Though they appear headed for another sub-.500 season, the Seattle Mariners feel good about the future because of a trio of highly regarded starting pitching prospects that includes left-handers Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, and right-hander Taijuan Walker.
The first one to join Felix Hernandez in the Mariners rotation could be Hultzen, who was ranked fifth on Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects List. A 22-year-old left-hander who was the second overall pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Virginia, Hultzen was a 2012 Futures Game participant. He posted a 1.19 ERA and a .151 batting average against at Jacksonville this season before earning a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma, where he is 1-2 a 4.35 ERA and a .245 batting average against in nine starts.
Hultzen could make the Mariners 2013 opening day starting rotation if his development continues to progress.
Including Hultzen, here are five of the best left-handed starting pitching prospects in baseball:
Hultzen was shut down for a couple weeks as the Mariners are closely monitoring his workload. It was speculated that he could make his Major League debut in September, but that will not likely happen. The Mariners are pleased with his 50 strikeouts in 41.1 innings at Tacoma, but he also has 29 walks.
After a two-week respite, Hultzen returned to the mound on August 14, tossing 3.2 scoreless frames. He followed that by allowing one run and no hits with six strikeouts and three walks over five innings on August 19.
With an impressive spring training, though, chances are Hultzen will flash his plus fast ball and change-up in the majors next year.
Packaged with Corbin from the Angels in the Haren deal, Skaggs was ranked No. 7 on Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects List.
Skaggs has seen time at Mobile and Reno this year. He logged a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts at Mobile and has been filthy at Reno, where he is 4-2 with a 2.91 ERA and a .253 opponent’s batting average in nine starts.
Skaggs was a supplemental first rounder out of high school by the Angels in 2009.
A fourth round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2010, the 23-year-old Paxton is a left-hander who was a 2011 Futures Game participant.
He is 8-4 with a 3.08 ERA and a .246 batting average in 19 starts against at Double-A Jacksonville.
Paxton was No. 42 on Baseball America’s 20112 mid-season list and boasts a high 90s fast ball and a nasty curve ball.
When Biddle was drafted in the first round (27th overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, he had incentive to sign that extended beyond the $1.16 million bonus he received.
The 6-foot-4 left-hander was born and raised in Philadelphia and is a lifelong Phillies fan.
The 21-year-old Biddle has an array of plus pitches, including a four-seam fast ball which touches 94 but typically ranges from 90-93; a change-up, a slider, a 12-to-6 curve ball and a two-seam fast ball.
What the Phillies especially like about Biddle is his maturity and his work ethic. At advanced Single-A Clearwater this season, Biddle is 9-5 with a 3.24 ERA and a .243 batting average against in 24 starts.
A key piece in the 2011 trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians, Pomeranz is 1-7 with a 4.87 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 14 starts for the Rockies this season after logging a 2-1 record and a 5.40 record in four starts last year with Colorado after the deal.
Though he has yet to impress at the Major League level, the 23-year-old Pomeranz still has a high ceiling.
The 6-foor-5, 240-pound Pomeranz was 4-4 with a 2.51 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs earlier this season. He was the fifth overall pick by the Indians in the 2010 draft out of the University of Mississippi.