2013 Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports




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Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible.

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Though the Mariners finished last in the American League West for the third straight season, they continue to make marginal improvements under general manager Jack Zduriencik and to rebuild patiently after former GM Bill Bavasi left the team with bad contracts and a gutted farm system.

While the past few years have been bleak, Seattle's future appears brighter. It has a young core at the big league level, starting with Felix Hernandez, who threw the first perfect game in franchise history on Aug. 15 and continues to rank among the best pitchers in the game. Kyle Seager broke out and led the team with 20 home runs. Rookie Jesus Montero, acquired from the Yankees along with Hector Noesi for Michael Pineda and righthander Jose Campos in the offseason, became the youngest player (age 22) to hit 15 homers for the Mariners since Alex Rodriguez in 1998.

Despite the positives, the Mariners expected more from the likes of Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak. Drafted No. 2 overall behind Stephen Strasburg in 2009, Ackley batted just .226/.294/.328. Smoak, the key player in the Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers in 2010, was just as bad for most of the season but provided some hope by hitting .338 with five homers in September.

After finishing last in the AL in scoring for the fourth straight year, Seattle announced it would move the fences in at Safeco Field for 2013.
Hope is on the horizon, as the Mariners have one of the best farm systems in baseball. Seattle has top-tier talent, most notably an outstanding group of pitching prospects, along with depth and balance. Scouting director Tom McNamara and his staff have restocked the system in a short time, identifying quality players with their top picks—Ackley, righthander Taijuan Walker, lefty Danny Hultzen and catcher Mike Zunino—and finding value in the later rounds.

Jackson led the Double-A Southern League with a 3.37 ERA with a staff that featured all of the organization's top pitching prospects at some point. Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor contributed to the big league bullpen by the end of the season, while starters Walker, Hultzen, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer could arrive in 2013 after some Triple-A time.

The Mariners also have a few hitters on the way. Zunino had a stellar pro debut and reached Double-A after signing for $4 million as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Seattle has a number of middle-infield options in the upper minors as well, highlighted by Nick Franklin, Stefen Romero and Brad Miller.

After the season ended, the Mariners significantly revamped their international scouting department. They fired Latin America coordinator Patrick Guerrero, a move that prompted international scouting director Bob Engle to announce he wouldn't return when his contract expired. Both Engle and Guerrero joined the Dodgers.

Engle, who had been with Seattle since January 2000, oversaw the signings of Hernandez, Pineda, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and several other big leaguers. He previously had been the scouting director for the Blue Jays, with whom he was involved in drafting Cy Young Award winners Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay and Pat Hentgen.

To replace Engle, the Mariners hired Cubs crosschecker Tim Kissner. They also tabbed Red Sox crosschecker Tom Allison, a former Diamondbacks scouting director, as their pro scouting director.

1. Mike Zunino, c Born: Mar 25, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Florida, 2012 (1st round).  Signed by: Rob Mummau
Mike ZuninoBackground: Zunino has grown up around the game. His father Greg has been a scout for more than 25 years and currently works with the Reds. Coming out of Mariner High (Cape Coral, Fla.) in 2009, Zunino was regarded as a fifth-round talent but fell to the Athletics in the 29th round because of his strong commitment to Florida. He hit 47 homers in three seasons with the Gators, improving each season and leading them to three College World Series. He won the Baseball America College Player of the Year and Golden Spikes awards in 2012, when he batted .322/.394/.669 while ranking third in NCAA Division I with 28 doubles, fourth with 19 homers and fifth with 150 total bases. The first college player selected and the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, he signed for $4 million. His year continued to get better, as he batted .360/.447/.689 with 13 homers while reaching Double-A Jackson, then married his high school sweetheart before heading to the Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: From a pure tools standpoint, Zunino doesn't have a single attribute that really wows evaluators. Power is his best tool and it's his only one that scouts grade as plus. He shows an excellent ability to backspin balls, generating above-average pop to all fields. With his strong hands and forearms, he stays through the ball well and shows an advanced ability to drive pitches to the opposite field. He never gives away at-bats and has a patient, balanced approach. Zunino has below-average speed, but he has keen instincts and is a sound baserunner. Even with his muscular frame, he's agile behind the plate. He has a take-charge attitude and pitchers love throwing to him. Though Zunino handled plenty of talented pitchers at Florida, he'll need to continue to make subtle adjustments to handling a pro staff. He has strong hands but can box balls at times, and he allowed nine passed balls in 44 pro games. His arm strength is average to a tick above, and he gets the most out of it with smooth footwork and a quick transfer. He threw out 43 percent of basestealers during his first pro season. Overall, Zunino's sum is greater than his parts and his tools play up because of his makeup. He has a strong work ethic and is a natural leader on and off the field. He has the requisite toughness for his position and an excellent baseball IQ.

