Due to geographic isolation, the Mariners were one of just two teams to play all their camp scrimmages against each other (the other team was Tampa Bay). That led to an extra-cozy feel at Camp T-Mobile, and so in true summer camp tradition, we’re going to hand out some end-of-season camp superlatives before our campers pack up their powder blue unis and head away from the natural wonders and gentle breezes of Seattle to the fetid sprawlscapes of Houston and Anaheim.
Best overall camper: Kyle Lewis
This was a unanimous staff vote, because, obviously. Lewis had the most impressive home runs of camp, but also did a nice job of taking his walks and hitting the occasional single while not striking out at the same terrifying rate he did in his brief MLB stay last year. The promise of oppo power is pretty tantalizing, as well:
Where did Kyle Lewis learn to hit homeruns to right field?— Ben Upton (@Ben_Upton5) July 22, 2020
Well when @MercerBaseball has a right field fence only 320 ft away (really about 295) and right center only 350ft away (really 330) it makes hitting oppo fun! pic.twitter.com/fk4W58pUU4
Lewis also took this opportunity to show that he’s recovered from his knee injury and is a legitimate option in center field:
Being able to man center would add value to Lewis’s overall profile and take pressure off his bat, and would also help spell the Mallex Smith-Braden Bishop tandem.
Most improved camper: Kendall Graveman (2 votes), Justus Sheffield (2 votes), Jose Marmolejos, Yohan Ramirez
Graveman was a revelation in his final regular-season tuneup, sitting an easy 95 and making chum out of the Steelheads he faced thanks in large part to a new pitch mix that has him throwing his sinker less and an elevated fastball more. Thanks to the shutdown, we saw very little of Graveman before he will tread the mound wearing a Mariners uniform, which is cause both for excitement and wariness. It’s Schrodinger’s Mariner.
Speaking of revelations, Justus Sheffield also looked flat-out dominant in his final outing before Real Baseball’s return, striking out eight in just four innings. Maybe this is just the long layoff from baseball talking, but Sheffield’s slider looks god-tier, giving his poor teammates fits, righties and lefties alike. Combine that with his new two-seam fastball designed to tunnel better with his changeup and slider, and there is lots to be excited about with Top Sheff.
Jose Marmolejos might technically earn this honor for mileage traveled point to point; he has gone from a non-roster invite to the presumptive Opening Day left fielder. Marmo has an international fanbase from his time playing in the DR and lots of people cheering him on.
Kate picked Yohan Ramirez, who looked like he might have gotten the Astros stink off of him (this time not a reference to Houston’s questionable organizational principles but instead their affinity for training pitching prospects, especially international ones, to throw as hard as they can without worrying about hitting the zone, the batter, umpire, backstop...). In Spring Training Ramirez looked like the guy who struck out 30% of batters but walked almost 20% of them in 2019; in 3.2 innings he had a K:BB ratio of 6:5 and allowed five earned runs. However, Ramirez’s final inning of camp was a 1-2-3 affair with two strikeouts where he kept the ball in the zone but also away from the heart of the plate, and he was visibly delighted at the end of his inning, pogoing off the mound in joy and running over to Scott Servais for a congratulatory elbow-bump. Seems like something might have clicked there.
Best Pitch Thrown in Camp:
Kendall Graveman vs. Daniel Vogelbach, two-seam run in on the inside corner for strike -JT
Logan Gilbert vs. Jarred Kelenic, 3-2 count, slider -KP
Was most excited to see Logan Gilbert vs. Jarred Kelenic--two ultimate competitors. Gilbert fell behind 3-0 then battled back, challenging with a fastball for a swinging strike, getting a called strike, and then pulling out this nasty trick: pic.twitter.com/pV3Y60rdQo— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 19, 2020
Best post-quarantine hair: Justus Sheffield
Sheffield earned praise for his “glorious” (MA) #TeamNaturalHair (MR) and his Purple Rain-era Prince look (KP):
Also getting votes (or not):
Not Jake Fraley, what happened, my man. -JT
Justin Dunn. It wasn’t new but it’s still fantastic. - TC
Pretty disappointed in the general lack of flow among the players, but both Dunn and Sheffield look fantastic - ES
Best camp battle:
Jose Marmolejos vs. Jake Fraley - TC
Taylor Williams vs. Taylor Guilbeau -JT, KP
Taylor Guilbeau vs. Taylor Williams is like that thing with sitcom twins where you have to just remember their one key difference or hijinks ensue (Guilbeau is the lefty) pic.twitter.com/fWXpyhsMV2— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 11, 2020
The Mariners vs. audio and visual equipment - MR
Best Teammate: Braden Bishop
When people tell me to stick to sports I just think about how much work I’ve done off the field as a human. Sport has given me a platform to use my voice whether that’s standing with my black brothers/sisters or Alzheimer’s. Athletes should not just stick to sports. Serve others!— Braden Bishop (@bradenbishop7) July 24, 2020
Jarred Kelenic, for any of his intense vocalizations after a strikeout that would be as unwelcome as a maskless grandma at Disneyworld - TC
Anthony Misiewicz, for literally sweating himself onto the 30-man roster -KP
Matt Magill, for never looking bored while he absolutely shredded his youthful teammates -JT
Wait, they got...HOT?!?!:
Tim Lopes, for deciding that actually he would like you to notice him, and yes, he’s been here all along, you just weren’t looking in the right place, Scott! - MR
Kendall Graveman, who went Full Dechambeau during lockdown and returned with literal lats on his lats - TC
Taijuan Walker, who looked fully healthy and like a more well-rounded pitcher everyone in the org said he was seeming to be -JT
Art Warren. Didn’t get hot, just stayed there, but also induced Dave Sims to say “I’m Art Warren” in a weird “I am Spartacus” voice on a broadcast. -KP
Evan White has long looked like a fine-tuned machine of precision at the plate and at first base, but seeing him in action again (and in extra good post-quarantine workout shape) has me feeling things about ROY honors - ES
Jack of All Trades Award:
Andy McKay, for some exceptionally cromulent umpiring in strange circumstances - TC
—and for being the Social Distancing Sheriff! -KP
My man in the clubhouse who got to play a little bit - MR
When the Traveling Secretary is the left fielder there's no Media Guide to use for spelling help: pic.twitter.com/AC13q3mwYI— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 16, 2020
Tie between Kyle Lewis’s shoe game and Taijuan Walker’s:
2020 Season let’s get it!!! @Jumpman23 #WeAreXII pic.twitter.com/58vPqksQGM— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) July 23, 2020
With an honorable mention to Kyle Lewis’s head-to-toe “Coronavirus can’t catch me if it can’t see me” swaddling (high socks, pants, long sleeve top, hoodie, batting helmet under hoodie, gloves):
And that’s a wrap on camp, and no offense to Camp T-Mobile, but hopefully never shall we meet again. You can keep the lanyards.