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Watch Out For The Seattle Mariners

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Why the Seattle Mariners are the American League’s sleeping giant this season. How did the Julio Rodriguez resurgence help them get there?

Why the Seattle Mariners are the American League’s sleeping giant this season. How did the Julio Rodriguez resurgence help them get there?

Watch Out For The Seattle Mariners

As the 2023 MLB season approaches September, it is the time of year where everyone begins to speculate on which teams are set up for a World Series run. And these days it is as unpredictable as ever, as recent years have shown us almost any team can make it if they get hot at the right time.

In 2021, the Atlanta Braves won the World Series after being under .500 in July, in 2022, Bryce Harper hit the Phillies into the World Series as a wild card team with the worst record in the playoffs, and in 2019, the Washington Nationals won it all with a miracle run that saw them through starting slow all the way to being down 3-1 in the 8th inning of the NL Wild Card game.

In a sport with so much randomness and plenty of factors going into it in a small postseason timeframe, it feels like anyone could go on a run.

Well this year, it feels like a new team in this class has emerged. The Seattle Mariners started extremely slowly, with last year’s AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez slumping, acquisitions like Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong not working out, and unpredictable pitching injuries.

However, they are now 20-6 in August, after going 17-9 in July. They have caught the Rangers and Astros into being tied for first place in the AL West. With the way they have played recently, this could be the team to beat in the American League.

Julio Rodriguez and Breakout Stars

To explain why the Mariners have been so hot recently, there is no one else you could start with other than Julio Rodriguez. After winning Rookie of the Year last year, expectations were high for the young star. However, he stumbled out of the gate, being basically an average player with around a 700 OPS through the end of June.

However, he seems to have awoken from his slump since not being selected for the All Star Game, setting a record of 17 hits in four games earlier this month, and going on a run so hot that he now leads the American League in total hits. With a stunning 1.198 OPS in August, if there is a guy who could hit his team to a playoff run, it is a stud like Julio Rodriguez.

Rodriguez isn’t the only good Mariner though, as they have had several players breakout into high quality pieces. Shortstop J.P Crawford has a career high 809 OPS with great defense, and has more fWAR than highly paid shortstops like Carlos Correa and Trea Turner this season.

Catcher Cal Raleigh continues to be one of the most consistent catchers in the game, with numbers over the last two years comparable to Orioles star Adley Rutschman. They could also get Jarred Kelenic back, who although has slumped had an elite April. With these guys healthy, Seattle’s offense is peaking at the right time.

Strong Pitching Core

It’s not just the offense though, as Seattle’s pitching development has been the story of the organization’s resurgence over the past two years. Luis Castillo has still been one of the best starters in the game, and signing him to a massive extension is proving to be a good bet. Just as importantly, their development of young guys like George Kirby and Logan Gilbert gives them affordable aces, a commodity everyone in baseball wants. These three give them a strong rotation with depth behind them.

It’s not just the starters too, as the Mariners bullpen has been one of the things that has stayed consistent all year. Their 3.41 bullpen ERA is third in the majors, and despite trading Paul Sewald at the deadline, they have pieces that can pick up the slack. Bullpens tend to be more developmental and when an organization does it well, they can usually be trusted to consistently do it well.

Putting it Together

With these improvements to their offense and pitching, it is easy to see how the Mariners have gotten so hot in the last two months. With health on their side, they are primed to go on a run. Their strong rotation gives them a consistent bedrock on which to lay their postseason hopes, and Julio Rodriguez and offensive weapons should help take it home. With other AL teams stumbling, Seattle is the team I believe can get ahead.

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