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2018 Mariners Spring Training Awards

Spring Training doesn’t matter, except for the opportunity to take home a Lookout Landy

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Training is over and we have buried the putrid corpse of liberty in the form of our free time. See you next fall, families and non-baseball-loving friends! It’s time to bear down on this season and dive into real baseball analysis. There will be stats! There will be stakes! It will be delightful. But first, let us honor the passing of 2018 Spring Training into the 2018 season by handing out some hardware. It’s still awards season here at Lookout Landing.

Most pleasant surprise: Michael Koval

Michael Koval is a 2016 11th-rounder who spent this past season in Low-A, where he put up fine, if unspectacular, numbers. In 3.1 innings this spring, however, the 22-year-old righty shone on the mound, featuring a funky delivery and some serious horizontal movement on his pitches. He collected three strikeouts in his brief ST sojourn to big-league camp, including whiffing Eric Hosmer on this nasty pitch:

Best shape of his life award: Ryan Cook

Cook’s spring numbers won’t jump out at anyone—he had a couple of particularly hairy innings down the stretch—but the mere fact that Cook, after sustaining a litany of injuries that makes the Gashlycrumb Tinies look like a little Golden Book, stood on a mound and threw pitches to professional baseball players counts as a win. His fastball showed good velocity considering how long he’d been out of game action, occasionally pushing near the mid-90s. While not the All-Star pitcher of his youth, there’s enough there to indicate Cook is Not Dead Yet.

Best 10 From the Russian Judges: Dee Gordon

Also a candidate for Most Pleasant Surprise, Dee Gordon was the highlight of camp, non-Vogelbach edition. It definitely will be a learning curve for Dee in center field, but what this spring showed us is it’s going to be an entertaining curve to watch.

Injury that seemed devastating at the time we’ll all have forgotten by May: Felix’s comebacker

As sickening as the film looked and as much as it made me want to burn my own trident hat on the spot, it seems the King will suffer no ill effects from the comebacker that struck him sharply on the arm. It would have been nice for him to get some more starts in games—and nice for fans who made the trek to Arizona to see him—but the gift of ST is that instead of being sent out on a rehab assignment, you can do it right there on the back fields with whoever’s available. It could have been way, way worse, is all I’m saying.

Injury that seemed innocuous that is actually a Trojan Horse: David Phelps’s elbow

While not the total gut punch of the Drew Smyly injury from last year, losing Phelps for the season complicates the bullpen picture somewhat. It might clear a path for one of the young relievers in-house like staff favorite Art Warren, but the LeBlanc-Aid that Jerry pasted over the hole in the bullpen can only hold for so long.

Best dugout interview: Proud dad

While Casey Lawrence’s no-eye-contact interview was a strong contender, you can’t beat Scott Servais going Vacation Dad and photobombing Vogelbomb.

Breakout Performance: Dan “Danimal” “Diesel” Altavilla

Dan Altavilla came into ST this year spitting fire, with a fastball that was already practically kissing triple digits and a much tighter command of his slider. In almost 11 innings he collected 14 strikeouts and only had one slight wobble. After a 2017 that saw him struggle at times and be sent down to Tacoma, Altavilla clearly dedicated himself in the off-season to getting better and addressing his weaknesses head-on. He toed the rubber with confidence in each of his outings and looked dominant. We talk about hitters attacking the ball looking to do damage; Danimal was throwing the ball looking to do damage, to hitters’ self-confidence. (Which he did. More times than not this spring, hitters walked away, shoulders slumped.)

Best Burgeoning Friendship:

I really wanted to go with Dee Gordon and Ian Miller here, but what’s that they say about age before beauty?

Best Team Bonding Moment: #4MOM

Braden Bishop was a candidate for the “most pleasant surprise” category, as the 24-year-old acquitted himself well against high-minors, MLB-adjacent, and even MLB-caliber pitching. But the work he did off the field in raising awareness about the devastating nature of Alzheimer’s, and the opportunity that created for the Mariners to come together in support, was a heart-warming story to enjoy all spring. A player like Bishop unites all levels of the organization, creating a bridge between the majors and minors, and it was really special to see in action.

Spring Training Cy Young:

Marco? We think it’s Marco. He collected 21 strikeouts in 26 innings, showcased his new cutter, and made us forget a little how much we miss Tyler O’Neill’s big burly biceps. Cue Dipoto saying “we think people will feel differently about this trade after 150 innings of Marco Gonzales.” It’s only been 26 and we’re already starting to feel differently.

Spring Training MVP:

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports