championship come to Seattle that the M’s need to first do one better and win an American League West title. And that means Seattle needs to topple Houston to get there.

I understand this belief, and I agree that the Mariners need to establish themselves not just as competition for the Astros but capable of overtaking them. Where I differ, however, is that I think a lot of fans are inflating just how good the Astros are going to be in 2023. They’re seeing Houston as the Death Star, but they’re missing the part where the Death Star had a fatal flaw that could be result in its ultimate destruction if an opponent put itself in the right position.

The fatal flaw of the Astros is that they’re not as deep as you may think, and it’s already putting them behind the 8-ball. Did you know All-Star second baseman and former AL MVP José Altuve could miss the first two months of the season, if not more, due to a fractured thumb he suffered in the World Baseball Classic? That’s a pretty big deal. So is veteran starter Lance McCullers beginning the season on the IL with a forearm strain. The Mariners already had a good case that their pitching staff is better than Houston’s before McCullers’ injury, so that could be a difference-maker.

I know the Astros are still really good. Yordan Álvarez is maybe the most underrated hitter in baseball, and that’s saying something considering he’s, well, pretty highly rated already. Kyle Tucker is a legitimate All-Star outfielder. World Series MVP Jeremy Peña is a tremendous young shortstop. Third baseman Alex Bregman is a star, too, though he hasn’t been able to replicate his monster 2019 season in the three years since. But after those players, there’s not a whole lot that scares me about Houston’s lineup. Now, it’s still scary because that’s a pretty formidable quartet, but it would not shock me to see the Mariners’ top four hitters outperform them in 2023. Likely? Maybe not. But certainly possible.

Respect the Astros, but not to the point to thinking they’re unstoppable. All dynasties eventually end, and if this is the year for that to happen in Houston, the Mariners are in a great position.

Michael Bumpus, Bump and Stacy

J.P. Crawford is the key to the Mariners’ success

From the March 28 edition of Bump and Stacy

“With all the talent we expect to ball out this year – we’re talking Julio, Teoscar, Suárez, hopefully Jarred Kelenic – it’s still on J.P., because other than the pitcher and the catcher, he plays the position with the most responsibility. The Mariners passed on a lot of shortstop talent the last two offseasons. He needs to ball. Of course, everyone else needs to do their thing, but if J.P. can ball out and connect the dots with all this other talent out there and hold it down defensively at that shortstop spot, (hit well with) no more shifting going on, I’m telling you, J.P. is the key to the success for the Mariners this year.

“He’s doesn’t need to be an All-Star, he just needs to be what we need him to be: solid defensively, and just get on base. Don’t worry about hitting bombs. Just get on base.”

Stacy Rost, Bump and Stacy

The Mariners will have the AL MVP and Cy Young Award winners

From the March 28 edition of Bump and Stacy

Julio Rodríguez is the obvious front-runner for MVP candidate on the Mariners’ roster, but when it comes to the Cy Young, Rost points out that Seattle has multiple potential contenders. Atop the list is ace Luis Castillo, who was electric after joining Seattle as a trade deadline acquisition last July. But what about George Kirby, who was impressive in his rookie season? Maybe Logan Gilbert can take a big step forward. Or what about Robbie Ray, who already has the 2021 AL Cy Young Award on his mantle and was one of the big stories in spring training?

Curtis Rogers, Bump & Stacy

George Kirby will be the ace of the Mariners’ pitching staff

From the March 28 edition of Bump and Stacy

“George Kirby last season showed a poise that is not indicative of a young pitcher. That is a guy where nothing can shake him. He has some pretty nasty stuff, as well, and I think that is all going to combine in a breakout season for him. He is going to be the Mariners’ best starting pitcher by the end of this 2023 season. He’s going to be the guy who you want to have the ball in his hands more than anybody. I mean, just look at his performance against the Astros in the playoffs last year. Just absolutely dominant in that Game 3, going seven scoreless innings and capping it off with a strikeout of José Altuve.”

Bob Stelton, Wyman & Bob

Ty France will win the AL batting title

From the March 28 edition of Wyman & Bob

“Ty France will be an All-Star again. That’s not a scorching take. But he’s gonna win the batting title. … He needs to just be Ty France and stay healthy. That’s it. He’s got the approach, he’s got the swing. He’s so remarkably consistent with his mechanics, his swing. He’s not pull-happy, he uses the entire field, the shift meant nothing to him. It was just that he was that guy that you had to play straight up, and he just hits. As long as he can stay healthy – and this is true for any any prediction, they have to be healthy – but you just saw how (a June 2022 elbow) injury impacted his mechanics and his approach. So as long as he’s back to 100%, he’s gonna be that guy.”

Ryan Rowland-Smith, M’s analyst and former MLB pitcher

Logan Gilbert will be the Mariners pitcher who turns heads

From the March 28 edition of Wyman & Bob

“Everyone’s gushing about George Kirby. Tons of potential, and I will say he’s one of my favorite guys to watch pitch in Major League Baseball. I’m gonna say this, this is my hot take: Logan Gilbert is going to outperform George Kirby, and he’s going to be up there for a Cy Young selection. He’s 6 foot 6, we all know he’s in that top 3% in regards to extension. The problem with him the last couple of years has been the inconsistency with the curveball and the slider. He goes to those pitches all the time as put-away pitches. The changeup, only (throws it) to lefties. All of a sudden in spring training, he’s starting to throw that split, and that pitch is filthy. Now he’s talking about, oh, he’s only going to throw that pitch around 5% of the time. You watch – as we go into April, May, June, he’s (going to be) like, ‘Oh, man, actually I love throwing this pitch.’

“I’m telling you, when he starts to get a feel for that pitch – hopefully we can play this sound as we get into June, July when he’s looking at that All-Star team – but when he starts having some fun with that pitch, that put-away percentage is going to go through the roof. And that’s going to be a weapon against righties, lefties, you watch. And then he can live off that fastball middle of the strike zone because those pitches play off each other so well.”

More on the Mariners from Seattle Sports

Salk: Mariners have a chance to go farther than any team in their history
Mariners Breakdown: Will they take the next step in 2023?
Morosi: Mariners have a path to jumping Astros, winning AL West
Lefko: Three reasons the Mariners could be better than people think
Drayer: No chasing numbers — Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic commits to his swing

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