Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
This week, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com compiled the top 100 prospects in the league. The Mariners’ farm system ranked near the top of both the American and National League, with three prospects in the top 25 and five players in all.
Here’s a brief look at each of Seattle’s top five prospects:
2013 Top 100 Prospects rating: 5
2012 Top 100 Prospects rating: 4
The most lucrative name of the Mariners’ Big Four (Walker, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and Brandon Maurer), Taijuan spent his third MiLB season with the Double-A Jackson Generals. Over 25 starts and 126.2 IP, he finished with a 4.69 ERA, allowing 50 walks, 12 home runs, and striking out 118 of 550 batters.
CBS Sports highlighted the 20-year-old last August: “In the end, he knows the Mariners are looking out for his long-term success — something they believe will come. One scout told CBSSports.com, “I never like to anoint guys, but he’s special.”
Walker’s special because of his physique, the fact he throws an easy high-90s fastball and the curve and change up are developing. But more than that, the team loves his work ethic and his maturity.”
2013 Top 100 Prospects rating: 18
2012 Top 100 Prospects rating: 8
Although Walker’s potential is considered tops in the Mariners’ organization, the southpaw Hultzen has been drawing attention as well. He advanced to the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers’ staff in 2012, posting a 5.92 ERA in 12 starts and 48.2 IP. While generating a walk rate of 17.9%, he allowed just two home runs to 240 batters.
Mayo had this to say about Hultzen: “The biggest surprise was a loss of control (he finished 2012 with a 5.4 BB/9 rate), something that was a plus for Hultzen coming out of the University of Virginia. Most see that as a blip on the radar and still feel his stuff and pitchability should have him ready for the big leagues very soon.”
2013 Top 100 Prospects rating: 23
2012 Top 100 Prospects rating: 44
With the loss of John Jaso and Miguel Olivo this offseason, fans have turned an eager eye to the development of Mike Zunino, a hot-hitting backstop who jumped from short-season single A to Double-A in his first minor league season. At 21 years old, Zunino projected numbers like those of Jesus Montero (albeit at a bit slower pace), batting .333/.386/.558 in 15 games with Jackson, picking up 7 XBH, 8 RBI, and an OPS of .974.
On his mid-season call-up to the Jackson Generals, Prospect Insider’s Jason Churchill wrote the following: “Zunino, the top college bat in a class lacking depth in that area, generally receives average or better grades across the board, including receiving, blocking and throwing, and offers above-average-to-plus power with the bat.
He understands the game of baseball and knows how to catch. He has leadership skills, big-league makeup and as one scout put it early on draft day, “he has that vinegar, that extra gear of effort and feel that makes you want him on your team.”
2013 Top 100 Prospects rating: 47
2012 Top 100 Prospects rating: 29
Shortstop Nick Franklin is on the rise to the majors, completing his fourth minor-league year with half a season in Triple-A. In 2012, he hit .243/.310/.416 in 64 games and 296 PA for the Rainiers, collecting 7 home runs, 29 RBI, and 24 walks along the way. Although his starts were split evenly between second base and shortstop, Franklin has notched almost three times as many games at short in his minor league career.
Mayo’s analysis, per MLB.com: “A switch-hitter who has been much better from the left side thus far in his career, Franklin has a good idea at the plate with a good approach. The ball can jump off his bat thanks to his bat speed and he has more power than one would expect. His solid speed plays up because he has very good instincts on the basepaths.”
2013 Top 100 Prospects rating: 61
2012 Top 100 Prospects rating: 74
The Mariners’ last prospect on the list is LHP James Paxton, another member of the Big Four and the oldest of this group at 24 years old. He has two seasons of Double-A ball under his belt: from 2011 to 2012, his ERA jumped from 1.85 in 39.0 IP to 3.05 over his first full season of 106.1 IP. In 21 starts, he struck out 110 batters of 453 and allowed just 5 home runs to 54 walks.
An early report from Project Prospect projects Paxton as one of the Mariners’ regulars in the near future: “Paxton is raw for his age but he is also a rare talent. If he is able to harness his raw stuff, he could wind up being a No. 1-2 caliber starter and be a important part of a great future Mariners rotation. He could force his way up in 2012, but 2013 is a reasonable time to expect him to solidify himself as a big leaguer.”
Who do you want to see called up to Seattle in 2013?