Seattle Mariners 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Bullpen Banter’s 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Bullpen Banter Seattle Mariners 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Jeff Reese: Seattle owns one of the deeper systems in baseball with quality prospects at the top and raw, high upside international free agents still in the complex leagues. Taijuan Walker struggled at times with the challenge of AA, but the raw stuff, athleticism, and rapid progression that he’s shown so far elicit future ace projections; unlike last year where it was a struggle to decide between him, Hultzen, and Montero, Walker was the easy choice. Hultzen still remains a borderline elite prospect himself with quality stuff that is highlighted by his deadly change up, but the malignant air of the PCL and a surprising diminution of command/control caused him to struggle after his promotion. Mike Zunino — the top pick in the 2012 draft — fits in well with those two. His Sophomore season at the University of Florida convinced me that he was special, seemingly squaring up multiple balls every time I watched a Florida game and showing sound defensive ability behind the plate. He built on that success over the succeeding summer and spring, but there were still some concerns over whether he would initially struggle with pitch recognition at the higher minor league levels. It would be hard for a draft prospect to answer that question more declaratively in his first partial season; Zunino was an absolute force after his promotion to AA.
Nick Franklin and James Paxton are a step below the top three but still offer plenty of reasons to be excited. Franklin rebounded after his disappointing 2011 season in the CAL and ultimately made his way up to AAA late in the year. Second base seems like the better position for him defensively, but Dustin Ackley’s presence should give the Mariners an incentive to take a long look at Franklin at short stop. James Paxton also spent much of the season at AA Jackson, going through stretches of dominance and stretches of wildness. I was never quite as high on Paxton as the rest of the staff (particularly Josh!) so his status remains about the same. Victor Sanchez had a wildly successful debut in the Northwest League after being highly touted as an international free agent.
A number of former college players had excellent seasons that raised their prospect stock. Carter Capps was the biggest revelation; transitioning from starter to reliever at AA, his stuff played up and allowed him to dominate in the ninth inning. He and Stephen Pryor both have bullpen ace type of upside. Brad Miller and Stefen Romero continued to hit with their promotions to the higher levels of the minors. Look for Chris Taylor to follow in their footsteps over the next couple of seasons.
With their aggressive approach to the international market and quality draft classes, the Mariners have built their farm system into one worthy of envy. Don’t think that the notables end after the fifteen listed either; with raw, high upside guys like Edwin Diaz, Gabriel Guerrero, Guillermo Pimentel, et alii you may see some new names near the top of this list next year.
Al Skorupa: The Mariners have accumulated a lot of players I loved as amateurs. I’ve long thought Taijuan Walker will end up one of the best pitchers in baseball over the next decade. Its remarkable that he only turned 20 years old in August. I loved my look at Danny Hultzen when he was pitching for Virginia. I’m not at all worried about his late season fade. Hultzen is very lean and still needs to mature physically and get stronger. He was pitching at the end of the longest season of his life and had advanced all the way to AAA. I projected him as a number 2 starter when he was drafted and I still think that’s what he’ll become. I thought Mike Zunino was a great pick, though I wouldn’t have been shocked to see them nab one of the top college arms again, either. I see Zunino as an all star quality catcher. He will need some time to fix his game and make adjustments, though. He has all the tools to be a good defensive catcher but does need to polish his receiving and blocking. While he likely won’t hit for a high AVG, he should get on base and hit for power well. Nick Franklin carries a big bat for a middle infielder. Much seems to be made of his deficiencies at shortstop. While he’s no gold glover over there, I think he’s serviceable. There are worse starting shortstops in the majors – and they won’t hit as much as Franklin. James Paxton completes this quintet of impressive prospects. Paxton was a little up and down this year. My projection for Paxton, like that of Hultzen, remains largely unchanged from last season.
Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor both look like very capable late inning relievers. The Mariners will really be able to shorten games with those two pitching in front of Tom Wilhelmson. I was somewhat skeptical of the Nick Franklin pick when the M’s took him, and I felt roughly the same way about Clemson’s Brad Miller a couple years ago. Much like Franklin, Miller showed up to pro ball and started impressing people. Looking back, the M’s have drafted very well the last few years. The top four players on this list were their 1st round picks from 2009-2012. Dustin Ackley was also drafted in the first round the same year as Nick Franklin. In addition, even some players the M’s took but didn’t sign are looking great (Ryne Stanek, Kevin Cron). There are lots of other interesting names in this system, too. The talent level continues to improve in Seattle. The breakthrough to contention isn’t far away.
Michael Schwartze: The Mariners are the system that I covered the most this last summer, seeing short-season Everett and Triple-A Tacoma all summer long. Jack Zdurienzik and Co have done a great job turning the system around and many of the pieces are getting closer to having an impact at the big league level. Taijuan Walker was an easy number one for me at the top of the list and he continues to be one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
Danny Hultzen comes in at number two on my list and I was able to see him in all but one of his home starts for Tacoma. He was a frustrating one to watch because he really struggled with consistency. When his stuff was on though it was easy to envision a front of the rotation arm. His change-up was the best one I saw last year and is an easy plus pitch. What he really needs to work on though is being able to locate his fastball on a more consistent basis. This hurt him a lot when I saw him, especially early on in games. If that comes around he could make for a great number three behind Felix and Walker.
Zunino really impressed me when I saw him at Everett last year. He is the complete package when it comes to catching prospects and he has had an outstanding start to his professional career. He is one of the top catching prospects in the game for me. Nick Franklin struggled at the plate when he got to Tacoma this year but I saw him make terrific strides over the course of the year. He still has a lot of work to do at the plate still but there is a surprising amount of pop in his bat and he should get to make his big league debut later in the 2013 season. Victor Sanchez showed maturity beyond his years on the mound when I saw him and he’s an arm with interesting potential. He dials his fastball up to 94 and has a very impressive changeup with a solid curve and slider as well. Staying in shape will be a huge key for the 6’0” 255lb, 17 year old though as he develops.
Capps and Pryor bring two potential back of the bullpen hard-throwing, right-handed arms to the system and both have a good shot at making the opening day roster. Miller and Maurer are two guys that I have heard great things about. Miller’s bat has developed well and he did nothing but hit this last year. Maurer seemed to have come out of nowhere last year and he has developed into another solid pitching prospect for the system. After Zunino, the Mariners drafted DeCarlo, Diaz, and Pike respectively in the 2012 draft and all three make the list. DeCarlo has interesting potential at the plate and was a huge surprise for me when Seattle selected him in the second round. Diaz (RH) and Pike (LH) are a pair of high ceiling projectable, prep arms who both made their professional debuts this summer in rookie ball. I ranked Pike a bit higher because of his advanced feel for pitching and above-average command. The system is one of the better ones in the majors and has one of the best duos of pitching prospects in the game. What Mariners fans need to hope for is for some of these bats to reach their potential at the big league level.
RHP Taijuan Walker (Chris Blessing)
LHP Danny Hultzen (Chris Blessing)
C Mike Zunino (Chris Blessing)
SS Nick Franklin (Chris Blessing)
LHP James Paxton (Chris Blessing)
RHP Victor Sanchez (Michael Schwartze)
RHP Stephen Pryor (Michael Schwartze)