Quietly tucked away in the northwest region of the country, the Seattle Mariners are developing a homegrown starting rotation that could compete for years to come.
However, the secret is getting out.
The Mariners, despite playing below .500 in 2012, are growing and developing one of the better minor league systems in baseball. With a plethora of draft picks over the last few seasons, the franchise has re-dedicated itself to building a competitive, young pitching staff.
Seattle is putting itself in a position to compete as early as 2013, so let’s take a look at how the starting rotation could look by next season.
Enjoy the show!
Twenty-two-year-old right-hander Erasmo Ramirez made a whole lot of noise after putting together a dynamite 2009 season at rookie ball.
He was named the Mariner’s minor league pitcher of the year that season after posting an 11-1 record, compiling a ridiculous 80:5 strikeout-to-walk rate over 88 innings in the process. Ramirez’s 5’11” build doesn’t suggest that he will be able to keep his high-90s fastball at an elite level, but expect him to compete for a rotation spot for the foreseeable future.
He’s already cracked the Mariner’s rotation in 2012, so expect him to continue to develop and for Seattle to have a back-end rotation guy under contract for the next few years.
After being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft, James Paxton has quietly developed every step of the way.
A consistent, easy delivery has scouts raving about Paxton, who is currently at Double-A for the Mariners. He holds a 3-3 record this season, punching out 52 batters over just 46.1 innings of work. That tells you that he knows how to get guys out and that he has the makeup of a quality pitcher.
Paxton will need a little bit more time in the minors to build up stamina and to develop his secondary stuff, but Paxton already possesses an above-average breaking ball, ultimately giving him an edge.
Expect Paxton to arrive as early as this August but for Seattle to give him every opportunity in 2013 to prove that he will be around for the long haul.
After going No. 2 overall in last June’s draft, Danny Hultzen has propelled up the minor league ranks at an absurd pace.
After recently being promoted to Triple-A, Hultzen has showed the signs of development, becoming one of the most talented and polished minor league pitchers in baseball. In 13 starts at Double-A this season, Hultzen holds an 8-3 record, fanning 79 hitters over 75.1 innings. Although he walked 32 batters over that same stretch, which is a bit concerning if you’re a talent evaluator, he has not been home run prone, only surrendering two long bombs all season.
Hultzen will pitch in the 2012 Futures Game, giving a chance for everyone to see his talents. Hopefully, he makes enough buzz to pressure the Mariners to give him a shot at making the big league club before closing the door on 2012.
However, for now, we’ll chalk Hultzen up as a contender for a full-time spot in the rotation beginning in 2013.
Anytime you’re getting comparisons to Dwight Gooden, you know you’re doing something right.
For Taijuan Walker, the sky is limit. After posting a great 2011 season at Low-A (2.89 ERA, 112 strikeouts in 96.2 innings) for the Mariners, Walker earned himself a spot in the discussion of who is the best pitcher in the minor leagues in 2012.
Walker continues his development at Double-A this season, showing off his high-90s fastball and hammer curveball as he works his way up the ranks.
Although Walker is more raw compared to the other names mentioned on this list, he may have the biggest upside out of all of them.
Look for Walker to continue to work his way up the ranks, and expect Seattle to give him a shot at making the rotation in 2013.
It should come as no surprise that Felix Hernandez heads a list of how the Mariners' rotation could look in 2013.
Hernandez has been absolutely stellar over the course of his eight years in Seattle, mowing down batters left and right, while at the same time, establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Although Hernandez has been previously mentioned in trade rumors, he’s still in Seattle, indicating that he may be around for the foreseeable future as the franchise attempts to rebuild from the bottom up.
No matter how the minor leaguers shake out in the future, Hernandez will undoubtedly top Seattle’s starting rotation in 2013—if he's still around. Expect the King to continue to his dominance around the AL West.