With spring training underway, the Seattle Mariners have the luxury to watch some of the most talented pitching prospects in the major leagues show off their stuff to try and earn a roster spot. With as many as two spots in the starting rotation not yet finalized, the Mariners will have their fair share of decisions to make come Opening Day.
Today, we're going to go over the pitchers with the most upside for the Mariners in spring training. These rankings will not be based just on talent, but instead a mix of potential and current talent. This is also not just limited to starting pitchers; some of the most talented young Mariners are currently relief pitchers.
With that in mind, let's look at the three pitchers with the most upside in camp for the Mariners right now.
Pryor was on the radar all of last season for Seattle, so his inclusion on this list is not a surprise to many. What maybe a surprise to many is my belief that he has more upside than pitchers by the name of Maurer, Paxton and Hultzen.
Now, I'm not saying those three don't have the talent to be big-time players. I just see Pryor having more upside in the long run.
He currently has a plus-plus fastball and was able to hold minor league hitters to a .136 average against with it really being his only dominant pitch. Imagine what that could be if he had had better success with his secondary pitches. Pryor has a decent curveball and a cutter that has the potential to be an above-average pitch if he puts in enough work.
Pryor wasn't that bad when he got to the big leagues last season either, finishing with a 3-1 record with a 3.91 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 23.0 innings pitched. Again, Pryor did this last season with essentially one pitch.
When Pryor harnesses his other pitches, he could be an absolutely lights-out closer for just about any team in the big leagues. It may take a full season in the majors to figure things out for Pryor, but don't be surprised if Pryor is putting in a case for an All-Star spot as soon as next season.
So this is not the first time Carter Capps has shown up in one of these types of articles; but rest assured that it is for good reason. Capps has all of the tools to be a dominant closer at the major league level, and don't be surprised to see that happen as soon as this season.
From reports out of camp early, Capps is not messing around, and has caught the attention of manager Eric Wedge very early (via The Seattle Times):
He’s a big strong kid who throws hard. You look at effort. As long as you don’t see anybody putting themselves into a position to…try to do too much, that’s where you’ve got to pay attention. You’ve got eyes on these young pitchers out there and we have the conversations we need to have with these guys. We make sure they stay where they need to stay.
Capps has been blessed with a fastball that regularly reaches the triple-digits that helped propel him to the major leagues only one year after being drafted out of Mount Olive College. In the minor leagues last season, Capps had an astonishing 72 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched, along with a 6-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Like Pryor, Capps made it to the big leagues last season and gained valuable experience moving forward. Capps features an average curve, much like Pryor, but his changeup is further developed which makes his already electric fastball even better.
In all honesty, if the Mariners fall out of the playoff race this season before the trade deadline, do not be surprised to see Seattle make room for Capps to take over if a team comes calling about incumbent closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
Was there ever any doubt?
Besides being one of the most talented young pitchers in all of baseball, nobody quite has a ceiling like that of young Taijuan Walker.
Walker already has a nice fastball, but also has the ability to turn his curveball and changeup into above-average pitches. Walker started off hot last season in Double-A Jackson and was at times downright dominant. However, the youngest player in the Southern League started to falter towards the end of the season, and finished with a 7-10 record with 4.69 ERA.
The numbers last season don't really show the potential Walker truly has. The scary thing about how good Walker is now is that he didn't start fully focusing on baseball until he was drafted by the Mariners in 2010, which means Walker may just be scratching the surface of how talented he could truly be.
Currently ranked fifth overall in the MLB.com 2013 Prospect Watch, Walker has all the makings to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Not even 21 yet, it can be argued that Walker still has plenty of room to grow into his already big 6'4", 210-pound frame.
Without a doubt, Walker offers the Mariners a dynamic partner for current ace Felix Hernandez down the road. Don't be surprised to see Walker get a cup of coffee this season at the big league level when the Mariners expand the rosters in September.
But, even if Walker doesn't see the majors this year, the sky is truly the limit for the young right-hander from California.