5 Seattle Mariners Prospects You Must Watch During Spring Training
Seattle Mariners: 5 Prospects to Watch During Spring Training
Spring Training is an exciting time of the year for each and every MLB team. By this time next week, pitchers and catchers will have reported for every team in baseball. Spring Training always seems to give teams a fresh start, and even the most pessimistic fans think that their team has a shot to turn it around this season.
One thing that is always exciting for fans during Spring Training is to see the new players that their team signed or traded for in their new uniforms for the first time. Sure, it will be fun for fans of the Seattle Mariners to watch guys like Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and Fernando Rodney for the first time, but the talk of Spring Training will be centered around new 2B Robinson Cano.
Early in the offseason, the Mariners landed the biggest fish on the open market when they signed Cano to a 10-year contract worth $240 million. This deal may not put Seattle in the best position possible for the future, but it did instantly turn the franchise into a serious contender.
Another great reason to tune into Spring Training is to watch the prospects. The Mariners have an impressive minor league system, but a majority of their higher ranked players are very young and still far away from the big leagues. That being said, there will certainly be plenty of prospects worth checking out at big league camp.
With the Mariners obviously playing to win this season, the prospects who can help at the major league level in 2014 are the most interesting to me. Whether that be a guy who can step in right away and pitch strong innings out of the rotation or an end of the roster player who provides depth at much-needed positions, the Mariners have plenty of players worth watching. Here are 5 prospects in the Seattle system to watch during Spring Training.
5. Stefen Romero, OF
Outfield is one of the biggest question marks on the Seattle roster. It is unlikely that Stefen Romero opens the season with the big league club, but I think there is a very good chance he plays a strong role on this team before it is all said and done.
Romero shows strong contact skills with solid power at the plate. He hit .277/.331/.448 in 411 plate appearances at Triple-A last season. The current crop of Mariners' outfielders are very injury-prone, and if one of them happens to go down, Romero is the likely candidate to take the position. He is certainly a guy to keep an eye on in Spring Training.
4. Chris Taylor, SS
A combination of Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, with Miller getting the most time, is the most likely scenario at the SS position for the 2014 Mariners. Both players have shown nice ability, but they are completely unproven at the major league level.
After hitting .314/.409/.455, stealing 38 bases and playing great defense at SS, Chris Taylor was named Seattle's 2013 Minor League Player of the Year. He has done nothing but hit since the Mariners drafted him in 2012 and has earned himself an invite to big league camp at Spring Training this season.
Out of the three, Taylor is probably the most talented. That being said, he only had 256 at bats in Double-A last season and could probably use some more time in the minors. However, with Seattle's win-now mentality, I would not be surprised to see them bring him up at some point if he continues to perform and the Miller/Franklin combination struggles.
3. Carson Smith, RP
Carson Smith is a big, hard-throwing RHP that profiles as a closer in the future. At 23-years-old, Smith was the closer in Double-A for the Mariners last season, and he was magnificent. Smith was named the organization's Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year when he recorded 15 saves, had an ERA of 1.80 and struck out an incredible 12.8 batters per nine innings.
The Mariners have the makings of a solid bullpen, but Smith would be just another weapon for them to use. If he has a good spring, I believe Smith will be on the 25-man-roster on Opening Day.
2. James Paxton, SP
The Mariners have one of the best one-two combinations at the top of a rotation in baseball with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma leading the way. After that there are a ton of question marks in the pitching staff. James Paxton is one of the best prospects in the system, and he could really help the Mariners shore up the pitching staff.
Paxton throws a mid-90s fastball and an incredible curveball, but his stuff never really translated to dominating numbers in the minors. He spent a majority of 2013 at Triple-A where he struggled going 8-11 with a 4.45 ERA. Paxton has always struggled with control as his four walks per nine innings in three full minor league seasons show.
The Mariners gave Paxton a shot at the big league level late last season, and he was great going 3-0 in four starts with a 1.50 ERA. Obviously, it was a small sample size, but it was nice to see Paxton perform well in the majors.
He will be given an opportunity to compete for a job in the big league rotation in Spring Training. Paxton can not only help tremendously this season, but he could easily become a key part of the future of the Mariners.
1. Taijuan Walker, SP
Taijuan Walker is arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball, and similarly to Paxton, he will be given every opportunity to win a job in the rotation out of Spring Training. Walker is a big RHP with the total package. If you were able to build an ace pitcher from scratch, you would come out with something very close to Walker.
He has great athleticism, repeats his delivery like a 10-year veteran, has a mid 90s fastball, a great cutter, a knockout curveball and great control on all of his pitches. Simply put, Walker is the total package, and as long as he performs anywhere near his potential in Spring Training he will be in the starting rotation to start the season.