The 2021 season was an exciting one for the Seattle Mariners.
Although the team missed the playoffs, it was a fun ride, and there were a lot of positive developments along the way.
The Mariners won 90 games and proved to the league that they need to be taken seriously going forward.
Folks in Seattle are hoping that 2022 will be the year in which the Mariners end their lengthy playoff drought, and if the dominoes fall the right way, that might just happen.
Before the MLB lockout went into effect, the Mariners made some notable splashes, with the biggest one being a deal for lefty ace Robbie Ray.
Reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and the Seattle Mariners are finalizing a five-year, $115 million contract with an opt-out after the third season, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 29, 2021
Seattle had a mediocre rotation in the 2021 season (4.30 staff ERA), but with Ray in the picture, 2022 could be a different story.
That makes four starters, but what about a fifth?
That’s where Justin Dunn should enter the conversation.
Dunn Deserves To Start The Season In The Rotation
Dunn’s time in the majors hasn’t been flawless since his 2019 debut, but after his 2021 campaign, it’s safe to say he’s trending in the right direction.
Over his first 14 career starts (which came during the 2019 and 2020 seasons), he pitched to a 4.13 ERA, 6.44 FIP and 6.9 BB/9.
In 2021, he showed signs of improvement in all virtually every department, including the categories shown above.
For starters, he pitched to a solid 3.75 ERA.
He also brought his FIP down to 4.74 and took a step forward with his command, issuing almost two fewer walks per nine innings than he did over the first two seasons of his career.
On top of all of that, his average fastball velocity got a nice bump.
Needless to say, that’s a great sign.
Justin Dunn, 94mph Fastball (foul) and 81mph Slider (Sword/K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/QpEvgGOYwu
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 15, 2021
Furthermore, Dunn made 11 starts in the 2021 season and allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of them.
That says a lot about his ability to keep his team in games.
Unfortunately, Dunn’s 2021 campaign was cut short due to injury, but before that happened, he showed the Mariners a lot of good things.
He’s undoubtedly taking major strides forward as his career progresses, and Seattle shouldn’t ignore that.
The Boston College product is only 26 years old and is just getting started at the MLB level.
The Mariners need to be patient with him before making a rash decision about what his role should be.
When all is said and done, maybe his long-term fit won’t be as a starter, but it’s too early to say that now.
He needs more time in the rotation.
How Does A Ray/Gilbert/Flexen/Gonzales/Dunn Staff Look On Paper?
If the Mariners do decide to put Dunn in their rotation to start the 2022 season, their staff will likely look something like this (in no particular order):
For a team with playoff aspirations, would that staff be able to get the job done over the course of a 162-game regular season?
Let’s take a look at how each player performed in 2021.
- Ray: 2.84 ERA, 154 ERA+, 3.69 FIP, 1.05 WHIP (won AL Cy Young)
- Gilbert: 4.68 ERA, 89 ERA+, 3.73 FIP, 1.17 FIP (as a rookie)
- Flexen: 3.61 ERA, 115 ERA+, 3.89 FIP, 1.25 WHIP
- Gonzales: 3.96 ERA, 105 ERA+, 5.28 FIP, 1.17 WHIP
- Dunn: 3.75 ERA, 111 ERA+, 4.74 FIP, 1.31 WHIP
While there are certainly more intimating rotations in the majors, that five-man staff doesn’t look too shabby at all.
There are some wild cards in there, but when you’re an organization exiting a rebuild, there always will be.
The Mariners will be an interesting team to watch in 2022.