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Top 5 Takeaways from the First 10 Games of 2020

"IMG_4982" by rachelgetz is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It’s a process Mariner fans, it’s a process, just keeping telling yourself that. I think after the first 10 games of the COVID shortened season, the M’s are right about where most thought they’d be. The young players have given glimpses into why there’s so much hope for the future, holy schnikes Kyle Lewis, more on him later. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of issues or growing pains if you will. Mostly what’s plagued the team is their lack of consistency, which is completely expected for a team that’s just starting to build.

After 10 games the team is sitting at 4-6, they’ve lost 2 in a row to the A’s, before that 2-game losing streak the team had won 3 in a row. I thought they looked good against the Angels down in Anaheim, they won 2 of 3, and in those last 2 wins against the Angels, they scored a combined total of 18 runs. In the most recent two losses to the A’s, they’ve scored a combined 4 runs. In 5 of their 6 losses, the team did not score more than 2 runs.

The biggest disappointment for me so far is the starting pitching. The first run through the 6-man starting rotation was not good, the starters average ERA right now is around 6.30, that number has drastically gone down over the last few games due to good starts from Marco Gonzalez and Taijuan Walker. Hopefully, we’ll see a better outing from Justus Sheffield Monday night, he really struggled in his first outing.

Again, the lack of consistency has really plagued this team so far, and that’ll most likely continue throughout the summer. Let’s briefly look at my top 5 takeaways from the first 10 games of 2020.

 

  1. Kyle Lewis for President!!

The number 1 takeaway from the first 10 games must be Kyle Lewis. He started his 2020 season by relocating a Justin Verlander fastball about 440’ into the left-center bleachers, and he hasn’t let up since. Lewis is currently hitting .425 with 3 home runs, 9 RBI, and an OPS (On-base + Slugging) of 1.127. He’s shown the ability to drive the ball to both sides of the field. Only criticism is he needs to get those strikeouts under control, he’s struck out 17 times already this season. You like the aggressiveness, but he needs to be a tad better at working counts.

Obviously, the sample size is small, I think it’s very unlikely he’ll keep up that OPS, but it’s probably not too crazy to expect he’ll finish around .900. Going back to 2019, Lewis has played in a total of 28 games, he has 9 home runs with a .324 average, and .974 OPS. Still a small sample size, but all indications point to Lewis being a major power threat in the Mariner’s lineup.

His defense has been solid, above-average range, with an above-average arm. He can easily play all three outfield positions, adding versatility to his arsenal. The one-time top prospect in the Mariner organization is the best power hitter on the team, and at just 25 he’s only getting started. Close your eyes Mariner fans, imagine an outfield with Kyle Lewis, Jared Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez. No wonder people are excited about this organization’s future.

  1. JP Crawford thriving at the leadoff spot.

Another pleasant surprise of the 2020 season has been how much JP Crawford has thrived in the leadoff spot. He fits perfectly into the top spot of the lineup, his ability to work counts, and really make pitchers stress over every at-bat has been a pleasure to watch so far. He’s currently hitting .333 with an on-base percentage of .455, an OPS of .927.

If Crawford continues to get on base at this rate, he’ll easily be considered one the best leadoff hitters in the game. The power numbers are a bit low, but that’s not really his game, he’s just looking to make pitchers work, and put the ball in play. Exactly what you want in a leadoff hitter. Combine that with his stellar defensive play, at just 25 years old the Mariners might have themselves a great shortstop for years to come. He’s absolutely one of those core guys the Mariners are planning to build around.

After Saturday’s loss to the A’s, Mariner manager Scott Servais had this to say about Crawford’s play so far. “J.P. wants to be in the batter’s box, he wants the ball hit to him, he wants the ball in his hands. He’s like the point guard of our defense. He’s been really good here early in the season.”

  1. Is Kyle Seager on his way back?

               Kyle Seager is unquestionably the veteran leader on the team. He has more major league experience then all the other starters combined. He’s also a notoriously slow starter, his struggles during the first month or two have been a frustration for fans over the years. So far this year it’s been a different story, Seager is off to a decent start, hitting .286 with 1 homer and 10 RBI. His on-base percentage is .366 with a .852 OPS, and just 4 strikeouts. These are solid numbers for a guy who’d typically be posting numbers half of what he has now.

Is this a sign that Kyle Seager could be returning to his 2013-2016 form? Where he was winning gold gloves and playing in an All-Star game. The last two seasons have been a struggle for Kyle, his slow starts were so bad that he’d dig himself into such a big hole it was almost impossible to get out of. Maybe the young core he’s playing with have brought him new life, he’s now inspired to be part of the re-build, that most have counted him out of. Either way, it’s a win-win for the M’s. They could have an All-Star third baseman again to mentor the young talent, or an intriguing trade piece mid-season.

  1. Is Marco Gonzales a legit #1 Starter?

Marco is the team’s top starter in the rotation but is he a legit #1 starting pitcher? Based on his career numbers I’d say no he’s not, he’s a solid #2, but not an ace. The talent is there, he’s a former #1 pick in 2013, just hasn’t put together a strong enough season for people to consider him an ace. His best season was last year, he finished 16-13 with a 3.99 ERA on a bad baseball team. If the M’s were a contender last year maybe those numbers look more like 18-10 with a 3.50 ERA.

So far this year it seems Marco is looking very much like he’s developing into that #1 ace the Mariners really need. The pitching this year has been so inconsistent, you ever know what you’re going to get each night. The one consistency so far has been Marco Gonzales. His fastball has more life on it, his breaking pitches have more movement, and he just seems like a much more confident pitcher. After two starts he has a 2.53 ERA with 8 strikeouts in 10 innings. His last start on 07/30 against the Angels was very impressive, throwing 6 shutout innings with 6 strikeouts. He was extremely sharp with almost all his pitches, the COVID season might just be the year Marco Gonzales becomes a top starter in the MLB.

  1. Who is heck is Yohan Ramirez?

To be honest, before he came into the game on 07/24 to strikeout two Astro hitters, I had never heard of Yohan Ramirez. He’s a 24-year-old Rule 5 draft pick of the M’s last year, and prior to this season has no MLB experience. During spring training, he wasn’t really mentioned as a guy who would factor into the bullpen for this season, but his stuff was excellent enough during spring and the summer camp. That the coaches had to find a way to get him on the field, and he has not disappointed. His fastball is in the upper 90s with great movement, and he compliments that velocity with some good off-speed offerings. His slider is his best pitch, had George Springer completely dumbfounded when he faced him on 07/27.

Ramirez has appeared in 3 games so far, pitched in 5 total innings, has given up no earned runs, and struck out 8 hitters (14.4 SO9). His last appearance on Sunday (08/02) against the A’s he pitched 2 innings and struck out 4 batters. The control still is a concern, he did walk two hitters in that outing, has 5 total walks on the year. His control issues are the reason why the Mariner coaches felt back in spring that he wasn’t ready for the big leagues yet. He has the stuff of a dominant closer, but the lack of control is what will hold him back.

Baseball executive Kevin Goldstein said this of Ramirez. “He throws really hard, really good slider. You guys don’t need to be super advanced baseball people to look at the page on Baseball-Reference and see all the walks.” Right now his electric stuff outweighs the lack of control, the hope is he’ll get it figured out soon, and maybe develop into a future closer for the club. If he doesn’t throw strikes more consistently, back end bullpen pitchers with control issues typically struggle to find roles.

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