BRENT STECKER

Seattle Mariners Check-In: Who’s hot, who’s not through 4 series

Apr 12, 2023, 4:26 PM | Updated: 6:31 pm

Seattle Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Jarred Kelenic of the Seattle Mariners singles against the Cleveland Guardians on April 8, 2023. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Early-season baseball is never easy to get a read on, especially when a team with big expectations for the year scuffles out of the gate. You know, like the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners are 5-8 after wrapping up their first road trip of 2023 on Wednesday with a 5-3 bounceback win over the Chicago Cubs, and there are certainly some concerns to point at.

Wednesday: Kelenic’s 482-foot homer helps Seattle Mariners beat Cubs 5-2

If you were unhappy with their offseason, specifically the lack of impact bats they signed in free agency, you’re probably thinking that’s played a big role in their 1-4 record in one-run games (including 0-3 in extra innings). A thin pitching staff due to injuries to starter Robbie Ray and reliever Andrés Muñoz has also reared its head, and some sloppy play in the field and on the bases have been factors, as well.

And yet when you look over Seattle’s statistics, there are just as many reasons to be encouraged as discouraged about the Mariners.

Baseball in April. It really can be all over the place.

In the spirit of that, here’s a look at the Seattle Mariners who are hot going into a nine-game homestand starting Friday against the Colorado Rockies, as well as the M’s who are quite the opposite.

Who’s hot for the Seattle Mariners

Jarred Kelenic

You knew this was coming when you read the headline, right?

No Mariners hitter is hotter then Kelenic, and I doubt you could find a player who a hot streak now could mean more for than Kelenic.

There was a big question mark coming into the season about Kelenic, specifically about whether or not his torrid spring training was a sign that his offseason adjustments would translate against big league pitching.

Now, it’s early. We all know it’s early. It’s not possible to stress enough just how early it is. But, I mean, what Kelenic is doing is noticeably different from his first two seasons with the M’s where he struggled to stick with the big club.

He’s more relaxed at the plate. He’s more patient. He’s doing a much better job choosing which pitches to swing at, and which to let go by even if it’s at the bottom of the zone in a two-strike count with runners on (a strikeout looking is better than hitting into a double play, after all). And, as Brock Huard pointed out Wednesday morning on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk (podcast here or in the player below), the way Kelenic is operating at the plate looks repeatable, and that’s a big thing for a young hitter trying to get his career into gear.

Alright, let’s get to why you’re really here, though: the numbers.

Kelenic is slashing .351/.415/.703 for a 1.118 OPS through 11 games and 41 plate appearances. He’s on a career-high seven-game hitting streak. He has four doubles and two stolen bases (and hasn’t been caught attempting a steal). And yes, he has homered in three consecutive games, all of which were impressive in their own right, though the 482-footer he blasted Wednesday to the upper deck of the bleachers above center field at Wrigley Field (the second-longest homer at the Friendly Confines since Statcast recording began in 2015) clearly takes the cake.

Watch all three of Kelenic’s homers in Chicago here:

Listen, I know it would be easier if the Mariners were off to a better start than what they’ve done so far, which is decidedly in “bad” territory. But I would argue that Kelenic unlocking the potential that made him a prospect ranked higher than Julio Rodríguez at one point would be much more important than the team losing three more games than it won over the first two weeks. If that’s what this is, I think the M’s are going to be just fine.

Ty France

On the list of things the Seattle Mariners need to see improve from last season, Ty France hitting better than he did in the second half of 2022 is pretty high on the list.

So far, he’s hitting like Ty France is supposed to. Maybe even better.

France owns a .357/.419/.518 slash line in 13 games for a .937 OPS with one homer, six doubles and nine RBIs. He just looks so much more like himself with the bat right now, as it was clear down the stretch last season that he was compensating for elbow and wrist ailments. He’s hitting the ball all over the field again to start the season, and I think the Mariners have the right idea having him hit right behind leadoff man Julio Rodríguez in the lineup.

Eugenio Suárez

Now here’s something I didn’t see coming.

Suárez is a slugger known for both for his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark and the amount of strikeouts that pile up while he does so. He’s doing things a little differently early on this season, though, slashing .309/.328/.418 for a .746 OPS with just one homer in 58 plate appearances. With three doubles also to his credit, that means 13 of his 17 hits thus far are singles, and there’s certainly value in that as he leads the team with 11 RBIs.

Of all the players on this “hot” list, I look at what Suárez is doing with the least confidence that it will continue. That’s not to say I think it’s impossible for him to keep his average up. It does look like he has a different approach that is leading to more base hits, but he has a history of being a bopper, and the safe bet would be that version of him will reappear sooner or later.

