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Why The Mariners Are So Good Right Now: Meet The Surprising Newcomers

The Mariners are going for their fifth series win in a row, taking on the White Sox in Chicago this weekend. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the Mariners have been on fire recently, particularly at the plate.

Art says he didn't expect the Mariners to see this kind of success at this point in the season.

"I could see that there were some guys who could have an upside, but not this many, this well,” he said.

Helping lead the Mariners to their winning ways are starting pitcher Felix Hernandez and strong hitters Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. But there are also a few newcomers who have stood out in the first half of the season.

Surprising Newcomers 

Art says four newcomers have been "difference makers:" center fielder James Jones, first baseman Logan Morrison, and starting pitchers Roenis Elias and Chris Young. Here's what he has to say about each.

Credit Ted S. Warren / AP Photo
AP Photo

1. James Jones, Center Field 

James Jones has been "a revelation," according to Art.

"A fourth-round draft pick three years ago, he is an actual athlete — not only running in the field, but running in the bases. He's given them a speed element they didn't have. And he's hitting .293 in his rookie year," Art said.

Credit Ted S. Warren / AP Photo
AP Photo

2. Logan Morrison, First Baseman

Logan Morrison has been "a big contributor," said Art. "I think he eliminates the need to have Justin Smoak come back up to the big club and struggle and flail like he has been for several years."

Morrison has been hitting and fielding well. He was acquired in a trade with Miami for relief pitcher Carter Capps.

Credit Stephen Brashear / AP Photo
AP Photo

3. Roenis Elias, Pitcher

"[Roenis] Elias is a Cuban refugee who was pretty well-regarded but no one saw him on the Top 100 prospects list in minor league baseball. And he's come on and really been a contributor," said Art.

Art also points out that Elias is "still inconsistent, still a rookie."

Credit Elaine Thompson / AP Photo
AP Photo

4. Chris Young, Pitcher

Chris Young has overcome health problems to win eight games for the Mariners this season. 

The 34-year-old Princeton graduate was cut by the Washington Nationals during spring training.

"He's been a very vital pick-up," Art said.

Art's MVP Pick: Mike Zunino

Credit AP Photo
AP Photo

Art says Mike Zunino has turned out to be "a marvelous defensive catcher."

"He's forever blocking Felix Hernandez's sharp, breaking ball. He's picking balls out of the dirt. He's throwing runners out. He's managing the pitching staff at (age) 23. This is a remarkable achievement for a guy so young," Art said.

"And he's got some power. He leads all Major League catchers in home runs (12 as of July 3) and is second on the Mariners. He's got 32 RBI, which is third in the club.

So to me he's done everything you would want from a catcher at such a young age."

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.