The Seattle Mariners have continued to call up rookies to The Show. Today, the Seattle Mariners selected P Art Warren, P Justin Dunn, OF Kyle Lewis, and IF Donnie Walton from AA Arkansas. Warren was drafted by the Mariners in the 23rd round of the 2015 June Amateur draft from Ashland University in Ohio. This season with the Arkansas Travelers, he appeared in 29 games, had a 2-1 record while posting a 1.71 ERA. Justin Dunn was drafted by the Dodgers in the 37th round of the 2013 June Amateur Draft, but did not sign in order to pitch at Boston College. He was then drafted out of college by the Mets in 2016. Justin was a part of the acquisition deal that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets in December. Players also in that trade were Gerson Bautista, Anthony Swarzak, Jarred Kelenic, and Jay Bruce—who is now with the Phillies. While at Arkansas, he held a 9-5 record, 3.55 ERA in 25 games started. The most anticipated player to be promoted in the Mariners organization has been Kyle Lewis. He was drafted 11th overall by the Mariners in 2016. He played his collegiate ball at Mercer University. Kyle has bounced around the different levels of the minors due to injuries but found himself full time at AA Arkansas this season. He appeared in 122 games, collected 120 hits, 25 doubles, 11 home runs, and batted .263. Donnie Walton was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 June Amateur Draft from Oklahoma State University. This season at Arkansas, he appeared in 124 games, collected 144 hits, 50 RBIs, while batting .300. This should be exciting for Mariners fans, as this is the first glimpse of the future of this team. It's time. ⌚ Kyle Lewis, Justin Dunn, Art Warren, and Donnie Walton are all set to make their big league debuts. 📰 https://t.co/BW76TOO6pw pic.twitter.com/KZUGhWIBTB — Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 10, 2019
On Sunday it was announced that Daniel Vogelbach is set to represent the Seattle Mariners in the 2019 All-Star Game. His consistency, discipline, and display of power at the plate earned him the nod to be the only Mariner represented in Cleveland on July 9th. This season, he has hit 20 home runs while slashing .244/.379/.519. He currently has the highest on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of any American League designated hitter at .898. In addition, he has hit 11 doubles and has knocked in 48 runs while drawing 56 walks–ranking 6th in the Majors. Coming into the season, Vogey spent most of his professional time in the minor leagues with the Cubs and Mariners. The departure of Nelson Cruz opened up a roster spot for Daniel to compete at a higher level. However, while Ryon Healy was healthy, his time at the plate was split between now Yankee Edwin Encarnacion and current Philly Jay Bruce. Daniel took advantage of the time he played putting on a show of monster home runs. Now that Edwin and Jay have departed, he has notched himself into a full-time starting DH, with a little time at 1B. He’s averaging a home run in every 13 at-bats and a walk every 5.5 plate appearances. One final piece: The Home Run Derby. MLB needs to extend an invitation to Vogelbomb. Granted, he doesn’t have as many as others, but his ability to not hit cheap blasts needs to be on full exhibition. The All-Star Game will be July 9th in Cleveland. It will be televised on Fox and their affiliates worldwide.
The Mariners are struggling. I see it, you see it, and every MLB team sees it. After starting the Season 13-3, beating the reigning World Series champs, they were two blown bullpen appearances from being 15-0. Those bullpen appearances, as I mentioned in a previous article, were just a glimpse of what was to come. I didn’t expect it to be this bad, but let’s face it: It’s bad. Since their inspiring start to the season, they got swept by the Astros and Indians—two teams with far superior pitching than the teams previously faced, giving the Mariners an inflated win margin. They went on to take 3 of 4 from the Angels, got swept by the Padres, took 2 of 4 from the Rangers (but the last two games, the M’s got outscored 29-2), swept by the Cubs, lost 2 of 3 to the Indians, lost 3 of 4 to the Yankees, swept by the Red Sox, pulled off a two-game sweep against the Athletics, lost 3 of 4 to the Twins, and took the loss last night to the Rangers. Let’s dig deeper, shall we? Since sweeping the Royals on April 11th, the Mariners got outscored by the Astros 15-9, by the Indians 11-6, by the Padres 7-4, by the Rangers 35-21 (in game 1, the M’s scored 14, so from game 2 on, they were outscored 33-7), by the Cubs 17-5. They outscored the Indians 15-7, but still only took 1 game out of the 3 game set. They outscored the Yankees 18-16, but still lost 3 of the 4 games. They got outscored by the Red Sox 34-8 during that sweep. They outscored the Athletics 10-8 but got absolutely demolished by the Twins. They managed to score a total of 18 runs—as many as the Twins scored on Saturday night. Therefore, they were outscored 39-18 over that span. Okay, just a little bit further deeper. Since April 11th, the Mariners’ pitching (and defense) has given up double-digit runs to the opposing team 10 times in 35 games and have gone 10-25. Defensively, it has also been a struggle. The Mariners have