For a guy who threw in just a single game for the Seattle Mariners in 2021, Andrés Muñoz’s name has been bandied about quite a bit this off-season. First, there was the four-year contract extension with a bevy of options that could have him in a Mariners uniform until 2028. Then there was his inauspicious absence from spring training, due to visa issues (the Los Mochis-born pitcher did arrive in Peoria this week, and threw his first live BP on Monday). And, of course, there were the dozens of tweets and articles speculating that Muñoz could be the M’s secret weapon out of the ‘pen this season.
So why all this hubbub around a 23-year-old who’s appeared in as many major league games? Let’s keep it simple. He does stuff like this:
101 on the outside corner isn’t just a nifty trick for Muñoz; it’s standard for him. Well, a tick above standard - Baseball Savant has his average velo listed as 100 MPH officially. He’s topped out (allegedly) at 104 MPH (I say allegedly because Sod Poodles aren’t known for their radar gun accuracy).
Did you ever look at Edwin Díaz and think “Man, I love how fast this guy throws, but it’s sort of nerve wracking to watch the human embodiment of a string bean pitch”? Enter Andrés Muñoz, a forgettable-at-the-time player in the Austin Nola trade in 2020 (because he was sidelined with Tommy John at the time) but one whom many cleverer baseball prognosticators identified as the potential steal of the deal.
But because the universe gives and takes in equal measure, for Muñoz’s added sturdiness, you also must deal with his finish, wherein he is briefly transported to an amateur improv class where the prompt is “You’re walking along the edge of a cliff and all of a sudden...” His motion is an inexplicable conglomeration of extremely high effort, and pure momentum; his lower half rocks down, he sinks onto his back right foot like he’s rising from a deadlift and then his right arm just whips around almost as an afterthought.
Savvier prospect writers than I have compared his arm action to Craig Kimbrel’s, but my years in Cooperstown brought another flamethrower to mind when I slowed down Muñoz’s clips: Bob Gibson. Both derive tremendous power from their back legs as they make the powerful rock back, but unlike many of their contemporaries who coil up and remain curled in, Gibson and Muñoz both sink back in such a way that their knees scarcely track past their toes. This dramatic transition couples with the violent whip of the arm across their bodies pulls their momentum left like we might lurch in our seats after a sudden stop.
To be clear, this comp has no greater meaning, and most certainly is not a claim that Andres Muñoz is destined for a Hall of Fame career.
Forget the path to Cooperstown; for Muñoz to well and truly find success at the major league level he’ll need to demonstrate three things consistently: 1) Sustained health, 2) Sustained velocity (though his triple-digit outing last year boded well, as many were concerned about his ability to recover velo after TJ) and 3) Ability to consistently locate said velocity - and his dastardly slider, which both John and Kate wrote about excellently. If all those pieces come together for even a majority of the season, we’re probably looking at another elite Mariners closer.