LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Seattle Mariners
For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.
The Seattle Mariners were rewarded with their first post season appearance in 2022, after not reaching the playoffs since 2001. The last two years each, the Mariners were 90-72 and this season they hope to build on that success and field a team that can compete for a Title.
In the off season, they signed free agents Trevor Gott, AJ Pollock, Tommy La Stella, and received Kolten Wong via trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. The goal in 2023 is that they build on the last two seasons and play deeper in the postseason and maybe surprise some teams.
The Mariners are a young squad led by 2022 Rookie Phenom Julio Rodriguez, as he enters his sophomore season in the majors.
The Dominican Republic native played three seasons in the minors from 2018-2021 and combined he batted .331, with 58 doubles, 15 triples, 30 home runs and 152 RBIs through 217 games.
Rodriguez made his MLB debut on April 8, 2022 after batting .412 in Spring Training. He also launched three home runs and drove in eight runners through six games.
It took Rodriguez an extra day in the majors to record his first MLB hit, a double, after striking out in his first three at bats. By the All Star Break, he was batting .275, with 18 doubles, 16 home runs and 52 RBIs and was named to his first all star game. He then knocked off the reigning Home Run Derby champ, Pete Alonso, to reach the finals, but lost to fellow countryman Juan Soto. He finished the season batting .284, with 25 doubles, 28 home runs, 75 RBIs ad 25 stolen bases.
Currently he is playing with Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and when he returns to the Mariners club, it will be go time to get ready for a big 2023 season.
Keep an eye on Rodriguez that 2022 was not a fluke, but signs of great things to come.
In 2019, the Mariners selected RHP George Kirby in the 1st round of the June draft out of Elon College, in North Carolina. In three minor league seasons, spanning 2019 to 2022, Kirby was 7-4, with a 2.61 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 117.1 innings.
The Rye, NY native made his MLB debut on May 8, 2022 tossed six shutout innings, allowing four hits, while striking out seven batters. After a couple of rough outings against the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s, he battled back to earn his first MLB victory, after tossing another six shutout innings, allowing four hits, a walk and struck out eight batters.
Kirby had some great success in his first MLB season finishing 8-5, with a 3.39 ERA, and 133 strikeouts in 130 innings, spanning 25 starts.
In the Postseason, Kirby made an appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild Card series and recorded a save in one inning of work. In the ALDS, he started against the Houston Astros and tossed seven shutout innings, allowing six hits, two walks and struck out five, but didn’t earn a decision. The Mariners went on to lose that game 1-0 in 18 innings.
Just like Rodriguez, Kirby enters his sophomore season looking to improve on 2022 and help his team go deeper in the postseason. Definitely keep an eye on Kirby in 2023.
Paul Sewald took a huge step in the right direction in 2022 when he saved 20 games in 25 chances for the Mariners. Sewald, once a farmhand with the New York Mets, made his MLB debut on April 18, 2017 with New York, after spending five seasons in the Mets minor league system.
In Sewald’s time with the Mets, he pitched out of the pen but was not successful as he was 1-14, with a 5.50 ERA. A change of scenery is what he needed and after filing for free agency in 2020, he signed with the Mariners.
Seattle moved him into the closers role in 2021 and in 62 games out of the pen, he posted a 10-3 record, with a 3.06 ERA, 16 holds, 11 saves in 16 chances and 104 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. A closer was born.
Last season, Sewald locked down 20 games for the Mariners in 25 chances and was 5-4, with a 2.67 ERA, in 65 appearances. His strikeout totals were less then a the previous season (72) in the same amount of innings (64), but opponents batted just .146 against him, the lowest of his career.
On the Mariners team depth chart, Sewald and Andres Munoz are considered the closers, but it will be Sewald’s job to lose.
He has only gotten better since he joined the Mariners and this season he will take the next step to be one of the top closers in the game.