RHP Taijuan Walker enters the 2013 season ranked as baseball's No. 5 overall prospect.
The Mariners’ system is absolutely loaded with talent at Double-A and above, as their top-five prospects all rank within Prospect Pipeline's Top 100 and have the potential to contribute as early as the 2013 season.
In addition to their depth on the mound in Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer, they also have a host of highly promising bats at premium positions. Highlighted by 2012 first-round pick Mike Zunino, it seems as though Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Stefen Romero are all capable of raking their way towards a call-up during the 2013 season.
Due to their depth, the Mariners are also poised to be one of the game’s more intriguing teams to trade with during the upcoming season.
Here’s a look at the Seattle Mariners’ top 10 prospects entering spring training.
DOB: 1/30/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’, 255 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2011 (Venezuela)
Scouting Notes: Commanded largest signing bonus ($2.5 million) in organization’s history for an international prospect; opened plenty of eyes in his pro debut for Short-Season Everett as a 17-year-old (3.18 ERA, .213 BAA in 15 starts); stock 6’, 255-pound frame calls for little projection and he’ll have to work hard to keep off additional weight as he matures.
Physically strong right-hander who understands how to use his core and lower-half; has been lauded for his moxie and aggressiveness on the mound; showcases advanced command of his low-90s fastball that’s well beyond his years; changeup is best secondary offering with impressive late fade out of the strike zone; utilized both a slider and curveball this past season, though neither currently serve as a standout pitch; slider has the potential to be the better of the two breaking balls; advanced knowledge of how to attack hitters and pitch to weaknesses.
Spring Training Forecast: Sanchez will head to minor league camp as he’s still a young pitching prospect in need of further overall development.
2013 Outlook: Given his sheer stuff and overwhelming success as a 17-year-old last season, Sanchez is a candidate to open the season in extended spring training before making his full-season debut during the first half.
DOB: 8/7/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 220 lbs
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2011 (Mount Olive College)
Scouting Notes: Appeared in only 43 minor league games (1.23 ERA, 13.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9) before he was promoted from Double-A to the Mariners’ bullpen in early August; 6’5” right-hander has all the makings of a future closer and could make Tom Wilhelmsen trade bait in the near future.
Capps’ boasts a plus-plus fastball that averaged the second-highest velocity (99.02 mph) among all big-league relievers; routinely hits triple-digits despite jerky, unorthodox arm action; slider gives him a second plus offering that registers in the mid-to-upper-80s with a late, wipeout break; also has a changeup, though it’s rather unnecessary given fastball-slider combo; deceptive delivery allows him to hide the ball well as it absolutely jumps out of his hand on opposing hitters; command still needs refinement, especially against more advanced hitters in the majors.
Spring Training Forecast: A safe bet to open the 2013 season at the back end of the Mariners’ impressive bullpen, Capps will look to show an improved secondary arsenal this spring.
2013 Outlook: The hard-throwing right-hander will open the year as the Mariners’ seventh- or eighth-inning guy, and could emerge as the team’s closer later this season if they decide to move Tom Wilhelmsen.
DOB: 10/17/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 225 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 12th round, 2010 (Oregon State)
Scouting Notes: Was named the Mariners’ minor league player of the year this past season after batting .352/.391/.599 with 34 doubles, 23 home runs, 101 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 116 games between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
Excellent right-handed hitter; was thoroughly impressed by how the ball jumps off his bat with loft in my lone look this season; features a smooth, rhythmic swing and the plate which lends to consistent timing; direct bat path creates tons of extension after contact; the ball gets small in a hurry when he squares it up; could stand to draw some more walks in coming seasons.
Lacks typical second-baseman size at 6’3”, 225 pounds, but his bat could be a premium at the position; average defender with a good glove but lacks range; biggest defensive asset is above-average arm strength, which could help get his bat in the lineup via a move to a corner position; will have to prove himself in the field in 2013, though his bat will continually dictate his path to the major leagues.
Spring Training Forecast: After raking at every minor league stop, Romero will attempt to hit his way onto the Opening Day roster, possibly even in a backup role.
2013 Outlook: Headed for Triple-A to open the 2013 season, Romero’s bat and ability to play multiple positions could get him to the major leagues in a hurry.
DOB: 10/18/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 lbs
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011 (Clemson)
Scouting Notes: 2011 second-rounder has absolutely raked since entering the Mariners’ system; spent most of the season at High-A High Desert (.339/.412/.524, 49 XBH, 19 SB, 79/52 K/BB) before a mid-season promotion to Double-A Jackson where he didn’t skip a beat (.320/.406/.476, 13 XBH, 26/22 K/BB).
