MLB Seattle Mariners

Top 10 Seattle Mariners Prospects

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Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects

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Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Mariners have seen some tough times recently. They seem trapped in the cellar of the AL West, they’ve finished last in the AL in runs scored four straight years and the playoffs seem like a pipe dream as the rest of the division improves their rosters. However, the one bright spot in Seattle is the rich farm system that GM Jack Zduriencik has stocked with talent.

In fact, the Mariners farm system is ranked among the very best in all of baseball. That stockpiling of talent is the way you build up a foundation for long-term success, so the Mariners are giving their fans some reason to hope. The future is bright for the M’s with so much potential and promise waiting in the wings. “Potential,” however doesn’t equal wins on the diamond. It will likely still be several years before all this talent works itself up through the farm system to become contributing stars with the major league club. The key for Seattle fans will be patience, something they’ve heard for a long time now. But the talent on its way makes it easier to wait for.

The farm system is known for its incredible arms, but the Mariners also have some very promising position players on their way as well. The strength of the farm system is still the pitching, though, as five of the top 10 prospects will take the mound for Seattle at some point in the future and three of the top five. Added to the strong rotation that Seattle already boasts, and the pitching staff for the Mariners will continue to be one of the best in baseball.

Without further ado, we count down the top 10 prospects for the Seattle Mariners.

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10. Stefen Romero, IF

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Joy R. Absalon - USA TODAY Sports

Stefen Romero was drafted out of college by the Mariners in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. The former Oregon State standout enjoyed a very successful first season of pro ball in 2011 and followed it up with an even better 2012. Romero dominated the California League over the first half of the season and then transitioned to the Double-A Southern League and continued to hit well. He proved that his early success wasn’t just a product of the hitter-friendly confines of High Desert.

Romero has decent power and a solid approach at the plate, making consistent contact and limiting his strikeouts. While he played third base in college, he has made the transition the right side of the infield and could make an interesting prospect as an offensive minded second baseman at the major league level.

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9. Brad Miller, SS

Brad Miller
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Brad Miller was another college star drafted by the Mariners. The Clemson Tigers product signed late in 2011 but showed what he was capable of in limited time with a .415 batting average over 14 games. He continued that production in 2012 and proved it wasn’t a flash in the pan. He finished the year hitting .334 with an OPS of .922 between the California and Southern Leagues.

Miller proved himself to be a hard-nosed middle infielder with an ability to handle the bat well in a competitive ACC where he was the player of the year in 2011. There is some question whether or not Miller will be able to stick at short stop in the major leagues, but at the very least he will make for a quality utilityman at the next level.

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8. Vincent Catricala, 3B/OF

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Steven Bisig - USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Catricala was drafted by Seattle back in 2009 in the 10th round. The team was hoping that his good hitting was not a product of the hitter-friendly confines of the California League when his OPS went up following a promotion to Double-A during his breakout 2011 season. Catricala seemed to stall a bit, however, in 2012 when he struggled offensively following his promotion to Triple-A for the 2012 season.

When he is locked in, however, Catricala has shown he can hit with a batting average over .300 at every stop prior to 2012. His bat speed can generate power and he has shown a willingness to take walks with good patience in the past. He has played multiple positions, though none of them have jumped out as positions that he will stick with at the major league level. If he can rebound at the plate, he can make a nice career as a corner outfielder or as an offensive-minded utilityman.

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7. Carter Capps, RHP

Carter Capps
Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY Sports

Carter Capps is a big-bodied pitcher who dominated during his two-year stint at Mount Olive College. After getting his feet wet in 2011, Capps shot through the Mariners’ system posting a 1.26 ERA in 50 innings of relief while striking out an average of 13 batters per nine innings at Double-A Jackson. He was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma where he made one appearance before getting called up the MLB level July 31.

Capps has a plus fastball that can approach triple-digits in short stints. Many project Capps as a back-of-the-bullpen arm with his ability to throw hard in small spurts, but he has had some success as a starter. He also uses a slider, curve and change-up, though his curve and change still need work. At any rate, Capps is a huge arm with a ton of upside for the M’s.