committed 54 errors, placing them dead last in the MLB. What is shocking is the number of errors committed by the outfield: 12. Infielder Tim Beckham, however, matches that number alone—12. Errors extend innings, put more work on a pitching staff who is already struggling. There are some glimmers of positivity. Offensively, they are in the top or near the top in every category. They lead the entire MLB in HRs with 92. They are 6th in doubles, 5th in hits, 1st in runs scored (blows my mind too) and RBIs, 6th in walks, 5th in stolen bases, 17th in batting average, and 4th in slugging. They also lead the MLB in strikeouts. The moral of this story: Being a powerhouse offense can only get you so far. Yes, the Mariners hit home runs, and score quite a bit of runs. However, lower tier pitching and bottom of the barrel defense will cost you more than you earn. It has been an interesting year. Through the firth month, we thought this rebuild might have been quite the success early on in the rebuild process. However, we’re seeing what it means to rebuild. Look at the Twins and the Rays. They are looking like serious contenders after years of rebuilding. I think Jerry and the front office is following the same roadmap: bringing in prospects and once they’re ready, he will add top tier pitching as the final piece to the puzzle. Be patient. I know, it is tough to be patient with this franchise. However, Dipoto is not like previous GMs who went after players like Cano and traded players away like Adam Jones. He sees the value in the farm system, and I think we will see results in the next year or two. I’m remaining optimistic, you should too.
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In Wednesday’s night win against the New York Yankees, it appears that Yusei Kikuchi may have been “caught” using a foreign substance to doctor the baseball. Twitter users @Thewiseguy973 and @Andrew_Rotondi posted a screen capture and video that shows the alleged substance under the bill of YK’s ball cap. Had he been caught by the officials, he would have been immediately ejected and served a 10-game suspension. I mean, for real…how did anyone on the field not point it out? It’s not like he even tried to hide it very well. ESPN’s Buster Olney played it off like numerous pitchers always use a foreign substance: Yanks manager Aaron Boone said that they will look into it, but I don’t expect anything to come from it since he wasn’t “officially” caught. Kikuchi pitched well against the Yankees, earning the win in the 10-1 contest. He was able to toss a no-hitter through 5 innings, ending with only 1 earned run and 3 hits. The Mariners’ offense rediscovered themselves collecting 14 hits, including 3 doubles and a blast from Ryon Healy.
Seattle Mariner fans are no strangers to Japanese ballplayers, we have had the pleasure of watching several who have made a huge impact on our team over the last 20 years. Ever since Kazuhiro Sasaki came to save a then blundering bullpen in 2000, the M’s have always had at least one Japanese player on the Major League roster. The newest in this line is a player who has been very impressive on and off the field since signing with the team on January 2nd, 2019. Introduced to Seattle by his agent Scott Boras as YK, Yusei Kikuchi chose to speak to the media in English. In fact, he planned it that way since he envisioned the moment as a high schooler in Morioka, that took tremendous courage. When addressing the US media the norm for Japanese players is to speak through an interpreter and understandably so. That isn’t the way that YK does things, he is a man who goes the extra mile, whether on the baseball diamond or when being interviewed by strangers. That is a first impression that I for one will not forget. Mound Makeup When you are looking for a pitcher, you want to see the player face some adversity. While you can easily measure velocity, spin rate, arm slot, athleticism, repeatability, pitch selection and so forth. It is not as easy to measure a player’s competitive drive and desire to win. The only way to get an idea of one’s makeup is to study their actions under pressure. Of all the impressive things YK has shown us this far, to me, his makeup has been his finest trait. In his first start as a Mariner, he was pitching in a pressure cooker. He was making his ML debut in front of 46,451 in his county’s iconic Tokyo Dome. He was not the story, yet without his stellar performance, the final chapter of his hero’s career would not have ended with a win. In his interviews after the game, we learned that he was feeling ill. He tearfully explained that it was very important to him that he not only that he played in that game but to perform well for Ichiro, Japanese baseball, the Mariners and for himself. A lot of weight was placed on the 27-year old’s shoulders and he handled it all with a high level of professionalism and class. On Saturday, March 30th his father Yuji Kikuchi passed away following a battle with cancer. He released a statement in which he expressed his desire to honor his father’s wishes and stay with the Mariners. He has dedicated the 2019 season to his memory. His next start was in Chicago on April 5th he didn’t come out with his best stuff and his defense was charged with three errors in the