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Jon Morosi explains why Mariners could make playoffs in 2021

Outfield Jarred Kelenic is the Mariners' top prospect. (Getty)

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made it clear at the start of the season that this year’s club wasn’t going to be a contender. But in the months since then – a stretch that saw an abysmal May and a June that still fell below .500 – critics have begun to question whether Dipoto’s goal of contending by 2021 is realistic.

Drayer: M’s young core held its own during Astros’ sweep

But at least one voice believes that the Mariners can be contenders by Dipoto’s goal date: MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Granted, Morosi said Seattle still has a way to go and will need a boost from its pitching staff.

“Next year is going to be a challenge, but I would say 2021 to be realistic,” Morosi said during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Tuesday morning. “The key thing for me is going to be the pitching. I think offensively they’re going to be fine. I want to see what type of pitching develops and how soon the Mariners’ young pitching can really make an impact. Because if we see two or three good homegrown starters settling in by 2021, I think that year they’ll have a chance to make the playoffs.”

Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield and Logan Gilbert are the Mariners’ top three pitching prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. Dunn was included in Seattle’s offseason trade of second baseman Robinson Canó. Also acquired by Seattle in the trade was the team’s top prospect Jarred Kelenic, who was promoted to High-A Modesto in May.

Dipoto: Kelenic’s timeline ahead of schedule

“I think the Canó deal so far is working out well, it’s had the desired effect for the Mariners,” Morosi said. “It gave them a bit of a reboot; they got younger. Yes, the record doesn’t look great right now, but you can see what this team has a chance to look like.”

The Mariners’ division won’t make things any easier during their rebuild, with the AL West-leading Houston Astros showing no sign of slowing down. However, Morosi says Houston will be facing its own share of questions come 2021, in particular with its pitchers.

Hear Morosi’s interview, including his full thoughts on the Astros, with Huard and Salk below: