Who have been the Mariners’ most impressive young hitters this spring?
The Mariners will roll out perhaps the MLB’s youngest lineup this year, with several rookies including Evan White, Kyle Lewis and Shed Long expected to see plenty of action early on.
Of Seattle’s numerous prospects receiving regular at-bats in Cactus League action, which young hitters have been the most impressive? John Clayton posed that question to Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on his 710 ESPN Seattle show Tuesday, and she had a couple players to mention.
The first to come to mind was White, who is expected to make his MLB debut at Seattle’s first baseman on opening day, set for exactly one month before his 24th birthday. He signed a multi-year extension early this offseason, a rarity for a player with no big league experience, and he has followed that up with a nice showing in the Cactus League. Entering Tuesday, he had a .364 average, .875 OPS, three doubles and a walk in 24 plate appearances. And while there hasn’t necessarily been an example of the added power he showed when he hit 18 home runs in 92 games for Double-A Arkansas in 2019, he’s been impressive at the plate nonetheless.
“Evan White I think has been the most consistent (of the Mariners’ young hitters in spring training),” Drayer said. “He’s a batter that’s going to be interesting to watch because he’s changed his profile as a hitter; he’s changed his swing in the last two years and he is so young.”
What’s most encouraging is how White, who early in his pro career was regarded as a strong defender but not as impressive at the plate, has responded in his first chance to play since the 2017 first-round pick signed his new contract.
“You know he’s going to make the team out of spring training barring a disaster and we certainly haven’t seen that,” Drayer said. “It kinda makes you start to wonder a little bit about what his ceiling offensively is because I think that changed when he changed his swing and made an adjustment at the plate. He’s the one who’s been opening eyes the most.”
Another hitter who could find himself in a Mariners uniform by the end of the 2020 regular season is top prospect Jarred Kelenic. And while he turned heads early on this spring like White, the 20-year-old outfielder has recently hit a rough patch. He had an early spring highlight with his first Cactus League home run, but his average had dipped to .227 entering Tuesday as his strikeout total climbed to seven in 25 plate appearances.
Then again, for a 2018 first-round pick who has excelled at every level of baseball he has played, a slump in the spring against MLB-caliber pitching isn’t necessarily the worst thing.
“Early on Jarred Kelenic really (opened) eyes. All of the sudden pitchers are starting to challenge him a little bit more with some of the breaking stuff,” Drayer said. “… Things are getting a little tougher for him but that’s important. He’s gotta see that stuff. I have no doubt he’s making all sorts of notes and taking something away from those at-bats.”
Drayer covered several more Mariners topics in her segment with Clayton, which you can listen to in this podcast from Tuesday’s show.
- Tune in to 710 ESPN Seattle weekdays at 10am for John Clayton's show.
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