first inning. Down 6-1 after 2 innings he could have packed it in for the day and nobody would have blamed him or judged him harshly for it. That’s not who YK is, he continued to compete and gave his team a chance to win despite their early struggles. When he was pulled after the 5th inning, the score was now 8-6 Mariners and he was in line for his first win of the season. A remarkable comeback and a credit to his character. This is the type of play we will come to appreciate from Yusei as time goes on. He will raise his game when the pressure is on. In baseball, things don’t always go your way. We have seen that on his worst day, YK has a will to win that is going to inspire him to do what he must in order to keep his Mariners in ball games. His makeup looks like something special at this point. The Kikuchi repertoire One thing we did know about YK before he arrived in Seattle was what he throws. While most of us were not able to watch him take the field for the Lions in the NPB. We had enough video and statistical data to know he had an MLB caliber fastball with serious life on it. Most have it graded as a plus or above average pitch. The velocity is somewhere in the 92-96 mph range, with a spin rate of around 2,200. Both of which are around the average for a big-league fastball. The nice thing about signing a 27-year old Japanese prospect is as far as wear and tear on an arm, it is like having a 23-year old prospect from this side of the world. Kikuchi’s arm has only seen a little over 1,000 innings of professional ball. By comparison at 27, Felix Hernandez was approaching 2,000 innings thrown. He also throws a nice power slider as a change of pace that breaks down and in on right-handed hitters and then down and away from lefties. This pitch appears to be his most effective when he can place it exactly where he intends to. Scouts have referenced it as his out pitch and when he gets into ahead in the count this pitch can be deadly. It is considered a well above average slider with room to improve working with Major League coaching. He also throws a curveball/changeup, that unlike many curves it is not a pitch he needs a hitter to chase. YK throws his for a strike, sometimes he will throw it on the first pitch to get ahead. Other times he uses it when he gets behind, and he needs a strike to even the count. It is a perfect contrast to the power pitches. Lastly, he throws a splitfinger that tends to make guys chase out of the zone. This pitch appears to be his fastball until the very last minute when it drops and becomes very difficult for a hitter to make solid contact on. This pitch also has a high ceiling that hasn’t been reached yet. Like many pitchers who have played in the NPB, he has a deceptive quality to his delivery. If you have watched any of his starts or highlights you have noticed he has a purposeful tick once he raises the ball into his glove. This is used to throw off the hitters timing ever so slightly. It also creates a natural shield to the hitter’s vision and makes it more difficult to pick up what pitch is being thrown. Where does he fit in for the long haul? It was clear once the details of the contract were released that both sides see this as a possible long-term marriage. The Mariners will pay YK $14 million in 2019 & 2020, then it increases to $15 million in 2021 After that Kikuchi has a player option for $13 million on the 2022 season. If he chooses to take that deal, a series three-year series of $16.5 million team options kicks in. That contract says two things to me. One is that Yusei is open to spending his entire prime as a Mariner. Second, the Mariners were not low balling, they are willing to pay him ace type money. They see his potential to develop further and if he becomes the ace of this ballclub they will do everything they can to keep him here. While professional scouts’ projections have YK anywhere from a back-end starter to a dominant ace. I tend to lean in the direction of him having a good amount of success here. For one the Mariners have a solid plan to ease him into the extra innings demanded of an MLB starter year in and year out. Once a month this season, he will prepare as though he will be pitching his normal workload. He will only pitch one inning and then turn it over to the bullpen. In Japan starters take the ball once a week, that has been his routine for the last 6 seasons. This plan will help him establish the new MLB standard routine of 5 starts per month while allowing him to gradually build up the innings. Nobody can say for sure if this will work but I can say it is a more intelligent approach than has ever been used to attack this issue. Kikuchi has already been an ace and an all-star in Japan. He has the drive to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that his career continues to trend in that direction. I believe he will become a fixture of this era of Mariners baseball. He will put in the work on and off the field to not only help his team back to the playoffs but to become a fan favorite. What is there not to like about this guy? He is fun to watch on the field and he is a stand-up guy off it. He is the type of person I wouldn’t mind my youngster looking up to. Cherish this special player Mariner fans, they don’t make them like YK often.
