For the Seattle Mariners, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
After playing through an eventful and at times entertaining April schedule, the Mariners seem to be fighting some leftover demons from last year, especially at the plate.
While it would seem to be the perfect time to send "King Felix" in to stop the bleeding, one has to imagine that many Mariners fans are wondering whether management would consider bringing up a few of the more promising youngsters in the organization.
Two weeks ago, I put together a short list of players the team will probably consider bringing up before the end of the season. I thought it might be worthwhile at this time to make a list of players the team should avoid calling up in 2012.
Here are five prospects the Mariners may be tempted to bring to Seattle this year for their first taste of big league action, but would be best off leaving in the minors to develop.
Patience is a virtue, and being hasty here might prove foolish.
I don't care how well he is pitching at Double-A Jackson, Taijuan Walker needs to wait.
Yes, this is an easy one for starters, but any time there is a phenom waiting in the wings for a losing team, the temptation is there.
At only 19 years of age, some may point to the success the Mariners had in bringing up a young Felix Hernandez. It's a fair point, but one I would like to think that the Seattle front office will ignore.
For now, it and everyone else is just hoping he's healthy, especially after leaving Monday night's double-header against the Tennessee Smokies with an injury after 2.2 innings.
Perhaps more than any other member of the "Big Three," the Mariners need to stay the course with Walker and let him develop naturally. If he makes it to Tacoma happy and healthy by season's end, that's good enough.
Similar to Taijuan Walker, Jackson teammate James Paxton didn't pitch much on Monday night.
However, his performance was cut short due to poor performance rather than injury, as he allowed five runs on three hits, two home runs over three innings. He had four walks and two strikeouts.
At three wins and two losses on the season, Paxton has generally pitched well, but at the same time, it's not like he's dominating the Southern League each and every time he takes the mound.
It's easy to think that at 23, Paxton should be major league ready. Yet it's also easy to forget that he technically has only one full year of professional baseball under his belt after signing with the Mariners in March 2011.
Monday night should only be one small bump in the road, but there's no need to speed up in getting him to Seattle until he settles down and gets his game under control.
Ideally, a split season in 2012 between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma should suit him best.
Wait, didn't you say that Danny Hultzen will be called up before the end of the season?
Just because the Mariners could call him up, doesn't mean they should.
Unlike Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, the argument for Hultzen to join the big club may grow quite heated over the course of the summer months. If the team is firmly nestled well below the .500 mark by mid-summer and Hultzen continues to progress on schedule, the drum beat from fans could be deafening.
But why put Hultzen on the mound during the dog days of the summer if there is nothing to really gain other than a few innings of experience against major league hitters?
Sure, it might generate a little buzz and get a few more people out to Safeco Field, but beyond that, I fail to see why the organization would risk it.
If by some miracle the stars align and the M's are in the chase for a wild-card spot come August, perhaps it would make sense to then bring up Hultzen. Otherwise, let him work through the system by earning his stripes at Double-A Jackson and eventually Triple-A Tacoma.
Call me conservative, but each and every member of the "Big Three" should make Tacoma his final destination this season.
If all goes according to plan, the club should bring all three to spring training next year and give them every chance to make the Opening Day roster.
By now, you've probably noticed a pattern in that every player on this list is currently playing in Jackson.
Let's face it, this team has a lot of talented players from top to bottom and on both sides of the ball.
Nick Franklin may not be one of the "Big Three," but he's just as much a part of the Mariners' future.
With Brendan Ryan slumping, Munenori Kawasaki probably not a long-term solution and Carlos Triunfel stuck at Tacoma, why not bring up the up-and-coming Franklin?
Currently, he's putting up solid numbers at the plate, and perhaps most importantly, he's cut down on his strikeouts.
Fair points, but similar to Hultzen, Walker and Paxton, there's no need to rush a 21-year-old player who could use more time to hone his skills. Putting Franklin in the current Mariners lineup probably wouldn't help accelerate his growth and could potentially stunt it.
For the final player on this list, I decided to include someone perhaps a little bit under the radar.
Oddly enough, Rich Poythress was the Mariners' minor league player of the year not too long ago, while playing for Single-A High Desert in the California League. Unfortunately, his performance the very next season fell well short of expectations at Double-A Jackson.
This year, he's off to a decent, albeit quiet start once again at Double-A Jackson.
What's funny is that he's roughly the same age as another first baseman off to a slow start.
Both were standout players at first base in the SEC, measuring in at 6'4", 230 pounds—Poythress at Georgia and Justin Smoak at South Carolina. Yet both seem to have their work cut out for them as they continue to develop.
For Poythress, it's the fact that he will be forever saddled with his performance at High Desert in 2010. Until he can show some ability to build on that performance, it will be hard for the Mariners to seriously consider him a major league prospect.
If he can put together a solid season this year at Double-A Jackson with 20-plus homers and 80-plus RBI, he should certainly get an invite to spring training next year. Whether he makes the big club then depends on his performance and what the Mariners need to fill out their roster.
In the meantime, the first base job seems to be Smoak's to lose.
If he can't put up decent numbers, one would imagine that either Mike Carp or Alex Liddi could get a shot.
For this year, though, Poythress is just one of many Mariner prospects that needs to focus on the journey instead of the destination.