The Future: The last time the Mariners spent the No. 3 overall pick on a catcher, they passed up Troy Tulowitzki to take Jeff Clement in 2005. The decision to take Zunino should work out better, and he's on a fast track to the big leagues. He'll presumably attend big league spring training, though it's doubtful he'll be with the Mariners on Opening Day. More likely, he'll start the season with Triple-A Tacoma. He has all-star potential as a middle-of-the-order hitter at an up-the-middle position, drawing comparisons with Jason Varitek. With Seattle still a year away from contention if everything goes right, there's no need to rush Zunino, but he could force the team's hand if he continues to perform like he did in his debut. He renders moot any questions about Jesus Montero's ability to stay behind the plate.

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'12 Everett (SS) 110 29 41 10 0 10 35 18 26 1 0 .373 .474 .736
'12 Jackson (AA) 51 6 17 4 0 3 8 5 7 0 0 .333 .386 .588
Minor League Totals 161 35 58 14 0 13 43 23 33 1 0 .360 .447 .689

2. Taijuan Walker, rhp Born: Aug 13, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Yucaipa (Calif.) HS, 2010 (1st round supplemental).  Signed by: John Ramey
Taijuan WalkerBackground: A late convert to the mound after playing more shortstop and basketball early in his high school career, Walker signed for $800,000 as the 43rd overall pick in 2010. The Mariners' 2011 minor league pitcher of the year, he skipped a level to Double-A in 2012. He was the youngest pitcher in the Southern League by nearly a full year and part of the most prospect-laden pitching staff in the minors.

Scouting Report: Walker is a premium athlete with an ideal pitcher's frame. He sits 93-95 mph with his fastball, tops out at 97 and holds that velocity deep into games and over an entire season. His heater can flatten out at times, but he did a better job of commanding it in 2012. He short-arms his curveball at times, but when he stays loose and gets extension, it shows the potential to be a plus offering. Walker is getting more comfortable using his changeup, which has similar upside. He's also working on adding a cutter to his repertoire. He has electric stuff at times but still needs to command it better.

The Future: His 2012 stats may not show it, but Walker is one of the best pitching prospects in the game and a potential ace. He could return to Jackson to start 2013, though the Mariners may decide to keep their top pitching prospects together in Triple-A.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'10 Mariners (R) 1 1 1.29 4 0 0 7 2 3 1 0 3 9 .087
'11 Clinton (LoA) 6 5 2.89 18 18 0 97 69 33 31 4 39 113 .192
'12 Jackson (AA) 7 10 4.69 25 25 0 127 124 70 66 12 50 118 .246
Minor League Totals 14 16 3.82 47 43 0 231 195 195 98 16 92 240 .220

3. Danny Hultzen, lhp Born: Nov 28, 1989 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Virginia, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: Mike Moriarty
Danny HultzenBackground: Hultzen set Virginia records for career wins (32) and strikeouts (395) while leading the Cavaliers to their first two College World Series appearances. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, he signed an $8.5 million big league contract that included a club-record $6.35 million bonus. He dominated Double-A in his pro debut, but his control disappeared following a promotion to Triple-A in June.

Scouting Report: Despite his reputation as a polished strike-thrower, Hultzen walked as many batters in his first pro season (75) as he totaled in three years at Virginia. When he got into jams, he tended to overthrow instead of backing off a little or pitching smarter. While his numbers aren't pretty, his stuff was consistent. Hultzen works at 90-92 mph, can touch 95 and gets good movement on his fastball. His changeup is an above-average offering, though he sometimes throws it too hard. He's getting more consistent with his 80-84 mph slider, staying on top of the pitch more often. He uses an extreme knee bend and throws across his body, which helps create deception. The Mariners love his maturity.