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6. Stephen Pryor, RHP

Stephen Pryor
Joe Nicholson - USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Pryor was drafted by Seattle back 2010 and struggled out of the gate at High Desert. However, when he got promoted to Double-A, he became lights out, allowing just 3.6 hits per nine innings. He was dominant in the Southern League to start 2012 before getting promoted to Triple-A, where he was even better as he didn’t allow a run in 16 appearances and striking out 20 in 20 innings pitched.. That prompted the team to call up the young power arm to the major league team.

Pryor has cut his walk rate way down since being drafted and has shown an improved ability to control his power pitches, highlighted by his plus fastball. Last season with the M’s, Pryor went 3-1 with a 3.91 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched.

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5. James Paxton, LHP

James Paxton
Jerry Lai - USA TODAY Sports

James Paxton was a late signing for the Mariners in 2011, but he quickly made up for lost time by double-jumping from Single-A to Double-A and pitching well in both spots. He was shut down early in 2011 more from a precautionary standpoint and missed some time in 2012 with a sore knee, but when healthy, the left-hander is a promising prospect to join the starting rotation.

Paxton’s two best pitches are a plus fastball that can be cranked up into the upper 90s and an excellent power breaking ball. His improved change-up is a big reason why the Mariners are excited about Paxton coming up and breaking into the rotation as a starting pitcher. Assuming he’s healthy, seeing Paxton take the hill for the M’s as a starter sooner rather than later isn’t out of the question.

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4. Mike Zunino, C

Mike Zunino
Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

The first round pick by the Mariners in the 2012 draft, Mike Zunino could make it the major leagues sooner rather than later. The winner of the 2012 Golden Spikes Award, Zunino is likely to shoot through the minor leagues to become Seattle’s every day catcher soon, addressing a pressing need for the big league club.

There has been some concern over an up-and-down junior season at Florida, but Zunino has excellent bat speed and loft, which should translate into good power as a pro. He should hit for average and pop and he’s a natural leader behind the plate who can lead a pitching staff. He’s got a good arm, accurate throws, excellent hands and the makeup to stick behind the plate. He should develop into a middle-of-the-order run-producing bat, something the M’s could desperately use.

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3. Nick Franklin, SS

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Joe Nicholson - USA TODAY Sports

Nick Franklin was the first round selection of the Mariners in 2009 and had everyone excited about his progression through the farm system. He was set back in 2011 after getting hit in the face with a bat during batting practice which sidelined him most of the year. He bounced back and played well early in 2012 at Double-A Jackson before being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma.

At Tacoma, Franklin split his time evenly between shortstop and second base, possibly signaling Franklin’s transition out of the shortstop position. Franklin has routinely been rated as one of the top prospects in all of baseball and will be a major piece for the building of Seattle’s future.

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2. Danny Hultzen, LHP

Danny Hultzen
H. Darr Beiser - USA TODAY Sports

Danny Hultzen was a surprise pick in the first round for the Mariners in 2011 out of the University of Virginia. He has moved quickly through the Mariners’ farm system, pitching in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and then Double-A and Triple-A in his first full season in 2012.

Hultzen was able to improve his velocity during his junior season at Virginia, giving him a plus fastball from the left side to go with a plus changeup. Hultzen also uses a slider, though it isn’t as good a pitch as his other two, but the young lefty is working to improve it. Expect Hultzen to push in Spring Training for a spot in the starting rotation with the major league club.

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1. Taijuan Walker, RHP

Taijuan Walker
Denny Medley - USA TODAY Sports

Taijuan Walker was the first selection for the Mariners in 2010 and he quickly proved validated their choice to take the high school multi-sport star. 2011 was the first time that Walker was focusing on pitching full-time in his career and he responded well. He held his own in 2012 at Double-A where he pitched all season at just 19 years old.

Walker has excellent stuff with a mid-to-high 90s fastball that he offsets with an excellent curve ball. He has been working on and rapidly improving his changeup as well. That three pitch mix, combined with his size and athleticism, make Walker a sure-fire frontline starter down the road and the best prospect in the Mariners’ system.

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