Brandon Maurer will go to the AFL to possibly expand his role in the bullpen. : Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The offseason did not begin well for the Seattle Mariners. Danny Hultzen, the #23 prospect in all of baseball (Seattle’s #2), underwent shoulder surgery last week to repair a torn rotator cuff and is out indefinitely. He was expected to fit into the Mariners’ rotation alongside fellow star prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton in 2014. He also was expected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, one of seven Mariners selected to go. Here is a look at the other six who will be heading south with all rankings courtesy of mlb.com.
Chris Taylor-Taken in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, Taylor split time between second base and shortstop in 2013. He is the organization’s fifth-ranked prospect and spent time at Single A High Desert and Double A Jackson. Though he doesn’t have much pop, Taylor finds himself on base quite often as his .314/.409/.455 bears out. He also stole 38 bases in 44 attempts. Defensively, Taylor has improved his range and has soft hands. Seattle sees him as a better fit at second and is on track to make it to Safeco Field in 2015.
Stefen Romero-Despite being drafted as a third baseman, Romero has played almost every position during his Minor League career. In 2013 while at Triple A Tacoma, he played mostly in left field and produced a fine season. Romero hit 11 home runs and drove in 74 while producing a .277/.331/.448 line in 401-at bats. Seattle’s # 7 prospect, he very well could make the team out of Spring Training even if there is no available position at the moment. If Kendrys Morales signs elsewhere, perhaps Romero starts his big league career at first.
Carson Smith-Even with Hultzen’s injury, the Mariners have a wealth of young pitching talent. One of those guys is the side-arming Smith who, while a starter at Texas State, was switched to the bullpen upon joining the organization. He has been dominant in his time at High Desert and Jackson registering 30 saves to go along with a 6-4 record and a 2.41 in 93 games. He has struck out 148 batters in 112 innings allowing only 87 hits and 45 walks. His fastball hits 97 and his delivery makes batters uncomfortable. He can be a tremendous setup guy for the M’s.
Patrick Kivlehan-This 2012 fourth round pick played four years of football at Rutgers before switching back to baseball after not playing the sport since high school. He won the Big East Triple Crown and hasn’t stopped hitting. Kivlehan split 2013 between Clinton and High Desert hitting 16 home runs and driving in 90 with a line of .303/.366/.464. Defensively, he is OK at third base but the club may decide he is a better fit for the outfield. The #16 prospect, Kivlehan’s bat will eventually put him in the Majors within two years.
Dominic Leone-An arm that is less famous than Seattle’s other top guys, Leone’s results are as impressive as anyone’s. Since being taken in the 16th round of the 2012 draft, he has rocketed through the system landing all the way at Jackson in 2013. For his two seasons, Leone has appeared in 67 games registering a 4-3 record with a 1.95 ERA and 21 saves. In 97 innings, he has allowed 69 hits and 37 walks while striking out 103. He appears to have the makeup of a solid late inning guy despite his underwhelming size.
Brandon Maurer-The 23-year old has spent most of his career as a starting pitcher including 14 starts with the Mariners in 2013. Maurer also spent time in the bullpen while with the M’s appearing in eight games as a reliever. Overall, he was 5-8 with a 6.30 ERA. With so many arms slated for the rotation, Maurer may find his niche as a long reliever and spot starter, something that has worked out well for Josh Collmenter of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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