The Future: Hultzen's control issues aren't a long-term concern. He still has the upside of a No. 2 starter. He'll return to Tacoma but should join Seattle's rotation during the season.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'12 Jackson (AA) 8 3 1.19 13 13 0 75 38 14 10 2 32 79 .144
'12 Tacoma (AAA) 1 4 5.92 12 12 0 49 49 35 32 2 43 57 .251
Minor League Totals 9 7 3.05 25 25 0 124 87 87 42 4 75 136 .190

4. James Paxton, lhp Born: Nov 6, 1988 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Grand Prairie (American Association), 2010 (4th round).  Signed by: Brian Williams/Jesse Kapellusch
James PaxtonBackground: The Blue Jays picked Paxton, a native Canadian, 37th overall out of Kentucky in 2009 but didn't sign him. Team president Paul Beeston told a Toronto newspaper he had negotiated with Paxton's agent Scott Boras, effectively ending Paxton's NCAA eligibility. He spent a spring in the independent American Association, went in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and signed for $942,500 in March 2011. He has carved up minor league hitters, slowed only by patellar tendinitis in his right knee that sidelined him for six weeks early in the 2012 season.

Scouting Report: Paxton is an imposing presence on the mound with his strong, workhorse build and two above-average pitches. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph and gets as high as 98. He has the best curveball in the system, a 76-79 mph hammer with 12-to-6 break. He's developing better feel for a changeup that he throws with a circle grip. Paxton has a long arm action and comes right over the top, creating deception and allowing him to pitch with good downward plane. However, the length in his delivery can hamper his command.

The Future: Paxton will get his first taste of Triple-A to start the 2013 season. The development of his changeup will determine if he can be a No. 2 starter. His fastball/curveball combination also could make him a closer.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 Clinton (LoA) 3 3 2.73 10 10 0 56 45 21 17 1 30 80 .211
'11 Jackson (AA) 3 0 1.85 7 7 0 39 28 10 8 2 13 51 .193
'12 Jackson (AA) 9 4 3.05 21 21 0 106 96 43 36 5 54 110 .231
Minor League Totals 15 7 2.73 38 38 0 201 169 169 61 8 97 241 .219

5. Nick Franklin, ss/2b Born: Mar 2, 1991 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte Springs, Fla., 2009 (1st round).  Signed by: Chuck Carlson
Nick FranklinBackground: Franklin signed for $1.28 million as the 27th overall pick in 2009 and led the Midwest League with 23 homers in his first full season. He found 2011 rockier while battling a concussion, mononucleosis and food poisoning, but got back on track in 2012 and reached Triple-A at age 21, making him the youngest position player in the Pacific Coast League.

Scouting Report: Franklin has a tightly wound build with quick-twitch athleticism and surprising strength. Those factors lead to sneaky power from his short, compact stroke. He projects to hit 15 homers a year in the big leagues while adding plenty of doubles. Though he's a switch-hitter, he has had little success from the right side because his stride gets too long. He might be more productive batting solely lefthanded. He's an adequate defender at shortstop, but he may fit better at second base because his range, hands and arm are all average. He's a solid runner with good instincts on the bases. He plays with a lot of confidence and can take his game up a notch when necessary.

The Future: Expected to return to Triple-A, Franklin should reach Seattle by the second half of the season. He profiles as a solid regular who could play in a few All-Star Games.

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 Mariners (R) 43 6 13 2 0 1 4 1 6 0 0 .302 .318 .419
'09 Everett (SS) 20 4 8 2 1 0 2 1 2 1 0 .400 .429 .600
'10 Clinton (LoA) 513 89 144 22 7 23 65 50 123 25 10 .281 .351 .485
'10 West Tenn (AA) 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 .667 .750 .667
'11 High Desert (HiA) 258 50 71 10 5 5 20 31 56 13 1 .275 .356 .411
'11 Mariners (R) 11 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 .091 .091 .091
'11 Jackson (AA) 83 13 27 3 2 2 6 6 18 5 3 .325 .371 .482
'12 Jackson (AA) 205 25 66 17 4 4 26 24 38 9 2 .322 .394 .502
'12 Tacoma (AAA) 267 39 65 15 5 7 29 24 68 3 2 .243 .310 .416
Minor League Totals 1403 230 397 71 24 42 152 138 318 56 18 .283 .351 .458

6. Brandon Maurer, rhp Born: Jul 3, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS, 2008 (23rd round).  Signed by: Tim Reynolds
Brandon MaurerBackground: Maurer missed the Area Code Games before his senior high school season because of strep throat, but he got plenty of looks in the spring pitching in the rotation at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High with Gerrit Cole. Signed for $150,000, Maurer had elbow problems in 2010 and shoulder woes in 2011, though he avoided surgery. Healthy in 2012, he nearly doubled his career high with 138 innings and the Mariners named him their most improved minor leaguer.

