Full Scouting Report for Top Seattle Mariners Prospects at Spring Training

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIIFebruary 26, 2013

Full Scouting Report for Top Seattle Mariners Prospects at Spring Training

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    The Seattle Mariners have a number of intriguing athletes in camp this year, and fans are looking forward to the day when some of them make the big club. Longtime fans of the Mariners hope the future will come soon for the current list of hot prospects.

    Of course, those that follow sports know that the word prospect is a nice way of saying, “we sure hope they succeed someday but there are certainly no guarantees.” Granted, that is a wordy description, which is why most people stick with “prospect.”

    Many prospects have been highly touted over the years but have not lived up to the hype.

    Seattle has a bright future if a number of its young athletes continue on their current path and eventually make their way to Safeco Field. Some may make the club out of spring training this year, while others will be sent back to the minors for a bit more experience.

    Here is a scouting report on the top Seattle Mariners prospects that are vying for jobs at spring training.

    All statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

Taijuan Walker

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    Position: RHP (Projected starter)

    Vitals: 6’4”, 210 pounds

    Highest Level in 2012: AA

    Key Statistics: 7-10, 4.69 ERA, 118 strikeouts, 126.2 innings pitched (AA)

    Walker is regarded as having enough talent to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, and the 20-year-old is arguably the most hyped prospect in the Seattle system. As noted by MLB.com, new Mariner Michael Morse “swung awkwardly late on a couple heaters” from Walker. Needless to say, Morse was impressed.

    The young hurler throws a 95-mph fastball with late movement and combines his heater with a straight change.

    Taijuan could theoretically pitch well enough to make the big club out of spring training, but realistically he will may start the year in Double-A or Triple-A. Seattle will not want to rush its prized prospect.

Danny Hultzen

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    Position: LHP (Projected starter)

    Vitals: 6’3”, 200 pounds

    Highest Level in 2012: AAA

    Key Statistics: 1-4, 5.92 ERA, 57 strikeouts, 48.2 innings pitched (AAA)

    While Taijuan Walker is arguably the most hyped member of the so-called “big three” pitching prospects, Danny Hultzen may be the most ready to join the big club.

    Hultzen also has a good fastball/changup combination and he is working to develop a solid slider. While his numbers at Triple-A are not necessarily that impressive on paper, he was promoted to Tacoma after going 8-3 with a 1.19 ERA at Double-A Jackson in 2012. Hultzen did have some control issues in Tacoma last season, so it will be interesting to see how he pitches in Peoria.

    Depending on how veteran pitchers like Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman perform in camp, Hultzen could conceivably make the roster when the Mariners head to Seattle. Still, he will need to beat out those two vets as well as Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan.

    It is fair to still label Hultzen as a prospect, but at age 23 he will start getting to a point where the team wants to see some progression towards the Major League level. So far, he appears to be on track.

James Paxton

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    Position: LHP (Projected starter)

    Vitals: 6’4”, 220 pounds

    Highest Level in 2012: AA

    Key Statistics: 9-4, 3.05 ERA, 110 strikeouts, 106.1 innings pitched (AA)

    Paxton may get lost in the hype surrounding Walker and Hultzen, but there is a reason that James is typically included in conversations about the other three. Seattle hopes that Paxton will be another key component of a future Mariners rotation.

    The big body of Paxton allows him to crank up a high-90s fastball, a breaking ball and a developing changup. He has moved through the minor leagues as a fairly quick rate, so there will obviously be questions as to whether he needs more seasoning at the lower levels.

    Just like the other key prospects, Paxton has the potential to crack the rotation soon, but he may be fighting for playing time in a crowded Seattle locker room. He will need to distinguish himself in the spring. Otherwise, he will likely start the year at Double-A or Triple-A.

Mike Zunino

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    Position: Catcher

    Vitals: 6’2”, 220 pounds

    Highest Level in 2012: AA

    Key Statistics: .333, 3 HRs, 8 RBI, 51 ABs, 15 games (AA)

    The Seattle Mariners are very high on Mike Zunino for a couple of different reasons. Zunino is projected as a guy who can hit for both power and average, which is not always common for a catcher. In addition, he is regarded as a good defensive backstop that displays solid leadership skills behind the plate.

    Projecting when Zunino could make it to the big club is a bit more difficult. He is in camp and he will likely see some time in the lineup. However, the Mariners have Jesus Montero slotted in as catcher, which means that there is already a logjam.

    Montero is not necessarily regarded as a great defensive catcher, so there may be a time when Zunino takes over behind the dish and Montero moves to DH. However, Seattle is not quite to that point just yet, so Zunino may need to wait.

    Given that Zunino will only turn 22 at the end of March, it is likely that he will go back to Jackson or head to Tacoma after spring training. Still, a Zunino sighting in Seattle could happen as early as 2013.

Nick Franklin

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    Position: SS/2B

    Vitals: 6’1”, 195 pounds

    Highest Level in 2012: AAA

    Key Statistics: .243, 7 HRs, 29 RBI, 267 AB, 64 games (AAA)

    Nick Franklin has bulked up since last year. As documented by The Seattle Times, Franklin has been on a 6,500-calorie diet since the end of last season. The diet is intended to help him build muscle and avoid losing energy late in the season. However, the added weight may impact his range when playing defense.

    The question is where Franklin will play in the field. Franklin played 34 games at second base and 30 games at shortstop while playing with Triple-A Tacoma last year. Despite only hitting .243 at Triple-A, Franklin hit .322 at Double-A Jackson in 2012 and .325 in 2011.

    Seattle currently has veteran Brendan Ryan at shortstop, and while he hit poorly in 2012, Ryan is there for his defense. The Mariners also have prospect Brad Miller, who could be a future solution at short. Would Seattle move Franklin to second base where Dustin Ackley is theoretically the future?

    There are lots of moving pieces and many questions that remain unanswered.

    Others prospects to watch: Brad Miller, Stefen Romero, Brandon Maurer, Julio Morban, Carlos Triunfel.