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Series preview: Cleveland at Mariners

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Have you enjoyed your precious sleep, you rube? You utter fool?! Well, it’s gone now. Baseball is your new sleep.

Seattle Mariners v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

A couple weeks of totally necessary Triple-A at-bats later, Jarred Kelenic is officially ready to take on the major leagues. He’ll get his first taste of real pitching with a test against some of Cleveland’s best this weekend.

Kelenic (pronounced KEL-nik) is the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect and is a consensus top-five prospect in all of baseball entering 2021. Seattle somehow got him from the Mets in exchange for closer Edwin Díaz and the remaining husk of Robinson Cano following his first PED suspension in 2018. Diaz has been inconsistent for the Mets, and Cano will miss all of 2021 following a second positive PED test last November.

Meanwhile, the Mariners get one of the most can’t-miss prospects around patrolling their outfield for at least the next six years. Unless Seattle plans to ease him into facing major-league pitchers, there’s no reason he shouldn’t see quite a few at-bats against Cleveland over this four-game set.

Seattle will also call upon another of their top prospects, pitcher Logan Gilbert, to get his first start against Cleveland on Thursday night. The 24-year-old was the 14th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and has excelled at every level of the minors, soaring from Single-A to Double-A in 2019 before the MiLB season was wiped out in 2020.

Gilbert features a slider, curveball, changeup, and a four-seamer that can hit 97 on a good day. Nothing about his repertoire screams elite, but he has the command to play everything up to near-elite levels.

Cleveland enters this series on a tear, winning eight of their last 10 and sweeping the Cubs over two games. This will be their first trip west since a three-game set against the Angels in September of 2019. Being a trip to the faraway land of Seattle, Washington, games will start late. So hopefully you’ve enjoyed your precious sleep over the last few days.

If you don’t plan on staying up and getting weird After Dark with us, we’ll have recaps you can read in the morning.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 18-19
  • Runs Scored: 147
  • Run Differential: -23
  • Last 10: 3-7
  • Slash: .204/.281/.364
  • wOBA: .286
  • wRC+: 88
  • ERA: 4.35
  • SIERA: 4.33
  • K-BB%: 11.4%

Projected starters

Thursday, May 13, 10:10 p.m. ET: RHP Logan Gilbert vs. Zach Plesac
Logan Gilbert made just one start in Triple-A, where he faced 18 batters and allowed one run off four hits. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out five.

By most prospect evaluators, Gilbert is expected to have a very high floor — mid-rotation at worst — but a bit of a lower ceiling. He has certainly improved since being drafted with a low- to mid-90s fastball and concerns about velocity drop in his junior year, though. He now sports a four-seamer that can reach the upper 90s and enough command to play up everything else he offers.

No matter what his ceiling or floor may be, he’s a rookie. And hopefully, Cleveland can give him a rough welcome to the majors.

Friday, May 14, 10:10 p.m. ET: TBD (RHP Chris Flexen) vs. Aaron Civale
After spending a year in the KBO League, Chris Flexen returned stateside and signed a two-year deal with the Mariners with the hope that whatever he did while overseas fixed the mess of a pitcher he was with the Mets for three seasons. So far, it appears to be the case, at least on the surface.

Flexen — featuring a four-seamer, cutter, changeup, and a hammer curveball — has allowed 14 earned runs through his six starts this season. He sports a 3.78 ERA and 3.61 FIP but batted ball data says he’s been hit pretty hard. His average exit velocity is in the 36th percentile, and he hasn’t caused many batters to swing and miss. He’s done a great job limiting walks (just seven in 33.1 innings), and the spin on his curveball suggests there is something impressive under the hood.

Saturday, May 15, 9:10 p.m. ET: LHP Justus Sheffield vs. Triston McKenzie
If Justus Sheffield sounds familiar, it’s because he was a former first-round pick of Cleveland’s and seemed like he was on the fast track to being their next big lefty at one point. Then 2016 happened, he was traded for Andrew Miller, and eventually made it to the majors in 2018 with the Yankees. He has since found his way to Seattle, where he’s been inconsistent with some flashes of promising stuff.

He’s been especially back-and-forth this season, with a six-inning shutout surrounded by clunkers. In his last outing, against the Rangers, he allowed five earned runs over five innings, striking out five and walking none.

Sheffield is already four years into his major-league career, but at 25 with only 127 innings on his arm, there is still plenty of time — and room — for him to grow. He ditched his four-seamer shortly after arriving in Seattle two years ago and has been a sinker-slider guy ever since. He lacks the mirrored horizontal movement you typically want when you try to pair a sinker and slider, and as a result, hasn’t fooled many batters. He’s been barreled up consistently this season and is in the bottom 10% in whiff rate.

Sunday, May 16, 4:10 p.m. ET: TBD (LHP Yusei Kikuchi) vs. Shane Bieber
Yusei’s Kikuchi last outing was his best, against perhaps his best opponent. The lefty struck out 11 Dodgers Tuesday night and allowed three earned runs in 6.1 innings. It was his second double-digit strikeout game of the season after his Opening Day gem against the Giants.

Kikuchi has been at his best when he’s missing bats and making batters chase with his confounding four-seam and cutter combination. However, when batters connect, they have typically made hard contact as he is carrying a career-high 8.5% barrel rate.

His cutter, which he did not start using until last season, has become his primary pitch, being thrown 41.5% of the time. He doesn’t have a dominant put-away pitch this year, though. Instead, he relies on all four of his pitches just about evenly when he has a batter on the ropes. His four-seamer has been used the most for third strikes, narrowly edging out everything else at 24.5%.

Lineup highlights

OF, Kyle Lewis - Last year’s American League Rookie of the Year didn’t start his season until April 20 due to a knee injury suffered toward the end of the spring training. When he did start, he came out of the gate slow, with three hits in his first 24 plate appearances and an abysmal .136/.208/.318 slash. He has clawed his way back and now sports a .243/.293/.400 slash for an ever-so-slightly above-average 101 wRC+. He’s barreling the ball more than he did in his ROY campaign and has a couple of long opposite-field extra-base hits to his name this season.

OF, Sam Haggerty - A former Cleveland farmhand who found his way to the Mets before eventually being released, Sam Haggerty has a new home in Seattle. The 26-year-old provided a league-average bat for Seattle last season, but he’s off to a brutal start in 2021, slashing .186/.230/.286. With the wave of outfielders Seattle has coming through their pipes, I can’t imagine Haggerty will last long there, but I’m rooting for him.

Mariners roster

Poll

How many games will Cleveland win against the Mariners?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    4
    (13 votes)
  • 51%
    3
    (83 votes)
  • 32%
    2
    (52 votes)
  • 4%
    1
    (8 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (6 votes)
162 votes total Vote Now