Scouting Report: Maurer has an athletic frame and shows the potential for four solid pitches. His two best weapons are his 93-95 mph fastball (which tops out at 97) and a swing-and-miss slider. He sharpened his curveball and improved his ability to throw it for strikes in 2012. He also developed better feel for this changeup and the confidence to throw it 12-15 times a game. Maurer shows above-average control but still needs to learn when to expand the strike zone and entice hitters to chase. The key to his health was his commitment to conditioning in the offseason, as he moved to Arizona for the winter to work out at the Mariners' training complex.

The Future: The increased workload and success of the 2012 season gave Maurer a confidence boost and gave Seattle yet another pitching prospect with frontline potential. He'll open 2013 in Triple-A.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'08 Mariners (R) 1 2 3.09 8 5 0 23 20 8 8 1 8 25 .222
'09 Pulaski (R) 3 4 3.61 13 12 0 67 67 36 27 4 18 51 .249
'10 Mariners (R) 0 1 1.64 4 4 0 11 8 4 2 0 2 14 .195
'10 Clinton (LoA) 0 1 2.08 2 0 0 4 5 2 1 1 0 6 .278
'11 Clinton (LoA) 1 3 3.41 7 6 0 37 28 16 14 2 14 44 .201
'11 High Desert (HiA) 2 4 6.38 9 7 0 42 47 32 30 8 11 37 .270
'12 Jackson (AA) 9 2 3.20 24 24 0 138 133 54 49 4 48 117 .244
Minor League Totals 16 17 3.66 67 58 0 322 308 308 131 20 101 294 .242

7. Carter Capps, rhp Born: Aug 7, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Mount Olive (N.C.), 2011 (3rd round supplemental).  Signed by: Garrett Ball
Carter CappsBackground: A catcher in high school, Capps redshirted in his first year at NCAA Division II Mount Olive (N.C.) before converting to pitcher in 2010. After going 24-1 in two seasons, he signed for $500,000 in 2011. Capps did not allow an earned run in May or June and became the third player from the 2011 draft to reach the majors.

Scouting Report: Capps' fastball is easily an 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. He sits at 97-99 mph and had the second-highest average fastball velocity (98.3) in the majors in 2012, behind only the Royals' Kelvin Herrera. Capps also misses bats with a plus breaking ball. It has slider velocity and movement at 83-86 mph, but he calls it a curveball and uses a curveball grip. His third pitch is an average changeup. Capps hides the ball well, and his drop-and-drive, crossfire delivery makes it seem as though he's starting pitches behind the backs of righthanders. His to-do list includes sharpening his command and getting quicker to the plate with runners on base.

The Future: Capps already has earned a late-inning role for the Mariners in 2013. He has the potential to develop into a dominant closer.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 Clinton (LoA) 1 1 6.00 4 4 0 18 19 12 12 1 10 21 .260
'12 Jackson (AA) 2 3 1.26 38 0 19 50 40 8 7 2 12 72 .211
'12 Tacoma (AAA) 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000
'12 Seattle (MAJ) 0 0 3.96 18 0 0 25 25 11 11 0 11 28 .250
Major League Totals 0 0 3.96 18 0 0 25 25 25 11 0 11 28 .250
Minor League Totals 3 4 2.48 43 4 19 69 59 59 19 3 22 96 .222

8. Stefen Romero, 2b Born: Oct 17, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 225
Drafted: Oregon State, 2010 (12th round).  Signed by: Joe Ross
Stefen RomeroBackground: Romero hit 13 home runs as an Oregon State junior in 2010, but he still lasted 12 rounds in the draft, in part because he broke his elbow late in the season. After signing for $100,000 he focused on improving his conditioning and agility, which gave him a better chance to stick at second base. He won Mariners minor league player of the year honors in 2012, leading the system in hitting (.352) and slugging (.599).

