Stock Up, Stock Down for Seattle Mariners' Top 10 Prospects for Week of April 15
As the Seattle Mariners offense continues to struggle at the major league level, fans can at least hold some sort of solace in the success that the majority of the minor league system is having.
The list of these players is courtesy of the rankings over at MLB.com, and may not quite cover the term prospect like most readers would expect. Some of the players on this list are currently on the major league roster, but are still considered to be of the prospect level due to their limited major league experience.
With the continued struggles of some Mariners offensively, and on the pitching mound, changes could soon be in order. So which one of the Mariners 10 top prospects will be the beneficiary?
Taijuan Walker put together a very solid week down in Jackson. Over his two starts, Walker pitched a combined 12 innings, allowing only one unearned run and just four hits.
One thing that people could look to as a concern is Walker's tendency to walk people early this season. Over his four starts, Walker has walked 14 batters in 22.0 innings pitched. If he could get that number a little more under control, it would make his sparkling .165 batting average against look even better.
When he gets his control in order, expect a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma, where he could potentially pair up with James Paxton and Danny Hultzen again.
Remember, he's only 20 years old, so a little lack of control shouldn't be too much of a concern yet.
Danny Hultzen has been much improved at the Triple-A level this season, especially after a rather rough go of things in his first time around last season.
Hultzen has showed a much improved command of his pitches, and has only issued six walks over 22.0 innings pitched so far this season.
Last week, Hultzen started only once against the Fresno Grizzlies, but got the win, rebounding after his first loss of the season in his previous start. Hultzen went six innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out five.
Hultzen has kept batters at bay this season, sporting a .198 batting average against so far in the young season. If Aaron Harang and Brandon Maurer continue to show cracks, don't be surprised to see Hultzen up sooner rather than later.
So Mike Zunino finally came back to Earth a little bit, and has at least quieted the masses for an April call-up which could have been a little too soon for the Mariners prized prospect.
Zunino struggled with the bat this week, going 2-for-18 from April 15 to April 20. One of the oddest things so far this season are Zunino's home and away splits. On the road, Zunino is hitting .387 with five home runs and 20 RBI, but at home, Zunino has yet to register a hit in six games. Needless to say this isn't something to be worried about yet, but it could be if Zunino continues to struggle in front of the home crowd.
Although Zunino has shown his struggles at home, he has also shown that his bat isn't the only reason he has worked his way to Triple-A so fast. On April 18 against Fresno, Zunino walked three times, and managed to score on two of them. Not bad for a young guy.
The screams for Zunino's arrival have gotten quieter for now, but if Jesus Montero continues to struggle, the chants for Zunino at Safeco will continue. Remember, listing some one as stock down is all depending on how they did this week, and by no way reflects how I feel about the player moving forward.
The question with Nick Franklin right now may not be when he gets to Seattle, but how?
With both Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley struggling, Nick Franklin could make a case to take over for either one of them, especially with how poor the offense has been over the last few weeks.
Franklin, on the other hand, has been anything but poor since arriving on the scene in Tacoma. On the season, Franklin is batting .333 with two home runs and seven RBI. Over the last week, Franklin only hit .250, but managed to hit both of his home runs, stealing three bases, and scoring five times.
Right now, Franklin is knocking louder than ever on the door to the big leagues. If Ackley or Ryan don't get things figured out soon, we could be seeing Nick Franklin in Seattle a few months earlier than we thought.
James Paxton has had his fair share of difficulties this season, and has almost lost a little bit of his luster as being a part of the "Big Three." Not all of that can be contributed to him though, as Brandon Maurer's superb spring had a lot to do with that.
After a pair of rough starts to open the season, Paxton settled down this week and put together a gem on April 17 against the Fresno Grizzlies. Paxton pitched six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out five. Not bad for Paxton, who gave up seven hits and two runs on four innings pitched against the same Fresno team to start the season.
The only complaint for Paxton here is that he did walk four batters, which very well could have cost him an extra inning or two with his pitch count. At this point, Paxton looks to be back on track and holding strong as one of the Mariners best higher-level pitching prospects.
We're going to keep this short, because I'm still a little upset about it.
In fact, I offered my condolences earlier last week to Pryor, and even got a nice shout-out back from his biggest fan.
Needless to say, it is difficult to write anything positive about your best set-up reliever being put on the shelf because of a torn lat behind his throwing shoulder.
Mariners fans everywhere can only hope Pryor takes his time to heal, and comes back stronger than ever.
Carter Capps was very up-and-down over the first two weeks of the season, but has fallen into a groove over the last week.
Over the week Capps made two appearances, both against the Detroit Tigers. Capps threw 2.2 innings over those appearances, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out four. More importantly, Capps didn't allow any runs, which helped lower his ERA from 7.71 to its current 5.59.
Capps will be relied on a lot more moving forward, especially with Stephen Pryor on the 15-day DL, and with rookies like Yoervis Medina and Bobby LaFromboise making appearances over the last week. Capps will have to keep throwing like he did against the Tigers if the Mariners want to stay in games moving forward.
Much like Mike Zunino, Brad Miller came out of the gate on fire for the Double-A Jackson Generals. However, after a week in which he only had one hit until Sunday, Miller has finally fallen out of the stratosphere.
Miller still stands as one of the Mariners best infield prospects, and has improved drastically in the field after a rough start in High Desert last season.
Miller is still at least a year away, but a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma is not out of the question, especially if Nick Franklin makes the jump to the big leagues at some point this season.
Miller may have started off the season on fire, but after a rough last week, his stock dips just a tad.
Though Victor Sanchez has yet to play in a game this season, he is still expected to report to short season ball with Single-A Everett.
Sanchez burst onto the scene last season, with a 6-2 record with a ERA of 3.18 and 69 strikeouts over 85 innings pitched. Mind you, Sanchez did this all while he was 17 years old.
Sanchez will hold for now, but expect to see some movement come later on in the season.
Brandon Maurer may be a little out of his league at this point in his career, but give the young right-hander some credit for trying to make adjustments on the fly.
After earning his first career victory against the Texas Rangers back on April 14, Maurer landed the Rangers again on April 20, and put together one of his better performances this season. Maurer threw 6.2 innings and only allowed two hits; the only problem was they were both of the home run variety.
Usually, you would expect a pitcher allowing two runs over 6.2 innings pitched to have a shot at a victory, however with the Mariners offense doing it's best 2011 impression over the last week, Maurer was the tough-luck loser in a game in which he did not perform poorly.
Maurer is slowly getting better, but not enough to warrant a change for better or for worse in his stock this week.