Influx of youth to affect 2013
Despite their flurry of veteran pickups this winter, the Seattle Mariners are still entrenched in a youth movement. A movement that could mean the future of the organization.
With plenty of roster spots up for grabs—and some of the game’s top prospects chomping at the bit—the Mariners will have their hands full this Spring Training.
Any top prospect with a strong showing should have a shot at a roster spot. The only question is: who shows up and who heads back to the minors?
The obvious choices
Before Mike Zunino’s names was even uttered by the Mariner’s organization, the top hitting prospect was Nick Franklin. And until Zunino breaks into the upper echelon of the minors, it shall remain Franklin.
The switch-hitting shortstop spent his 2012 between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma. While he didn’t show as much home run power as he once did, he still flashed an ability to create runs.
Franklin posted career highs in doubles (32) and triples (nine) in 2012, as well as hitting 11 home runs—his highest total since 2010—and registering 55 RBI.
Franklin’s numbers took a hit with his promotion to Triple-A, but he managed to hit home runs at a better clip then he did at Jackson. With the light hitting Brendan Ryan his only competition, a strong Spring Training could certainly win Franklin a spot on the roster.
Carter Capps didn’t have a great cup of coffee in 2012, but he certainly made the best of the opportunity.
At 22 years old Capps is a flamethrower in every sense of the word. He has a career K/9 of 12.5 in the minors, and struck out 28 batters in 18 Major League appearances throughout last season—with a fastball that averaged 98.3 mph.
Capps could very well be the closer of the future. And while he might not take over that role in 2013, he’s still a shoe-in for a bullpen spot.
After posting a 1.19 ERA and 0.929 WHIP at Double-A Jackson last season, it seemed nothing was going to stop Danny Hultzen from making some September starts.
Then he was promoted to Triple-A and took a tremendous step back.
While at Tacoma, Hultzen struggled to the tune of a 5.92 ERA. He managed to increase his strikeout rate to 10.5 K/9, but also suffered a meteoric rise in his BB/9 to 8.0.
Hultzen obviously struggled with adjusting to the advanced competition, and it became a struggled for him to control the strike zone. But if anything else he continued to flash the devastating pitches that make him so good.
The 23-year-old lefty will get a chance to prove himself in Spring Training. If he can show a better understanding of the strike zone, a rotation spot will surely be his.
The pipe dreams
Another one of Seattle’s “Big Three” pitching prospects, James Paxton may have had the best 2012 when compared to his colleagues.
The 23-year-old spent his entire season at Double-A Jackson, posting a 3.05 ERA and 9.3 K/9 in 106.1 innings.
The only thing Paxton really struggled with was health, as he was able to start just 21 games last season. But he’s sure to receive an invitation to Spring Training, just as he did last season.
Paxton has advanced nicely, and if not for the injuries he could have surely seen some starts at Tacoma—or even Seattle—last season.
If he can prove himself in Spring Training, the M’s will have a hard time keeping him out of their rotation.
Taken in the 12th round of the 2010 draft, no one expected amazing things from Stefen Romero. And yet the young second baseman continues to shine in the minors.
Romero split 2012 between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, posting a combined line of .352/.391/.599 with 23 home runs and 101 RBI.
Romero has spent his time in the minors as an advanced player (drafted out of college) playing against younger competition. It’s hard to peg how his skills will transfer to higher levels—especially power, which could be hampered by his patience.
But Romero’s shown plenty of promise with a bat, and should continue to hit for a high average at the next level.
With Dustin Ackley at second base, Romero has to find a position to play. Nothing’s off the table, and Ackley could find himself playing outfield or first base in 2013. If that’s the case—and Romero has a strong Spring—he’s a darkhorse for the opening day lineup.