Scouting Report: The Mariners view Romero as the best pure hitter in the system. His swing has balance and rhythm, and he shows good bat control along with strong wrists and forearms. He doesn't draw a lot of walks, but he also doesn't strike out much for a player with solid power. He has a grinder mentality and the ability to make in-game adjustments. Romero is an outlier with his size at second base, where he's adequate defensively. He has below-average speed and range, though he does possess solid arm strength. He played third base in college and profiles better there or on an outfield corner.

The Future: Romero profiles as an above-average hitter with the potential for 20 homers a season. If he can do that, Seattle will find a spot in its lineup for him, perhaps at some point during the 2013 season.

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'11 Clinton (LoA) 429 62 120 22 4 16 65 32 69 16 9 .280 .342 .462
'12 High Desert (HiA) 258 47 92 19 3 11 51 13 35 6 2 .357 .391 .581
'12 Jackson (AA) 216 38 75 15 4 12 50 14 37 6 3 .347 .392 .620
Minor League Totals 903 147 287 56 11 39 166 59 141 28 14 .318 .368 .534

9. Brad Miller, ss Born: Oct 18, 1989 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185
Drafted: Clemson, 2011 (2nd round).  Signed by: Garrett Ball
Brad MillerBackground: The 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, Miller went in the second round that June and signed for $750,000. He hasn't batted lower than .320 at any of his four pro stops, reaching Double-A and ranking second in the minors with 186 hits in his first full pro season.

Scouting Report: Miller long has drawn comparisons to Craig Counsell, mostly because of his similar stance at the plate. Miller does start with his hands high, but isn't as unorthodox and has a simple load and quick swing. He uses a contact-oriented approach, letting his hands work and shooting balls from gap to gap. He hits towering home runs in batting practice and could have close to average power. Miller always has been an erratic defender, and his 36 miscues ranked 10th in the minors in 2012. He has smooth actions and good footwork at shortstop, but his inconsistent arm slots results in errant throws. He has average range and arm strength that may be a better fit at second base. He has solid speed and runs the bases well.

The Future: Miller's feel for hitting, leadership and desire can make him an everyday player in the majors. He's similar to Kyle Seager but offers more defensive versatility. Miller likely will return to Double-A with the chance for another midseason promotion.

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'11 Clinton (LoA) 53 9 22 4 1 0 7 4 9 1 0 .415 .458 .528
'12 High Desert (HiA) 410 89 139 33 5 11 56 52 79 19 6 .339 .412 .524
'12 Jackson (AA) 147 21 47 7 2 4 12 22 26 4 1 .320 .406 .476
Minor League Totals 610 119 208 44 8 15 75 78 114 24 7 .341 .414 .513

10. Victor Sanchez, rhp Born: Jan 30, 1995 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 255
Signed: Venezuela '11 Signed by: Luis Martinez/Emilio Carrasquel/Bob Engle
Victor SanchezBackground: The best pitcher on the international market in 2011, Sanchez signed for $2.5 million, the most the Mariners ever have spent on a foreign amateur. Assigned to the short-season Northwest League for his pro debut, at 17 he was the youngest player in a circuit where the average pitcher was 21. He finished second in the NWL in innings (85) and strikeouts (69).

Scouting Report: Everett teammates called him "Ray Lewis" after the Baltimore Ravens linebacker because Sanchez is a tough competitor with broad shoulders, a powerful lower half and long arms with huge hands. He pitches at 90-94 mph with his fastball and can spot it on both sides of the plate. He loves to throw his above-average changeup, which has nice fade. Sanchez throws both a curveball and slider, but the pitches tend to blend together. Seattle wants him to focus on the slider for now. He also needs to work on repeating his delivery and some of the finer aspects of pitching. He shows poise beyond his years when it comes to adding and subtracting from his pitches to keep hitters off balance.

The Future: Sanchez's physicality, stuff and feel will allow him to handle a full-season assignment to low Class A Clinton in 2013. While he doesn't have a lot of projection remaining in his chiseled frame, he profiles as a solid No. 3 starter.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'12 Everett (SS) 6 2 3.18 15 15 0 85 69 37 30 5 27 69 .213
Minor League Totals 6 2 3.18 15 15 0 85 69 69 30 5 27 69 .213