Jack Zduriencik has done a mediocre job of putting together a winning team at the MLB level as the Seattle Mariners GM, but he has done a great job of loading the organization up with some exceptional young pitching prospects.
We have already seen the #10 overall prospect in the Mariners system, Brandon Maurer, make the major league pitching rotation as the fourth starter. Although he is not very highly-regarded, Maurer will still make an impact right away for the team.
The “big three” of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have all been sent down to the minor leagues to start the 2013 season. All three of these pitchers proved that they can be effective against major league hitters while throwing during spring training, but will they have an impact at the major league level this year?
Hultzen threw four innings this spring and did not allow a run, and is probably the most major league ready out the three. He struggled with his command during the second half of last season while pitching in Triple-A, but he is throwing a lot more strikes now. The 23-year-old Hultzen should be ready for a call-up before the all-star break and will likely take Blake Beavan’s spot in the rotation.
Paxton is the dark horse of the group, featuring a fastball in the mid-90s, complemented by a solid curveball and a very polished changeup. Paxton struggled in three spring training outings, allowing six earned runs in less than four innings.
The 24-year-old left-hander has the stuff to be very successful in the MLB, but has only thrown around 100 innings in each of the last two seasons which could be holding him back. Paxton could see time in the major leagues this September, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Walker has the most potential of the three, as he is rated as the #5 overall prospect by MLB.com going into the 2013 season. In just about any other organization he would be projected as a #1 starter, but Walker will have no problem pitching behind Felix Hernandez in the future.
Of the three, Walker is the only one to be drafted out of high school and is not quite ready to pitch at the MLB level. If Walker dominates minor league hitters in 2013, it is possible that he could see a September call-up. I don’t expect to see him until Opening Day next year.
The Mariners are lucky to have so many talented young pitchers in their system. They all have potential to make an impact this year, but I don’t expect to see all them in major leagues until next season.