Seattle Mariners: 5 Young Players Who Will Bring Fans Hope
With the Seattle Mariners sitting at a pedestrian 32-45, M’s fans are surely seeking excitement.
As the team is seemingly in rebuilding mode, fans must look towards the future to gather hope for the upcoming seasons.
With a plethora of young talented pitching on the horizon, the Mariners may only be a few years away from maximizing on their minor league potential.
Although the minor leagues seem to be a shot in the dark when it comes to producing top-tier talent, and many players seem to wash out during their stint in the minors, the M’s are hoping they can capitalize with these players.
With a three-pronged pitching charge coming through the minors, the Mariners have stockpiled gifted arms in their minor league system.
Along with strong pitching, the M’s have some position players fans should become aware of as well.
Here are a few players fans should look forward to seeing make an impact for the Mariners in the years to come.
Francisco Martinez, 3B, Acquired from Detroit in the Doug Fister Trade
His numbers this year are far from spectacular, as he is currently hitting .253 with one home run and 15 RBI in Double-A. But Martinez is still a work in progress.
He was the No. 6 prospect in the M’s organization at the finish of last season, according to Baseball America, and with more time to improve, fans should be excited about Martinez.
He is an all-around playmaker, and although he may be a defensive liability at third base, the Mariners will most likely move him to first base or corner outfield.
According to Scout.com, Martinez is a five-tool talent with power, patience and speed. Those attributes parlay nicely to the MLB, although time will tell if Martinez will produce.
Currently, Martinez occupies the leadoff role for the Jackson Generals, and with more experience under his belt he should be well prepared when his time comes.
He is only 21 years old at this point, and as he matures, so will his game.
James Paxton, LHP, Drafted in the Fourth Round of the 2010 Draft
When he entered the MLB, Paxton only had two pitches, a fastball and a curveball. With only those two in his repertoire, many assumed Paxton would be a reliever.
However, both Paxton’s fastball and curveball are quality pitches, and he learned a changeup to mix in during games. With two above-average pitches and one still being adopted, Paxton looks like a solid lock to be a starter in a few years.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Paxton is he is the least-heralded of the Mariners' young arms. He is the lowest-rated of the three, coming in as the No. 66 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.
Paxton has shown a knack for racking up Ks, as he fanned 51 batters in 39 innings in his brief stint with Jackson in 2011. So far this season, He has struck out 52 batters in 46.1 innings, but he has also surrendered 32 walks.
With a 3.88 ERA, the biggest issue for Paxton may be his command, but if he can get a hold of that, he could turn into a reliable middle-of-the-rotation guy.
He can top out the gun at 94-96 MPH, and with more control of his pitches, he could reach the majors as soon as 2013.
Nick Franklin, SS, Drafted in the First Round of the 2009 Draft
Franklin may the best position player in the Mariners system, and with his rise through the minor leagues, Seattle may be seeing him sometime soon.
He is a switch-hitter, although he bats exponentially better from the left side. In 2011, Franklin batted .385 as a lefty, and a measly .226 as a righty.
After playing 57 games in Double-A this season, Franklin was called up Tacoma only a little while ago. In Double-A, Franklin has batted .322 this season, while stroking 17 doubles and driving in 26 runs.
Franklin is the No. 43 overall prospect, according to MLB.com, and even though he stands at 6’1”, Franklin has shown power in the past.
In 2010, he was a 20-20 guy, as he belted 23 homers with 25 stolen bases while splitting time between Single- and Double-A.
Nonetheless, Franklin’s arm is nothing to rave about, and a switch to second could be more than likely. But with Dustin Ackley already occupying that position, the M’s could have an MLB-ready prospect with nowhere to put him.
Regardless, look for Franklin to be ready by 2013.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Drafted in the First Round of the 2011 Draft (2nd Overall)
Hultzen has flown through the minor leagues thus far, as he is already in Triple-A.
He was a maestro during his time in Jackson, where he won eight of his 13 starts with a 1.19 ERA and 79 strikeouts. Batters averaged only .151 off the talented rookie during his time in Double-A ball.
Hultzen is the M’s second-highest-rated prospect, as he comes in at No. 11 overall, according to MLB.com. He features two plus pitches in his fastball and his changeup. He has great command of his fastball, which is in the mid-90s, and great break on his changeup.
Hultzen is great at locating his pitches, and with his ascent through the minor leagues should be MLB ready as early as this season.
With the command he has shown thus far, Hultzen could be a mainstay at the top end of the Mariners’ rotation for years to come.
Although his first start in Triple-A did not go as planned, as he surrendered five earned runs in only three innings of work, Hultzen will hopefully be able to adjust.
Once he makes his way through Tacoma, M’s fans should be excited about the prospect of seeing the lefty mow down MLB hitters.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Drafted in the First Round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft
Walker is the zenith of the three-headed pitching phenom that the Mariners currently have in their minor league system.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing regarding Walker is the fact that he is only 19. Although he is young, all he has done is seemingly ooze with talent as he has blown away the competition.
After finishing the 2011 season with the Mariners’ Single-A affiliate, Walker earned the Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. He finished the season 6-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 113 strikeouts in only 96.2 innings pitched.
With a powerful fastball that can reach 99 MPH, Walker has all the skills necessary to become a front of the rotation starter.
The biggest thing for Walker is finding consistency with his pitches and with his performance. His curveball is still a work in progress, but it could be a dominant pitch.
Another interesting tidbit on Walker is that he only yielded 16 earned runs during 82 innings in 2011, yet in three of his starts he gave up 15 earned runs in only 14.2 innings. With more consistency, Walker could end up being a staff ace.
Nonetheless, it seemingly all comes down to maturity with Walker. As he gets older, he will become more accustomed to the professional game and will find success if he can keep improving and stay healthy.
The M’s have a stockpile of young arms ready to move through the minor leagues. It will be exciting to see which of them pan out for a team that desperately needs an influx of talent.