Five Seattle Mariners were named in MLB‘s top 100 prospect rankings. Taijuan Walker, not surprisingly, was the very first Mariner on the list at #5. All of baseball considers the 20 year old RHP as one of the very best and that was proven when the Diamondbacks were willing to part with Justin Upton in a trade that would have also landed them the #47 overall prospect, Nick Franklin. It’s looking like more and more of a miracle that Upton rejected the trade and allowed the Mariners to keep their top young talent. Many analysts agreed, saying the package the Mariners were going to give up was too great, even for a young skilled outfielder such as Upton.
Danny Hultzen was the second Mariner, ranked #18, to be included and gives the Mariners the top RHP and LHP duo in the minor leagues. Hultzen is 23 years old, and although Walker is the higher rated prospect – it’s expected that we’ll see Hultzen in the big-leagues first because of his age and development while playing college baseball at the University of Virginia. Hultzen would have been ranked higher had he not had serious command issues in AAA, and had a reputation as a command pitcher when drafted. Hultzen will begin the season in Tacoma (AAA) and will likely get a call up sometime near the middle of the season if he shows he has greater control of his pitches.
One of the fastest players to shoot up the list is the latest Mariners #1 selection from the 2012 draft, Mike Zunino (23). A catcher from the University of Florida, Zunino had been known as a defensive catcher with great ability as a hitter. While spending his first season only playing 44 games, Zunino has shown more skill offensively than behind the plate. One of the major appeals to Zunino is his ability to handle a pitching staff, and with guys like Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton coming up along with Zunino, that will be a huge benefit to the organization.
The former Gator will also start the season in AAA, unless he absolutely outperforms Jesus Montero and the newly sign Kelly Shoppach in spring training. Either way, Zunino will get time in the majors in 2013. Lets hope we don’t have another Jeff Clement scenario.
The other offensive player on the list is Nick Franklin. Franklin is currently playing shortstop in the Mariners organization – while many think he’ll eventually move to second base, the M’s are sticking with him as Brandan Ryan‘s eventual replacement, especially with Dustin Ackley as the teams current long-term option at 2B. Off course Ackley could always move back to the outfield where he spent his college career. Franklin did struggle a bit once he was called up to Tacoma, however at just 21 years old he’ll have time to work on everything he needs to improve before the Mariners ask him to contribute with the big club.
The last Mariner to make the list is the final member of the “Big Three” pitchers in the M’s organization. Paxton has two pitches, his fastball and curveball, that would allow him to have success at the MLB level. If he can continue to improve his changeup his chances of staying in a big league rotation will be much greater. Paxton has a solid strikeout rate and some see his future as a star reliever. The Mariners will try to keep him on a path as a starter as best they can. Paxton is also projected to start the year at the AAA level.
The Tacoma Rainiers will start the year with one of the most impressive rosters in all the minor leagues. Three future pitching stars as well as Zunino and Franklin will make them the early favorites to win at the AAA level. By July, and certainly September, it is very likely that all five will be seeing time down the road in Safeco Field.
Here is what MLB.com had to say about each player:
2013 Seattle Mariners Top 5 Prospects
[table id=12 /]