Seattle Mariners: Top 10 Prospects For 2013

Mariners ProspectsFor the first time in several seasons, Seattle Mariners fans can embrace the upcoming season with excitement for the year ahead and the long-term future. The club has one of the game’s few elite starters in Felix Hernandez; it has upgraded its lineup with the acquisition of Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales; and the farm system boasts a plethora of high-ceiling prospects.

At the Major League level, third baseman Kyle Seager and catcher/DH Jesus Montero emerged as young sluggers in 2012, while first baseman Justin Smoak showed glimpses of why he was one of baseball’s top prospects in the Texas Rangers organization with a strong September.

The Mariners believe that some lineup holes will be plugged soon by minor league names like Mike Zunino, who is one of the game’s best catching prospects; Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, two highly regarded middle infielders; and Stefen Romero, who plays second base but could end up at a corner infield spot.

Here are the top 10 prospects in the Mariners farm system entering the 2013 season:

1) After winning the 2012 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award at the University of Florida, 21-year-old catcher Mike Zunino was selected third overall by the Mariners last summer. Along with New York Mets’ Travis d’Arnaud, Zunino is considered one of the top two catching prospects in baseball. He projects as a middle of the order bat who can hit for average and power, and he is a super defensive catcher and a leader behind the plate.

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2) A supplemental first rounder (43rd overall) out of high school in 2010, 20-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker pitched respectably at Double-A Jackson last season at the age of 19. He logged a 4.69 ERA in 25 starts, and his 1.37 WHIP was not helped by 50 walks in 126.1 innings, but he has a mid to high 90s heater and a nasty curve ball. The Mariners had him skip advanced Single-A, and they believe he can emerge as a frontline starter to join Hernandez.

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3) Selected in the fourth round out of the University of Kentucky in 2010, 24-year-old left-hander James Paxton reached Double-A in his first pro season in 2011. Last year, he spent the entire season at Double-A Jackson, logging a 3.05 ERA and a .244 batting average against with 110 strikeouts in 106.1 innings. Like Walker, Paxton is working on his command and projects as an impact starter in the majors.

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4) A defensively sound middle infielder, Nick Franklin‘s future will either be at shortstop or second base. He played both positions last year when he earned a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Tacoma. Franklin batted .322 with a .896 OPS in 205 at-bats at Jackson before hitting .243 with a .725 OPS in 267 at-bats at Tacoma. A first round pick (27th overall) out of high school in 2009, the 21-year-old Franklin could make his Major League debut this season.

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5) The second overall pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Virginia, 23-year-old left-hander Danny Hultzen features a plus fast ball and change-up, and throws his pitches with command. Last year in his pro debut season, he was dominant at Jackson (1.19 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in 13 starts) but struggled at Tacoma (5.92 ERA, 1.89 WHIP in 12 starts). He needs more seasoning, but a Major League debut at some point in 2013 would not be a surprise.

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6) At 6-foot-5 and featuring a mix of four pitches (including a mid-90s fast ball, 23-year-old right-hander Brandon Maurer battled elbow issues in 2011, thus the reason he was shut down in 2012 after he reached his innings limit in August set by the organization. At Jackson, Maurer produced a 3.20 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 24 starts.

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7) Drafted in the third round out of tiny Mount Olive College in 2011, 22-year-old right-hander Carter Capps is a power reliever who was impressive in his Major League debut last year. He posted a 1.26 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 50 innings in 38 games at Jackson before making one appearance at Tacoma and then logging a 3.96 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 25 innings over 18 appearances for the Mariners.

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8 ) A second round pick out of Clemson University in 2011, 23-year-old Brad Miller is a left-handed hitting shortstop who batted .334 with a .922 OPS and 23 stolen bases between advanced Single-A and Double-A last season. Like Franklin, it is uncertain whether Miller will remain at shortstop or move to another position, but he has a productive bat that could lead Seattle to find a way for his presence in the lineup.

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9) A 12th round pick out of Oregon State in 2010, 24-year-old Stefen Romero is a power hitter who rarely strikes out and also hits for average. The second baseman belted 23 home runs and knocked in 101 in 474 at-bats between advanced Single-A and Double-A in 2012. With Franklin and Miller in the system, Romero could move to a corner infield spot. He was a third baseman in college.

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10) At the age of 17, Venezuelan right-hander Victor Sanchez was the youngest pitcher last season in the Northwest League and was impressive with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 15 starts and 85 innings. He allowed 69 hits and struck out 69. Sanchez is still raw, but he throws the ball with velocity and will improve once he develops his breaking pitches.

 


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