'Spark plug' Bliss does a bit of everything for Mariners

June 2nd, 2024

SEATTLE -- There was a lot happening during the Mariners’ 9-0 win over the Angels on Saturday afternoon, and rookie was front and center for just about all of it.

Bliss put Seattle on the board with its first run, notched his first career hit, tallied two stolen bases and showed impressive instincts to score when reading a bloop single into shallow center. Aside from his MLB debut on Monday, Saturday was his biggest day in the Majors.

“For me, it's just being a spark plug,” Bliss said. “However I can get on base, whether that's a hit or there's a walk, getting on base and letting my speed and my baserunning affect the game.”

Here’s what the Mariners’ No. 11 prospect by MLB Pipeline did, told through a breakdown of his tools:

The foot speed
For all of the Mariners’ run production, things were moving slow before Bliss single-handedly willed across their first run in the third. After drawing a leadoff walk in a full count, Bliss had Angels starter Reid Detmers on the ropes, so much so that the lefty attempted a pickoff -- but only after Bliss took off for second base.

Hustling with a sprint speed up to 29.0 feet per second (league average is 27, elite is 30), Bliss was already sliding into second base by the time the throw arrived. Then, after J.P. Crawford flied out, Bliss took off for third, at 29.5 feet per second and sliding in between the legs of Halos third baseman Luis Guillorme.

He then scored on a shallow, pull-side knock from Julio Rodríguez -- a ball he only would’ve been able to reach home on from third.

The bat speed
Despite his 5-foot-7 frame, Bliss has shown big power, with 23 homers last year in the Minors. His first career hit didn’t leave the yard, but it was a scorched 107 mph off the bat -- Seattle’s hardest-hit ball of the game -- for an up-the-middle single as part of a four-run sixth inning that put the game out of reach.

Bliss is still pondering what he’s going to do with the ball.

“You kind of saw how his game should play out at this level,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Get on base, steal bases ... put pressure on the defense, which is an awesome attribute, another guy to have to be able to do that in our offense.”

The quality at-bats
Like the walk that proved critical in the third, Bliss’ single also came in a full count, and he read the 93.3 mph sinker from reliever Carson Fulmer all the way.

In the fourth, Bliss drew another walk -- this one on four pitches and with two outs -- which loaded the bases for J.P. Crawford’s grand slam that blew the game open. Had Bliss not spit on the two close-call pitches to start the sequence, he might not have been in a favorable count and then shifted his approach. But he passed the baton to the Mariners’ most clutch hitter, who’s now 13-for-20 with the bases loaded since the start of last season.

“The one thing about Ryan, he knows the strike zone,” Servais said. “He doesn't chase a whole lot. He also knows he's a little guy and he's hard to throw strikes to.”

The instincts
Bliss punctuated his big day after his knock when scoring on another single from Rodríguez, but this one was much tougher to manufacture.

On second base with one out, Bliss read that the 66.5 mph blooper would land just out of reach in shallow center, taking off for home once the ball passed over his head and well before it dropped. By the time center fielder Mickey Moniak had corralled it, Bliss was halfway between third base and the plate.

“I saw the ball up, I felt like nobody could get there,” Bliss said. “I felt like it was going to fall in the little triangle, and it did, and I just made the instinct call to go home.”