Morosi: The hitter Seattle Mariners need to step up most

May 2, 2024, 8:44 PM

Seattle Mariners second baseman Jorge Polanco...

Jorge Polanco of the Seattle Mariners during a 2024 game against Atlanta. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There’s been two storylines that have dominated the first month of the season for the Seattle Mariners.

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The storyline that’s brought hope for another playoff run has been the Mariners’ dominant pitching staff, which has spent the past few weeks showing why many experts considered it to be among the best in baseball entering the season. The other storyline hasn’t provided the same sort of optimism, and it’s one that’s seemed to follow the team for several seasons. Once again, Seattle has had its fair share of struggles at the plate, especially with making contact.

With many Mariners hitters putting up numbers below their career norms through the first month, Seattle Sports’ Bob Stelton asked MLB insider Jon Morosi which hitter Seattle most needs to step up at the plate when he joined Wyman and Bob on Thursday. The caveat was that answer couldn’t be star center fielder Julio Rodríguez, but that’s not who Morosi had in mind either way.

“It’s (second baseman Jorge) Polanco for me, because when the season began, there’s a reason why for the first two weeks he was batting third every single day,” Morosi said. “They got him to be that player.”

The Mariners sent four players to the Minnesota Twins in the offseason to acquire the 30-year-old Polanco. While playing in parts of 10 seasons with the Twins, Polanco was a consistent producer at the plate. He slashed .266/.334/.441 with 116 home runs and 459 RBIs in Minnesota, which includes a 33-homer season in 2021 and an All-Star appearance in 2019.

It hasn’t been the same story since coming to the Pacific Northwest. Polanco is hitting a meager .181 with a .295 slugging percentage and four extra-base hits in 126 plate appearances.

“He’s supposed to be (hitting third) every single day,” Morosi said, “and if you go back to what the Mariners said when they made that trade, that’s what they were expecting to get. They were hoping to get someone that was a dependable, reliable .800 or so OPS with good baserunning and really strong just up the middle consistency. They have not gotten that yet.”

Polanco’s biggest flaws were supposed to be health and defense. Neither of those have been much of an issue thus far. In fact, the defense has seemed to improve since the start of the season. The offense, however, hasn’t been there, but there were some promising signs earlier this week during the series against the Atlanta Braves.

Polanco collected four hits and four RBI in the three-game series against the National League leaders, and he came through in big moments along the way. His leadoff single in the ninth inning Monday night set up Mitch Garver’s ensuing walkoff home run. The two-run home run he hit the following night keyed another one-run victory. Then, Polanco notched a pair of RBI singles in Wednesday’s series finale.

“I really want to see Polanco come through in a consistent fashion,” Morosi said. “If he does that, it’s a very different team that can, I think, win a series against virtually any team in the game, which by the way they just did. When you take two out of three from Atlanta … you’re doing something right.”

Listen to the full conversation with MLB insider Jon Morosi at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Wyman and Bob weekdays from 2-6 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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