6’2” left-handed hitter boasts a line-drive swing with excellent bat-to-ball skills; doesn’t try to do too much at the plate and knows how to let hands work; has plus raw power but doesn’t always tap into it; extra-base machine capable of hitting 50 doubles over a full season; biggest asset may be his plate discipline, as he tracks the ball deep and, in general, has an excellent feel for the strike zone; attacks the ball with consistency rather than feeling for contact; speed is slightly above-average and he should no problem swiping 20 bags until he loses a step.
Miller made necessary improvements on defense and was able to remain at shortstop the entire season; has the instincts, actions and quick feet to stick at the position; possesses a strong arm but lacks a consistent release point (36 errors in 2012); will need to trim down the error totals in his ascent to the major leagues; if not, his bat-speed combo still offers upside at either second or third base.
Spring Training Forecast: Miller enters major league camp hoping to showcase improved defense and the ability to stick at shortstop.
2013 Outlook: Likely to open the season back at Double-A, Miller should receive a promotion to Triple-A later in the season with the potential to serve as a September call-up.
DOB: 7/3/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 200 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 23rd round, 2008 (Orange Lutheran HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: 6’5” right-hander’s success was overshadowed by the other high-ceiling arms in their system; almost as projectable and likely to reach the big leagues as Walker, Hultzen and Paxton; was exceptional over the full season (his first) at Double-A (3.20 ERA, .244 BAA, 117/48 K/BB in 138 innings); excellent rebound season after a poor showing (4.99 ERA, 1.1 HR/9) in 2011.
Rigorous offseason training before 2012 season has led to improved athleticism and overall work ethic; fastball consistently registers in low-to-mid-90s with excellent late action to the arm side; slider is lone above-average-to-plus pitch that serves as his out pitch and generates plenty of whiffs; changeup has developed favorably and he threw it with confidence in 2012; curveball is an average offering and seems to be more of a show-me pitch at the moment.
Spring Training Forecast: Arguably the closest to the major leagues of all the team’s excellent pitching prospects, Maurer will make a case for a call-up later this season.
2013 Outlook: The right-hander is a long-shot to break camp in the team’s starting rotation, but is a safer bet to open the season at Triple-A with the potential for a first hall call-up.
DOB: 11/6/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220 lbs
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010
Scouting Notes: Enjoyed a solid statistical season at Double-A this past season (3.05 ERA, .231 BAA, 110/54 K/BB), though his overall command was inconsistent; has developed a reputation as a second-half pitcher; battled through a knee injury early in the season.
6’4” left-hander has serious mound presence with long, flailing limbs; holds velocity deep into games; stabbing arm action on the backside impedes his overall command; too much movement with his upper body as he prepares to deliver pitch.
Fastball is crisp in the low-to-mid-90s and could be a plus pitch with improved command; can reach back for 96-98 mph in shorter stints; curveball is an easy plus pitch with a tall shape and sharp break; also works in a changeup, though it’s noticeably less advanced than his fastball-curveball combo; struggles to command the offering due to his long, exaggerated delivery; over-the-top arm angle is deceptive and makes him difficult to barrel when he’s around the plate.
Spring Training Forecast: Paxton will spend the spring attempting to prove to the organization that he’s ready for an audition in the major leagues at some point this season.
2013 Outlook: The left-hander will get his first taste of Triple-A to begin the 2013 season, while the development of his changeup and overall command will dictate his debut in the major leagues.
DOB: 3/2/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180 lbs
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 (Lake Brantley HS, Fla.)
Scouting Notes: Re-asserted himself as a top middle infield prospect in 2012 after a injury plagued down year in 2011; thrived at Double-A (.322/.394/.502) but was noticeably challenged upon reaching Triple-A Tacoma (.243/.310/.416, 68/24 K/BB).
Despite his 6’1”, 180-pound frame, Franklin is an above-average athlete who possesses an unexpected amount of physical strength; easy extra-base pop to all fields thanks to a compact swing and direct bat path; he’s a switch hitter, but offers very little from the right side (.508 OPS at Double-A, .625 OPS at Triple-A); absolutely mashes as a left-handed hitter (1.041 OPS at Double-A, .756 OPS at Triple-A); may steal 15-20 bases in a given season, but doesn’t showcase the legit 20-20 potential as he did at Low-A Clinton in 2010.
