3/24/2014 11:53 A.M. ET
How do the Mariners' prospects fit Seattle's needs?
By Bernie Pleskoff / MLB.com
This series is designed to evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization, looking at the short- and long-term needs of each club and illustrating how prospects fit in both scenarios.
Here's my look at the Mariners.
Seattle took the biggest free agent off the board this winter with the signing of Robinson Cano. Other free agents will add to the roster of players designed to score more runs and win more games. A nice mix of veterans and prospects should bode well for the club's future.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker is a flame-throwing 6-foot-4, 210-pound 2010 first-round Draft pick. The big, athletic Walker got a taste of life in the big leagues when he pitched for Seattle over three 2013 starts. He threw 15 innings with an ERA of 3.60 and a WHIP of 1.00 on his way to a 1-0 record.
PROJECTED '16 MARINERS LINEUPProjecting the Mariners' 2016 lineup based on the players in their system.
Walker's fastball is in the 93-98 mph rage, with late life. His slider is a solid secondary weapon. Walker can dominate a game when his command is in check. A strikeout pitcher, he can hold his velocity and get stronger as he goes along. Walker has the upside of an ace.
Like Walker, James Paxton realized some big league time last season, throwing 24 innings in four starts. He threw to an ERA of 1.50 with a WHIP of 0.91 and a 3-0 record. Paxton's fastball can sit at 95 unless he tries to ratchet it up a notch. His fastball/curveball combination is outstanding. Like Walker, Paxton must command those pitches to find success. Paxton, 25, is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds.
Left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen was the second player taken overall in the 2011 Draft. His promising career has been sidetracked by rotator cuff and labrum surgery.
When healthy, Hultzen throws a low-90s fastball and a wicked slider, among a four-pitch mix. He is as crafty as he is dominating. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Hultzen can confuse hitters, and the ball is often difficult to pick up out of his hand. He uses his height to his advantage, pitching as much downhill as possible. Hultzen's command escapes him upon occasion, but he usually returns to form quickly.
It will be interesting to see the new version of Hultzen once his rehab is complete. He is very tough on left-handed hitters.
Chris Taylor is among many Mariners middle-infield prospects. I was impressed with the way Taylor handled both his offense and defense in this past Arizona Fall League. He is a disciplined hitter and knows how to accept a walk.
At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Taylor is athletic and quick. He doesn't have much power, but he does bring basestealing speed to his game. Taylor uses the entire field very well. Last season, he swiped 38 bags between Class A Advanced High Desert (20) and Double-A Jackson (18).
Right-handed-hitting corner infielder D.J. Peterson was a first-round selection in the 2013 Draft. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he is an excellent hitter with quick hands through the ball. Peterson should be able to hit for average, as well as generate power. He makes things look easy, making good contact with an uncomplicated swing.
Right-handed-hitting catcher Tyler Marlette has the perfect frame for a catcher. He's 5-foot-11, 195 pounds. Marlette came to the Mariners in the 2011 Draft and has hit at every level at which he has played. In fact, he has a career .284 average in parts of three seasons. Marlette's short, compact swing generates good contact, but he still needs work on his defense.
Austin Wilson is 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and he should be roaming the outfield in a couple more years. His mechanics need a bit of refinement, but there is no doubt about his power potential. Wilson runs well and has the tools to play any outfield position.
Left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara was signed out of Brazil in 2012. In his first season at Rookie-level Pulaski, he started six games and threw to an ERA of 4.15 in 21 2/3 innings. Using a fastball that currently sits at 93 mph, Gohara could see his velocity ratchet up with continued maturation. He still has work to do on his secondary pitches, but he is a top-notch pitching prospect -- though a barking shoulder may become an issue in the future.
Edwin Diaz and Victor Sanchez represent the more distant future regarded right-handed pitchers. Diaz has pitched two seasons in the Mariners' system, and he has compiled a 7-3 record and a stellar 2.23 ERA in 14 starts and eight relief appearances. In Sanchez's two seasons, he has a 12-8 record in 35 starts. His ERA is also excellent, at 2.95.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.