Luis Castillo

It’s hard to find another pitcher in baseball who looked better through their first two starts than Castillo did. And even though he wasn’t as good in his third start, he was still plenty effective and just didn’t get the run support he needed in a 3-2 loss to Chicago in 10 innings on Monday.

In three games, Castillo has allowed just two earned runs on nine hits and four walks with 17 strikeouts. That adds up to a 1.02 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and .148 average against. Yeah, pretty good.

Castillo won’t be this good all season, but based on what he’s done so far, he sure looks like a potential Cy Young Award candidate in 2023.

Gabe Speier

Bet you didn’t expect to see that name here.

Speier was an early call-up from Triple-A, and the 28-year-old left-hander has looked like he belongs since the get. In five appearances, he’s thrown 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out five.

After a season where the Mariners didn’t have a consistent lefty out of the bullpen, manager Scott Servais is probably plenty happy to call Speier’s number.

Who’s not

Kolten Wong

The first two weeks of Wong’s Seattle Mariners tenure have been tough. The veteran second baseman has just four hits in 38 at-bats, and none of those hits have gone for extra bases, giving him a rough slash line of .105/.205/.105 for a .310 OPS.

Making matters worse, the two-time Gold Glove winner has had some issues in the field, as well. Wong’s defense wasn’t great last year in Milwaukee, and the Mariners hoped that was an aberration. Because of that, I’d be more concerned about his glovework than his hitting at this point.

Seattle has struggled with finding second basemen in recent years, and with Wong’s start and Dylan Moore, his expected platoon partner, yet to debut due to injury, the position remains worrisome.

Diego Castillo

Castillo has the ability to be one of the Mariners’ best relievers, and his track record suggests he will be. But it has not been pretty for him in his first five appearances of 2023.

In 4 2/3 innings, Castillo has allowed five runs on five hits, four walks and a homer. He looked to take a step in the right direction last Sunday with his first clean inning of work in his fourth game of the year, but he followed it up Tuesday with his worst outing of the young season, surrendering two runs on three hits and a walk in a single frame against the Cubs.

Castillo has been able to bounce back from rough patches before, and the Mariners certainly need him to do so again with the bullpen hurting from the losses of Chris Flexen to the rotation in place of Robbie Ray and Muñoz to the IL.

Matt Brash

We’ll stick with the bullpen for a minute.

I don’t want to be too hard on Brash here because the Mariners had to put the 24-year-old right-hander into some tough situations that he doesn’t have experience in, but it showed.

He couldn’t shut the door in his first big league save opportunity Sunday in Cleveland, as the pesky Guardians scored two runs off of him in a rocky ninth inning to force extras. It certainly wasn’t good, but the outcome was understandable considering Brash has been a reliever for less than a year.

Unfortunately, the M’s had to turn to him again on Monday, this time in a tie game in the 10th, and the Cubs were able to walk off against him.

Blowing a save one day and taking the loss the next is a really tough pill for any pitcher to swallow, let alone one with as little experience as Brash.

That being said, I liked how the Mariners deployed him on Wednesday. With two outs and two runners on, Brash came on in relief of starter Logan Gilbert in the seventh inning. Seattle just needed him to get one out, and with a little help from the home plate umpire (who gave Brash a generous call for a high slider on a 3-1 count), Brash got the M’s out of the jam and hopefully picked up some confidence for himself along the way.

Julio Rodríguez

This might seem a bit unfair, but allow me to explain.

Julio’s .254/.313/.424 slash for a .737 OPS is fine. It’s not Julio at his best, though, and it does seem like he’s struggling some with his command of the strike zone at the moment. He has 17 strikeouts (tied for most on the team with Suárez) to four walks, and while he has two homers and four doubles, he just doesn’t seem locked in quite yet.

I don’t think Julio looked up to speed when he played for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, and it’s certainly possible that his disjointed spring is playing a factor. Regardless, Seattle Mariners fans should have all the confidence in the world that he’ll get on track. And besides, if this is what his stats look like when he’s not on track, well, that’s actually a pretty good sign.

The DH position

If you’re been on social media following the Mariners this month, you probably know all about this. The M’s don’t have a set designated hitter (you’ll see a lot of players getting “rest” days serving at DH as the season goes on) and have mainly been relying on Tommy La Stella, Cooper Hummell, Tom Murphy and Cal Raleigh at the spot. And, well, it’s not been fun to watch.

The Mariners are currently last in the league in production out of their DHs, who are just 5 of 44 for a .114/.188/.205 slash and .393 OPS.

Only way to go is up, I guess?

Fann: Fan frustrations over Seattle Mariners’ offensive woes deep-rooted

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