The Mariners who stood out most in Spring Training

March 24th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners have mostly put a bow on their 2023 Spring Training, capping a camp that was full of expectations and star power. Their final Cactus League game isn’t until Monday, but mostly everything is said and done.

If it seemed less eventful than in years past, it’s because it was -- but for all the right reasons.

The Mariners didn’t have many, if any, position battles (because they have roster clarity). They didn’t have many under-the-radar names emerge (because they have established talent everywhere). They didn’t have a blue-chip prospect trying to play his way onto the team (because they don’t necessarily need one to).

So, with all that in mind, here’s a recap of Seattle’s 2023 Spring Training:

Best development

The Mariners have even more elite pitching on the way. Bryce Miller, their No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 98 overall, proved that he belonged and should contribute at some point. Emerson Hancock (No. 4) also showed the makings of a mid-to-top-rotation piece, and Bryan Woo (No. 6) had the most impressive pure power stuff of the three.

Even with a rotation that could be among the American League’s best, the future appears bright.

“Good starting pitching and depth within your pitching creates organizational stability,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Everybody sleeps a little better at night. You're not moving players all over the country, day after day after day, because what happens in the big leagues affects what happens in the Minor Leagues.”

The farm system isn’t where it was one year ago -- dropping from No. 2 in the MLB Pipeline ranks to No. 24 -- but many of these arms showed that there is still plenty of talent on the way.

Unfortunate events

Their lack of infield depth isn’t code red, but it’s also not ideal, especially considering that Dylan Moore will begin the year on the injured list with a Grade 1 left oblique strain. Tommy La Stella is still nursing a sore right shoulder and played the field for the first time in a Cactus League game on Thursday, but at first base, where he didn’t put much strain on it.

These injuries are lower stakes, and the club believes they’re shorter term, but it’s never ideal to break camp with attrition.

“From a health perspective, we’ve had a good spring. ... We’ve had no real major issues -- a couple of dings and bruises that aren’t convenient, but it certainly puts us ahead of most teams,” president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said on his weekly radio hit with Seattle Sports.

The situation could impact how the club allocates its roster to break camp, with infielders Mason McCoy and Jose Caballero getting more extended looks.

Player who opened eyes

Jarred Kelenic. Who else? The former top prospect was dealing with some left quad discomfort earlier this week but missed only one game. Upon returning to the lineup on Thursday, he was hitting a whopping .410/.439/.872 (1.311 OPS) with a team-leading four homers. And they haven’t been cheapies, either, with blasts approaching 450 feet. His exit velocity charts have also been off the charts, having consistently exceeded 105 mph. Everything is on the barrel.

“He checks all the boxes,” Servais said. “And if the hit tool comes around, he’s got a chance to be dynamic.”

The narrative on Kelenic these past five weeks has been clear: These results are great, but it won’t matter until the regular season. Well, it’s almost here.

Wow moment

Teoscar Hernández’s homer that quite possibly left the ballpark altogether stood out, as did Kelenic’s two-homer day in Surprise. But what George Kirby did in his final outing on Wednesday -- especially given the uniqueness of his workload situation -- might’ve been most impressive. Kirby carved through the Dodgers with nine strikeouts in five scoreless innings, while flashing his new splitter. His only baserunner was via a full-count walk to Max Muncy.

“The bad ones are like crazy cutters, which isn’t a bad thing,” Kirby said of the new pitch. “But the ones that are really good, I think, are better than my changeup, a little more deceiving. It’s more like a fastball, so I try to keep it like that.”

In case you missed it

Julio Rodríguez gave the Mariners a mini scare earlier this spring when he collided into the wall while attempting a home run robbery. He had some very candid commentary about the incident after that illustrated how he balances his elite skillset with potential risk.