The Seattle Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001, but Kyle Lewis’ 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Award is a sign of better things to come in Seattle
Seattle Mariners‘ center fielder Kyle Lewis beat out Luis Robert and Cristian Javier to win the 2020 Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Lewis was also Baseball Digest’s 2020 AL Rookie of the Year, and the MLBPA Player Choice Awards’ AL Outstanding Rookie. Lewis became the fourth Mariners player to win Rookie of the Year alongside Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Alvin Davis.
The Seattle Mariners have become one of the laughing stock teams in the American League with their long playoff and World Series drought. They have not made an appearance in the World Series yet and the fanbase has grown tired of watching the Mariners lose year after year.
But in 2020, there were several things for Mariners fans to cheer about after the regular season came to a close. To add to Kyle Lewis’ huge accomplishments, J.P. Crawford and Evan White won their first Gold Glove Awards.
What is important to note is that Lewis, Crawford, and White were brought to Seattle by the general manager, Jerry Dipoto. Many of the issues the Mariners faced in the 2000s were a result of poor general management. The Mariners were in no-man land by spending large, but not being quite good enough to compete. Seattle wasted a lot of talent during its long playoff drought and after three different general managers from 2000 to 2015, a change was finally made. Jerry Dipoto took over the general manager position and started a complete rebuild in 2015.
Now five years later, Dipoto’s first rebuilding blocks are shining bright in 2020. Kyle Lewis was Jerry Dipoto’s first Mariners draft pick in 2016 as the 11th overall pick. The selection drew some skepticism from Mariners fans because Lewis went to a not as well known Mercer University. It took some time for Lewis to break into the MLB after suffering an ACL injury early on, but Lewis has shown his work ethic and “prove people wrong” mindset which has allowed him to flourish.
What makes Lewis even more intriguing for Mariners fans is that he is not a bust of a draft pick. It sounds weird, but Mariners fans have watched draft picks turn into nothing over the years. For example, the Mariners chose Dustin Ackley with the second overall pick in 2009. It seemed like a good decision but it quickly became one of the worst decisions, because Mike Trout was taken 23 picks later.
Lewis’ success gives Mariners fans confidence in Jerry Dipoto’s draft picks who are ready to join the Mariners roster in 2021 and 2022. The 2018 first-round selection, Logan Gilbert is set to make his MLB debut in 2021. The 2018 third-round pick, Cal Raleigh, is supposed to play in 2021. Plenty more prospects that Dipoto has acquired through contract de-loading trades are set to make an impact in 2021. Jarred Kelenic is the Mariners’ highest-ranked prospect and was acquired in the trade that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets.
Dipoto also made a deadline deal in 2020 to get Taylor Trammell from the San Diego Padres for catcher Austin Nola. Trammell is the 51st overall prospect in the MLB and could be ready to play in 2021 as well. Since Dipoto joined in 2015, he has made the Mariners farm system one of the best and the prospects are slowly making their way up.
The Mariners were not good in 2020 plain and simple, but the highlights of the season symbolize what the Mariners are capable of in one or two years. The Mariners were extremely young in 2020, their payroll was near the bottom of the list, and several young players shined. The farm system will continue churning out MLB ready players in Seattle while the current players continue to develop into stars.
J.P. Crawford is a perfect example of a player who made a big leap offensively and defensively. He was able to get on base more frequently, be a reliable top of the lineup hitter, and play Gold Glove shortstop. Marco Gonzales has also become one of the better-lefthanded pitchers in the American League, despite his below-average fastball velocity.
The Seattle Mariners are one big free agent signing away from being thrust into the playoff conversation in 2021 and 2022. Waiting can be difficult, but Dipoto’s plan has been working and fans need to have faith. The ROY Award for Lewis, and the Gold Glove’s for White and Crawford are just a small way of putting the rest of the league on notice. The Mariners are back in business. Watch out for the 2022 World Series bound Mariners.