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Topic: taijuan walker

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February 23, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Some positive signs for Mariners today

Mariners left-handed pitching prospect Danny Hultzen was overpowering at times in the fifth inning of today’s Cactus League game against San Diego.

There were plenty of positives to take out of today’s Mariners win over the San Diego Padres, starting with two of the hitters. We already talked about Jason Bay in the previous post, but Justin Smoak also hit a two-run homer today and did it batting from the left side. Smoak is a natural right-handed hitter so the left side will always be the one he has to work with.

Not to mention, it’s also the side he’ll use about three quarters of the time, since there are far more right-handed pitchers in the game than lefties.

“It’s feeling better,” Smoak said. “It’s still a work in progress, but at the same time this is as close as I’ve felt for awhile to being where I want to be. So, it’s getting better.”

If Smoak hits like that from the left side all year, the Mariners will gain a real impact bat. But let’s wait and see first. It’s only his spring training debut.

On the pitching side, Blake Beavan has spent the spring so far working to generate a more downward plane on his pitches and it showed today. The Padres managed only two hits in his two innings and one was a blooper. None of his pitches were hit very hard, which has been the case with Beavan in the past when his fastball straightens out.

When you think of generating a downward plane, Doug Fister quickly comes to mind. He became a master at using only a couple of pitches to repeatedly get hitters out on soft contact, largely because they could not square up on all the downward-angled balls headed their way.

“I’m trying to create some more angle,” he said. “So, I got to work on some of that out there today and put it to the real test out there with some opposing hitters in more of a game situation.”

The biggest mechanical change sees Beavan getting his hands moving a little more and with more rhythm during his windup. Out of the stretch, he’ll start with his glove up higher and closer to his face. He’ll then break his hands away more quickly to try to generate the angle he’s looking for.

“I’d try to compare myself to Fister but I’m not that big as he is,” Beavan said. “But that’s kind of the way I’m trying to get my hands separated so I can get more of a downward plane on the ball. Get everything going downhill and use my height to my advantage rather than getting underneath stuff and getting more rotation. That’s how your ball flattens out.”


Comments | More in Cactus League | Topics: Blake Beavan, Justin Smoak, taijuan walker

February 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Jason Bay and Mariners beat Padres by score of 8-6

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Jason Bay made his presence felt today, clubbing a two-run homer in the first inning of his spring debut. Justin Smoak and Mike Jacobs later added a pair of two-run blasts of their own to complete an 8-6 win over the San Diego Padres.

Bay is in a dogfight with Casper Wells for the fifth and final outfield spot, barring any injuries. Wells hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning yesterday, so Bay just evened the count between them. I’d spoken to Bay about this, his chances this spring and his outlook on his future even before he took the field today. More on that later.

But today, he repeated some of what he told me when speaking to reporters after coming off the field.

“I’m more worried about what I can do,” he said. “I understand there’s a limited number of people and a limited number of spots. I’m not so concerned about ‘Who does this?’ I’m worried about me. I was under that impression when I came here. I’ve still got to make the team.”


Comments | More in Cactus League | Topics: Blake Beavan, danny hultzen, Jason Bay

February 15, 2013 at 8:45 AM

Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen shrugs off winter trade rumors, looking forward to second pro season

Mariners manager Eric Wedge oversees stretch by Mariners pitchers and catchers at spring training in Peoria, AZ.

Felix Hernandez is in the house, chatting up teammates and clubhouse attendants as the Mariners head into their third day of workouts here in Peoria. We’ll speak to Hernandez when he’s done working out this morning — he’ll just play catch, no bullpen sessions.

I caught up with another pitcher who could be joining Hernandez in the rotation at some point. Danny Hultzen is one of the charter “Big Three” members from Seattle’s minor league trio of arms — James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are the others — and got the furthest of any of the young hopefulls last season by making a dozen starts in Class AAA.

Seattle’s so-called “Big Three” minor league pitchers — Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton — will likely be a less-hyped story this spring.

Unfortunately for him, the AAA call-up is where he ran out of gas.

