Why this is the season the mariners will make the playoffs

Jared Galanti, Columnist

Once opening day comes around every year, the same words come out of every Mariners fan’s mouth: this will be the year that they make the playoffs.

The Seattle Mariners have the longest active streak for any North American professional team without making the playoffs. Their last trip to the postseason was 2001. That year they won an MLB record 116 games but ended up losing to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Ever since then there have been seasons in which they were close to breaking their streak, only to fade out at the end of the season.

However, as opening day 2021 is upon us, there are four reasons to think that this everlasting torture for Mariners fans might finally be over.

Young Position Players 

A way any good baseball team can be successful is by taking good players in the first year player draft that is held every June. General Manager Jerry Dipoto hit on his first two drafts by taking center fielder Kyle Lewis in 2016 and first baseman Evan White in 2017.

Both Lewis and White had pretty good rookie seasons last year with Lewis receiving the American League Rookie of the Year by an unanimous vote and White receiving his first gold glove for his excellent defense at first base.

However, the draft isn’t the only place to find talented ballplayers. Back at the 2020 trade deadline Dipoto acquired Ty France, a third baseman that will serve as the team’s Designated Hitter while Kyle Seager, who has been on the team since 2011, may be playing his final season on the team. In that same trade Dipoto acquired Luis Torrens who will be the Mariners’ catcher for the future, as well as outfield prospect Taylor Tramell who made this year’s opening day roster at 23 years old.

That is a lot of fire power on offense without even mentioning two of the Mariners’ top prospects in outfielder Jarred Kelenic and catcher Cal Raleigh, who both should make their debut at some point this season. 

Strong Starting Pitching

Due to having a young staff along with the 60 game shortened season last year, the Mariners decided to implement a six man pitching rotation instead of the more traditional five. 

The Mariners have decided that they will be implementing that again this year, but with more firepower than last year. Leading the staff once again will be Marco Gonzales. Gonzales has been the bonafide ace of the staff since 2019 and last year he had a really good season going 7-2 with 3.10 ERA over 10 starts. 

Behind him will be James Paxton. The Big Maple, as Mariners fans call him, returned after the Mariners traded him after the 2018 season to the Yankees. He signed a one year $8.5 million contract in February and has looked dominant in 2 spring starts, striking out 17 batters in 8.1 innings. 

After that it’s newcomer Chris Flexin, who was pitching for the Korean Baseball League the past few years before signing a two year contract with the Mariners in the offseason. Following him will be Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi and Justin Dunn, all who were on the Mariners roster last year and showed flashes of promise. 

Prospects on the Rise

Another reason why the Mariners will make the playoffs this year is the players in their farm system that will be making an impact this year. Going into this season the Mariners have the No. 3 ranked farm system in all of baseball, only behind the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres.

Prospects like starting pitchers Logan Gilbert, Emerson Hancock and George Kirby could all be making their major league debuts this season and could make an impact. Like I mentioned before, outfielder Jarred Kelenic is poised to make his debut ASAP and should contribute right away.

A Weak AL West

The final reason why the Mariners are going to make the playoffs this year is because their division has gotten weaker this offseason.

The Houston Astros, which won a world series a couple of years ago, lost one of their best players in outfielder George Springer in free agency to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Oakland A’s lost their closer and shortstop to free agency as well. The Los Angeles Angels still have problems when it comes to their starting pitching and the Texas Rangers are headed into a full rebuild.

The time is now for the Mariners to deliver something the city of Seattle hasn’t seen in almost 20 years: playoff baseball. They have all the pieces to make that happen and for once I actually feel confident that they will get it done.