He played primarily shortstop before seeing more time at second base upon reaching Triple-A; average range and arm strength are serviceable at shortstop, but more ideal for a career at second base; high-intensity player who demonstrates excellent instincts and a high baseball IQ in all realms of the game.
Spring Training Forecast: Franklin is a long-shot to make the Opening Day roster but is still likely to compete for playing time at both middle infield positions.
2013 Outlook: Franklin will open the 2013 season back at Triple-A but is on schedule to spend a portion of the year in the major leagues.
DOB: 11/28/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Virginia)
Scouting Notes: The second overall selection in the 2011 draft, Hultzen had a solid overall professional debut in which he reached Triple-A and flirted with a September call-up. The left-hander was outstanding in 13 starts at Double-A (1.19 ERA, .144 BAA, 79/32 K/BB) but then struggled mightily upon reaching Triple-A (5.92 ERA, .251 BAA, 57/43 K/BB).
Left-hander is loaded with polish relative to his age and experience; should be able to regain the command that made him a top draft pick; features the classic Virginia delivery; cross-body delivery; doesn’t always extend towards the plate; varying release point; creates deception.
Fastball registers in the low-90s with plenty of arm-side movement; reaches back for 94-95 at times; spots pitch to both sides of the plate; attacks both right- and left-handed hitters; changeup plays well off his fastball; plus offering; consistent feel; can catch too much plate at times; throws 80-84 mph slider with confidence; lacks bite; can flatten out and linger up in the zone.
Spring Training Forecast: Hultzen will enter spring training with a chance to win a spot in the Mariners’ Opening Day rotation, though he has a lot to prove to the organization coming off a dismal performance at Triple-A to finish the 2012 season.
2013 Outlook: Hultzen will likely open the 2013 season at Triple-A but figures to be one of the first pitching prospects recalled from the minor leagues.
DOB: 3/25/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 220
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Florida)
Scouting Notes: Third overall pick in the 2012 draft, Zunino won every individual accolade during his career at Florida and guided the Gators to three College World Series appearances. The 21-year-old made quite the impression in his professional debut last summer, as he batted .360/.447/.689 with 13 home runs and finished the season at Double-A Jackson.
Power is lone outstanding tool; drives the ball with backspin carry to all fields; doesn’t rely on exceptional pull power, but isn’t afraid to turn it loose; swing can get a little long at times; still finds a way to barrel and drive through the baseball; lots of extension after contact; power to right-center; advanced approach at the plate; may continue to exploit minor league pitching until challenged in the majors; given approach and hand-eye coordination, his hit tool may ultimately be better than expected.
Aggressive backstop who takes control; surprisingly agile despite thicker frame; worked with solid core of Mariners pitching prospects in pro debut; game-calling ability vastly improved; needs to refine his blocking skills and scale back amount of passed balls; average arm strength plays up due to his consistent footwork and catch-and-throw skills; has drawn rave reviews from both pitchers and coaches for his ability to slow down the game; excellent baseball acumen and makeup; high baseball IQ should help get him to the big leagues in a hurry.
Spring Training Forecast: Zunino will likely compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster in his first spring with the Mariners.
2013 Outlook: Even though he’s nearly big league ready, Zunino will likely open the year at Triple-A with the chance to reach the major leagues before the All-Star break.
DOB: 8/13/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Yucaipa HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Walker pitched the entire 2012 season as a 19-year-old at Double-A, so don’t read too far into his 4.69 ERA in 126.2 innings. He still demonstrated the ability to miss bats (8.4 K/9) with consistency without sacrificing his command (3.6 BB/9).
Walker has a highly projectable frame at 6’4”, 210 pounds; excellent athleticism; little mileage on his arm; still learning to be a pitcher and not a thrower; improved use of lower half; needs to finish with more consistency, extension and follow through; easy, fluid mechanics that he repeats well; love his smooth yet explosive arm.
Fastball consistently registers at 93-96 mph; jumps on opposing hitters; dials it up to 97-98 mph on occasion; sustains velocity well into his starts; plus curveball has great shape and a late, downward bite; will overgrip and spike it on occasion; changeup has come a long way over the last season; looks to be a third viable above-average offering; Mariners introduced a cutter into his arsenal last season; should offer a tough look; knows how to make in-game improvements.
Spring Training Forecast: Walker enters the spring on the major league radar, and could put himself in a position for a late-season call-up with a strong performance.
2013 Outlook: Despite his struggles last season a 19-year-old at Double-A, Walker will move up to Triple-A next season as he prepares to break in at the major league level.