“I just couldn’t throw strikes,” Hultzen said. “I had no idea where the ball was going. You can ask anyone I played catch with — I couldn’t hit them in the chest when we were playing catch. I have no idea how that happened or why that happened. I think it was…just being tired.”

The AAA numbers speak for themselves: a 1-4 record, 5.92 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 43 walks in 48 2/3 innings. The 10.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings was a positive sign he still had stuff to overwhelm AAA hitters. But the walks are an indicator that, yes, he really had no idea where his pitches were going to wind up.

An interesting side note to the “Prospects Game” that people love to play every winter — staking their claim to the Next Big Thing — is that there will always be somebody cast aside in favor of the new flavor of the month. Hultzen isn’t exactly Vinnie Catricala when it comes to one year’s big hype turning into the following year’s pumpkin. But nor is Hultzen as shiny and new to some sideline pundits as he once was. You hear words like “mid-rotation” or even “back end” guy associated with his name now, barely a year after he was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

It’s ridiculous, of course.


Comments | More in spring training | Topics: danny hultzen, james paxton, taijuan walker

January 7, 2013 at 4:06 PM

A primer for any Mariners trade discussion that happens in coming weeks

Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin has been the subject of trade rumors all winter long after strong Arizona Fall League showing. Photo Credit: AP

We’re now almost a week into the New Year and still have not seen resolution to the Mariners’ ongoing quest to add a bat. It was a week ago today on New Year’s Eve that word first broke the Mariners might be in on a trade for Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since then, nary a word. The rumor-du-jour of the past few days is that the Mariners are trying to deal for outfielder Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks. That’s still generating buzz as of today. I can tell you that in conversations with a source last week, I was told that the Mariners continue to shop for a corner outfield/power bat on the trade front and that this is taking priority over any free agent quest for now.

Makes sense. Until the Mariners determine what they can actually get via trade — and whether or not a pitcher will also come with that bat — it’s tough to make a call on who to spend the free agent money on.

The trick here will to not be fooled into waiting too long for the market to play out. We saw a bit of that last year when the Mariners hung in on Prince Fielder — waiting to see whether his market would drop to much lower levels — then ran out of time to sign anybody else.

Anyhow, if the Mariners do make a deal, it could very well involve one of their top prospects. Some of you might know something about those, while others may not. One of the better primers I’ve seen out there on the team’s top-5 prospects was just put out right here by local writer Rick Randall.

His list has:

1. Taijuan Walker

2. Mike Zunino

3. Danny Hultzen

4. Nick Franklin

5. James Paxton

I have no problem with the list. In fact, I get a little bemused when I see lists that have already bumped Big 3 member James Paxton out of the top-5 despite the fact he did little last season to merit such a drop. If we were to go off command issues as a docking point, Danny Hultzen could be ousted as well. Paxton could very well be the most major league ready of any of the Big 3 depending on what he does this spring. Bottom line: a few starts in the Arizona Fall League won’t make or break his career. Nor do they erase what he did in the second half of last season in AA. We’ll learn more this spring, but he’s still in my top-5 list and Randall’s as well.

Now, we can quibble with the order of some of the prospects — I wonder about Taijuan Walker at No. 1 since he’s yet to pitch an inning of Class AAA ball — but most lists have him in the top-2 and he’s definitely being hyped about as high as the hype machine can possiblly go. His youth (age 19 last season) has everything to do with it, since Paxton and others had better AA numbers. The higher the perceived upside, the better the rankings usually go.

And when you’re playing the prospects game, it’s as much about hype and hope as it is about facts.

Some of what I liked about the list is that it’s more up-to-date on recent developments than other top-10 or top-5 compilations involving the Mariners. Many of those were done by national publications that miss a lot of the local intricacies. On Randall’s list, you see mentioned up-top the ongoing debate about whether Nick Franklin really has a future as a major league shortstop. Based on what I’ve heard, I’d be very suprised if he did — especially here in Seattle.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Randall points out. But it limits Franklin’s possibilities with the Mariners and if we’re discussing trade bait, that element certainly must come into play here.


Comments | More in trades | Topics: Jack Zduriencik, Mike Zunino, nick franklin