BROCK AND SALK

Ranked: Mariners’ five most deserving All-Star candidates

May 29, 2024, 3:58 PM | Updated: 4:06 pm

Seattle Mariners Andrés Muñoz Nationals 2024...

Andrés Muñoz of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Nationals on May 26. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The MLB All-Star Game is still a month and a half away, but it’s not too early to speculate which players from the first-place Seattle Mariners are most deserving of a spot in the Midsummer Classic.

Mike Salk delved into that topic during the “Ranked” segment of Tuesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. As Salk clarified, this isn’t who he thinks will ultimately be selected, but rather which Mariners are most worthy of consideration.

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Plenty could change between now and July 16, when Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, plays host to the annual showcase of baseball’s brightest stars. But through the first two months of the season, here’s how Salk ranks his top five Mariners candidates.

1. RHP Andrés Muñoz

Given the injuries to fellow high-leverage relievers Matt Brash and Gregory Santos, Muñoz has never been more valuable. The hard-throwing 25-year-old closer has anchored Seattle’s depleted bullpen with a lights-out first two months, posting a 1.54 ERA with 32 strikeouts and just eight walks in 23 1/3 innings. Muñoz is 11 for 12 in save opportunities and ranks fifth among American League relievers with a 35.2% strikeout rate. He’s been especially dominant of late, allowing only one run, eight hits and two walks in his past 16 innings. And he’s taken on a larger workload at times, recording four saves of four-plus outs – including two five-out saves.

“Their most deserving All-Star, to me, has been Andres Muñoz,” Salk said. “… He has definitely shortened the game to eight innings. It’s not always the ninth that he pitches, but when he comes in, he does his job.”

2. RHP Luis Castillo

After allowing four runs in each of his first three starts, Castillo has settled in and been his usual steady self. The 31-year-old ace has a 3.28 ERA in 71 1/3 innings, with 75 strikeouts and 19 walks. He has a 25.5% strikeout rate, which ranks ninth among AL starting pitchers. He has gone nine consecutive starts without allowing more than two earned runs, sporting a 2.26 ERA and 1.01 WHIP over that stretch. Seattle’s entire starting rotation has been excellent, but Salk gave the edge to Castillo for his consistency.

“They’ve all been really good, (but) he’s been the most consistent,” Salk said. “Every time out, he’s giving his team a chance to win. … I feel like if you have to choose one (Mariners starting pitcher), you choose the guy who started opening day and the guy who gives them a chance to win every time out. He has been really, really fun to watch.”

3. C Cal Raleigh

After leading all MLB catchers in home runs each of the past two years, Raleigh is on his way to potentially doing so for a third consecutive season. The 27-year-old slugger has 11 homers, which is tied with Oakland’s Shea Langeliers for the most among all catchers. Raleigh has just a .211 batting average, but he’s slugging a respectable .427 and he’s once again showed a knack for coming through in the clutch. In a three-day span earlier this month, he launched a tiebreaking solo homer in the ninth inning of a win over Houston and a go-ahead pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning of an extra-inning victory over Minnesota. In addition, he has been an invaluable presence behind the plate for one of baseball’s best starting rotations. As Salk mentioned, his impact goes far beyond the stats.

“The leadership, the clutchness,” Salk said. “He very much has played a huge role in a first-place team’s effectiveness. I think he deserves a lot of consideration.”

4. RHP Logan Gilbert

Gilbert, who added a cutter to his arsenal this season, is in the midst of another highly productive campaign. The 27-year-old right-hander has posted a 3.06 ERA in 70 2/3 innings, with 66 strikeouts and 19 walks. His 0.96 WHIP ranks fourth among AL starters and his .196 opponents’ batting average ranks sixth. And if not for one rough start in Minnesota – when he allowed eight runs in four innings – his numbers would be ever better. Even so, he is tied for the MLB lead with nine quality starts.

“His ERA has been tremendous,” Salk said. “And his new pitch has just been ferocious. … He’s been pretty spectacular this year. He could probably be higher, but hey, you’ve gotta put them in order.”

5. RHP George Kirby

Kirby has logged a 4.33 ERA in 62 1/3 innings, with 57 strikeouts and just six walks. The 26-year-old right-hander’s control has once again been elite, with a 2.4% walk rate that ranks second among AL starters and a 1.03 WHIP that ranks eighth. Kirby has four scoreless outings of five-plus innings, including two of seven innings. However, he has allowed five-plus runs four times, including eight runs against Cleveland in his second outing of the year.

“Kirby was the last guy I could make an argument for,” Salk said. “I don’t think you could make an argument for Bryce Miller, as good as he’s been. Bryan Woo’s obviously been hurt. On the hitting side of things, other than Cal, can you think of anybody that you could make any sort of an All-Star case for? … Maybe you could say Julio (Rodríguez) has star power, and the average has been high and the stolen bases are high. But after that, I mean, he hasn’t really looked like Julio. … Kirby has been very good, but not quite consistent enough to be in the top four here.”

Listen to the full conversation from Brock and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Tune in to Brock and Salk weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Watch: Mariners’ Luke Raley robs Astros of home run
• Is the real Julio back in Mariners’ lineup? ‘Best he’s looked all year’
• Seattle Mariners place Polanco on IL, call up prospect Ryan Bliss for debut
• Morosi: It’s ‘exactly the right time’ for Mariners to go all-in on trades
• Drayer: How Seattle Mariners are trying to find more consistency at plate

 

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