If Tom Wilhelmsen fades in second year with the Mariners…

Who’s After the Last Call?

Tom Wilhelmsen was finally given a chance, and he took full advantage a year ago. The Bartender pitched 79 innings for the M’s, saving 29 games with a 2.50 ERA and a nasty 9.9 K/9 rate.

However, Mariners‘ fans will have trouble forgetting why Wilhelmsen was put into that position.

Let’s call it…Brandon-League-Syndrome. It’s what happens when a relief pitcher is placed into a surprising position of prominence (most often the closer role) with great success right away. The success is a pleasant surprise to fans, teammates, and management.

That is when expectations begin to rise.

A year ago, we all saw what happened when League was the flame-throwing, tattoo-covered, marketable closer. Well, that flame went out, and the bartender stepped in.

So, no one wants to say it, but what if Wilhelmsen follows a similar path? There are two young pitchers Mariners’ fans should familiarize themselves with; Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps.

Stephen Pryor

This kid can throw. His fastball hovers between 96 and 100 MPH. Yes, Stephen Pryor is indeed a young ballplayer, making his debut in June of last season at the age of 22.

Pryor’s confidence is found in his heater–the fastball in short sprints (say, the 9th inning) is overwhelming for hitters across the league. The proof can be seen in his 10.6 K/9 innings a year ago.

If that number somehow improves in his second season with the team, he’ll look more like Aroldis Chapman than anyone else.

Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners

What will happen if Wilhelmsen goes the same route as League?

Pryor’s biggest concern? His WHIP a year ago was over 1.50, and he was smacked around by the long ball. Fortunately, an adjustment period is both anticipated and expected for young pitchers making the jump from the minors to the big leagues.

If Pryor can locate consistently, the closing role will not be in doubt for long.

Carter Capps

Another young man doing more with his life than I will ever do with mine (athletically). Born in 1990, Capps made his first appearance last August and pitched 25 innings in 18 games for the M’s.

Capps’ K/9 was also over 10, but he gave up 25 hits last season, averaging one an inning. Without including walks, Capps put himself in tough situations often, but that should improve in his second year.

Not that spring numbers matter, but in his 6 Spring Training appearances thus far, Capps has a 1.50 ERA and his K/9 is over 12! To say his location has improved would be an understatement if this trend continues.

Both young pitchers give the Mariners flexibility for years to come, alongside Charlie Furbush and a renewed Oliver Perez, the bullpen is a strength independent of where the game is played or how close the fences are.

No matter what happens to the beloved Bartender, these two pitchers will be involved in the late innings this season, and they will be exciting to watch develop.


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About Jeff Budke

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