Several Mariners Ranked Amongst Top MLB Prospects

A few of the Mariners top minor league prospects have garnered some national publicity lately as MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo is taking a look at baseball’s top 10 prospects at each position. MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospects list has been expanded to 100, and will be unveiled on Wednesday, Jan. 25, on MLB.com as well as on a one-hour show on MLB Network, airing at 7 p.m. PT.

So far, MLB.com has looked at what they consider the top crop of right-handed pitchers, left-handed pitchers and shortstops, and the Mariners are represented on each list.

Starting with the right-handed pitchers, Taijuan Walker ranks No. 8. Walker, who doesn’t even turn 20 until Aug. 13, was the Mariners first selection in the 2010 Major League Baseball June Draft, taken 43rd overall in the supplemental first round. Walker is coming off a phenomenal first full professional season, earning Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors and being named the Midwest League’s top prospect by Baseball America. The 6-4, 210-pound native of Yucaipa, Calif., went 6-5 with a 2.89 ERA (31 ER, 96.2 IP) in 18 starts with the Clinton LumberKings. Here is the excerpt from MLB.com on Taijuan:

With the way Walker pitched in his first full season, the Mariners will quickly forget they didn’t have a first-round pick in 2010. The SoCal high school product was a multi-sport star and, as a result, is really focusing on pitching full-time for the first time as a professional. So far, so good, as Walker has been dominant as the Mariners have been cautious with him up until this point. The stuff is there, with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and excellent curve. His changeup is rapidly improving. That three-pitch mix, his size and athleticism could all add up to a frontline starter in the future.

Taijuan Walker was the Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011 (Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com ).

 A pair of Mariners are listed amongst the top 10 left-handed pitchers: Danny Hultzen (No. 3) & James Paxton (No. 8).

Hultzen had a dominant debut in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1-0 record with a 1.40 ERA (3 ER, 19.1 IP) in 6 starts with the Peoria Javelinas. He was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 June Amateur Draft out of the University of Virginia. His college career included a 32-5 record with a 2.08 ERA. Here is the excerpt from MLB.com on Danny:

While most thought the Mariners would go after Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, they actually had their sights set on Hultzen all along. The University of Virginia product is the kind of college lefty who is expected to move quickly, but he’s more than just a command/pitchability type. Hultzen’s velocity increased in his junior season, giving him a plus fastball from the left side as well as a plus changeup. His breaking ball — a slider — isn’t quite as good as those first two, but it’s a serviceable pitch, and Hultzen is the type of player who will work to improve it. If his performance in the Arizona Fall League is any indication, he should indeed be able to move quickly through the Mariners’ system.

Danny has been a busy guy recently. He recently attended Major League Baseball’s Rookie Career Development Program at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, VA (along with Paxton, Steve Delabar & Erasmo Ramirez). You can watch an interview with him at the Rookie Development Program talking about his performance in the Arizona Fall League and what is goals are for the 2012 season. And Danny also caught up with David Heck at MiLB.com for a fun Q&A.

Danny Hultzen went 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA in the Arizona Fall League (Jordan Megenhardt/MLB.com).

Paxton was listed as the No. 8 top left-handed pitching prospect, and could be one of the most intriguing names on the list. James didn’t sign with the Mariners until March, after being selected in the 4th round of the 2010 June Draft. He quickly made a name for himself as one of the premier strikeout pitchers, ranking ranked 2nd in the minor leagues with 12.41 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched. Here is the excerpt from MLB.com on James:

Paxton didn’t sign with the Mariners until March 2011, but he made up for lost time quickly by double-jumping from low Class A to Double-A during the season, pitching well at both levels. His two best pitches are his fastball — a truly plus offering he can crank up into the upper-90s — and an excellent power breaking ball. The improvement he’s shown with his changeup is a big reason why the Mariners are even more excited about his potential as a Major League starter. He was shut down a bit early last year, more as a precaution than anything. Seeing him Seattle’s rotation soon is not out of the question.

James Paxton ranked 2nd in the minors averaging 12.41 K/9.0 IP (Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com).

Nick Franklin was ranked as the No. 6 shortstop prospect. Despite missing an extended period of time in 2011 with a concussion after being hit in the head with a bat, Nick still had a solid “sophomore” campaign batting .281 (99×352) with 64 runs scored, 13 doubles, 7 triples, 7 home runs and 26 RBI with the AZL Mariners, High Desert Mavericks and Jackson Generals. He capped his 2011 season being named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a home run. Here is the MLB.com excerpt on Nick:

After Franklin went 20-20 in his first full season, everyone was excited to see what he would do in year No 2 in the Mariners system. But the 2011 season really never got going for the infielder because he was hit in the face with a bat during batting practice in June. He did eventually return and played well in the Arizona Fall League, named the No. 14 prospect there by MLB.com. Some feel a move from shortstop might be in Franklin’s future, but he’s played well enough to stay there for the time being. With 2011 now firmly behind him, Franklin will finally get the chance to show that 2010 was no fluke.

Nick Franklin was rated by MLB.com as the No. 6 top shortstop prospect (Ben VanHouten/Mariners).

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