Well… last night was an interesting game. Marco Gonzales pitched an absolute gem through 8.1 innings on only 100 pitches leading the Mariners to their best start in franchise history. Yes, you read that right. The “restructuring” Mariners, you know… the ones you thought would win maybe 70 games at the most are already 10% of the way to 70 and only 5% through the season. Marco retired 15 consecutive batters from the last out of the 2nd inning through the second out of the 7th. Overall, he surrendered one run on four hits and striking out three. His only base on balls came in the top of the 9th. He has undoubtedly slid into the position as the Mariners’ ace and is now 3-0 with a 3.20 ERA. Anthony Swarzak came in with one out in the 9th, striking out Albert Pujols and getting Jonathan Lucroy to ground out to Dee (who made one heck of a play) to seal it, earning his first save as a Mariner. Mariners hitters finally came back down to Earth during this contest. The heart of the lineup went hitless and had only one hit, a Vogelbach double, through 5 innings. A red hot Dee Gordon doubled in the bottom of the 6th and was able to reach 3rd on a wild slider by Trevor Cahill. Mitch Haniger was able to plate Dee with a double to left field. Then it was Vogelbomb time. His first blast of the season came with one out in the 8th putting the Mariners ahead 2-1. Vogey was a late add to the lineup as Edwin Encarnacion was scratched. Vogelbach went 2-3 with a double and a home run. His late addition proved to be the deciding factor for this ballgame. So, what did we learn? First, Marco is off to a great start. The crafty lefty was able to pinpoint his off-speed pitches forcing the Halos to hit a lot of slow ground balls for outs. He kept his pitches to the outside half of the plate to right-handers, causing them to reach for the ball for weak contact. His growing accuracy and deceptive changeups should allow for continued success throughout the season. Second, the offense has finally jumped from the hot tub to the pool. Yesterday marked their lowest number of runs scored all season. To Cahill’s credit, he pitched a decent game causing the Mariners to cool off a little bit. He was able to strike out four and walk one. However, the Mariners have still hit a home run in every contest this season, which is impressive. As I mentioned the heart of the lineup went hitless, which isn’t too concerning as it is just one ballgame. Batters 3-7– Santana, Bruce, Narvaez, Beckham, and Healy– all put up goose eggs, each striking out once. Third, I’m not too sure if I agree with Servais’ decision to put in Swarzak for his Mariners debut after a stint on the IL. Did it work? Sure. Was I nervous? Oh yeah. Were you nervous? I’m going to say yes to that also. The bullpen has been a little shaky and putting in Anthony had me scratching my head. To his credit, he did his job just fine. His slider was gnarly which caused Pujols to chase a pitch off the plate for strike 3. Again, the closing situation is a giant question mark right now for the Mariners. However, what they are doing seems to be working so I’m just going to roll with it. The Mariners have a much needed day off as they travel to Chicago for a series with a bye thrown in the middle on Friday. I’m excited to see how they fare on the road against a 1-3 White Sox team. Kikuchi will get the nod as he tries to get his first W in the Bigs. What are your thoughts? Post them below! //Go Mariners!//
After a strong start to the 2019 campaign, it seems that the Mariners are clicking. Offensively, they are hitting the ball with both power and finesse to get runners on base and around the bags. To be honest, it’s ends up being a surprise when they don’t plate runners in scoring position—which historically has been a huge problem for the Mariners. From the top to the bottom, every starter has multiple hits and multiple RBIs. Every starter but Dee Gordon has at least one homerun. I’m telling you, they’re on fire. Again, it’s early and I would expect a cool down period, but seeing this kind of productivity early on in the season gives every Mariners fan a glimmer of hope for what could come in the months to follow. There are, however, some areas that are of major concern; Bullpen In my previous post recapping the Red Sox series, I showed that the bullpen isn’t as bad as it seems—from a statistical perspective. However, the inability to find the strike zone, especially near the opponents’ bottom of the lineup,can be disastrous by extending innings and allowing better hitters to move them around the bases. I (we) see a major need for relief pitching. I would imagine the front office sees these needs as well. I expect them to be addressed with trades or other acquisitions. Remember, the front office is in the mentality of a restructure, even though the team isn’t playing like it. Fielding *Facepalm* If you were watching the game with me, that would have been my posture during last night’s contest against the Angels. FOUR errors were committed—two by Narvaez, one each by Santana and Healy. Out of the three runs that crossed the plate while Felix was pitching, only ONE was earned. The Mariners have committed 13 errors on the season—7 games. Sloppy fielding, coupled with a questionable bullpen will absolutely cost them precious wins. At this point, every win is essential due to the historical volatility of this team. Hitting Yes, I’m legitimately concerned about hitting. It is hard for me to imagine that Beckham is going to sustain a .423 average. Same with Haniger, Healy, and Santana who are all hitting over .300. The latter three, I think, is somewhat sustainable. The Mariners have also hit 16 homeruns to open the season—Santana, Bruce, and Beckham leading the way with 3 each. As the season progresses, I expect that to taper off. Although, I definitely want to see these bats to remain explosive. As I previously mentioned, the Mariners are going to need as much run support as they can get with the shaky bullpen and defense. The Mariners, though successful thus far, are striking out. A lot. 66 times in fact. Surprisingly, Mitch Haniger leads the team. Conversely, they have only walked 25 times. Here is the takeaway: They are being aggressive—and it shows. The K to BB ratio proves they are swinging hard and often, which is both high risk and high reward. I’m excited. How about you?