Seattle Mariners Top Prospects Grow Together In Minors

Seattle Mariners fans have waited patiently for a specific crop of young, talented prospects to make it to the big leagues. It’s been a long process, and one that’s weighed on the players as well.

Seattle Mariners Top Prospects

Seattle Mariners top prospects in Tacoma

“We’re doing our best,” Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen told me. “Hopefully, that call will come at some point. Obviously, it’s our goal to get there as soon as possible.”

Now, many of the top prospects M’s fans have been itching for are just one step away for the major leagues. They’re all currently playing for the AAA Tacoma Rainiers.

“You have that extra motivation knowing that you’re close” said catching prospect Mike Zunino. “You have to go out and handle your business day in and day out, and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later that you can make that jump and help the ball club up there win.”

I’m sure you know their names by now, but I’ll remind you anyway. There’s shortstop/second baseman Nick Franklin, starting pitcher James Paxton and the aforementioned Mike Zunino and Danny Hultzen.

“I love our team,” Franklin told me. “We bond well and we have great chemistry. We’ve played with each other coming up through the minor leagues. We’ve had a few additions, but we’ve been nothing but great. I enjoy it.”

Baseball America ranks the star-studded posse as four of the M’s top five prospects. Zunino is ranked No.1, followed by Hultzen (No. 3), Paxton (No. 4) and Franklin (No. 5). You’d think there might be big egos, but there’s not.

Seattle Mariners Top Prospects

Seattle Mariners top prospect Mike Zunino

“The best part of it to me is that everybody works together,” said Hultzen. “Nobody is trying to be too flashy. No one plays for themselves, which is always a good thing.”

Thanks to that teamwork, the long wait for reinforcements in Seattle is almost over. It’s not just exciting for the fans, it’s thrilling for the prospects as well.

“It’s really exciting to think we’re this close,” Paxton said to me. “It’s just one phone call and a short drive away and we’re there. So, we’re all getting ready and we’re real excited to help [the Mariners] at some point.”

For these four players it’s not a matter of “if” — it’s a matter of “when” they get called up to the big leagues. Until then, they’re honing their skills together in the minor leagues. We probably won’t be able to say that for long though. These prospects should all debut at Safeco Field sometime this season.

This is the story I put together for my television station on the Seattle Mariners top prospects. Click below to watch Mike Zunino, Nick Franklin, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen in action.

What do you think of the Seattle Mariners top prospects? Are they the answer at the big league level? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Don’t forget to read more about the Mariners right now on All Around Tim!

Seattle Mariners Prospect Mike Zunino On Fast Track

This year is off to a much calmer start for Seattle Mariners prospect Mike Zunino. Then again, 2013 is just beginning and it probably won’t stay calm for long, especially if Zunino keeps taking big steps in his development. It’s not much of a stretch to think Zunino drops the prospect tag and simply becomes an everyday player for the Mariners this season.

Mike Zunino | Mariners Prospect

Mike Zunino at Single-A Everett in 2012

2012 was a whirlwind for Mike Zunino. He started the year at the University of Florida where he hit .371 with 19 home runs and 69 runs batted in. Those numbers were good enough to earn Zunino the Golden Spikes Award as the best college player in the country, and his sensational season led to him being selected by the Seattle Mariners third overall in the draft. Zunino was then shipped to the Single-A Everett AquaSox (that’s when I first met him) where he hit .373 with 10 home runs in just 29 games before a promotion to Double-A Jacksonville. Zunino continued to rake for the Suns, hitting .333 with 3 home runs before the season came to an end 15 games later.

“2012 was pretty crazy,” Zunino told us at Mariners FanFest last weekend. “It was nice to take a deep breath and relax once the year ended, but it was a fun year and a good experience.”

The year was clearly big for Mike Zunino on the field, but it was also a huge summer for him off the diamond. Zunino married his high school sweetheart Alyssa Barry in October. The wedding happened in Florida, but the honeymoon was cut short thanks to — you guessed it – baseball. Mike and Alyssa had one night to celebrate at a hotel on the beach, and then packed up their stuff and left for the Arizona Fall League the next day.

“I told her that I’ll take her on an extended [honeymoon] after this season,” Zunino said. “She deserves it for putting up with everything that’s going on.”

Mike Zunino continued to shine in the Arizona Fall League. In 19 games with the Peoria Javelinas, he hit .288 with 2 home runs and 15 runs batted in. His overall 2012 performance was more than enough for the Mariners to invite him to big league Spring Training this season. He reports to camp in Arizona with pitchers and catchers on February 12th.

“I’m obviously going out there to compete at the best of my ability,” said Zunino. “I’m just looking forward to meeting all the guys, getting to know the pitching staff and just learning the ropes.”

Mike Zunino | Seattle Mariners Prospect

Mike Zunino taking batting practice at Everett in 2012

Mike Zunino is clearly on the fast track to the Major Leagues. He was pegged as the Mariners top prospect by Baseball America in the offseason. The magazine compared Zunino to former Boston Red Sox star (and M’s first round draft pick) Jason Varitek, saying Zunino has “All-Star potential as a middle-of-the-order hitter.” Most analysts expect to see Zunino in the big leagues at some point in 2013. As for Zunino, he would rather not think about it:

“I don’t have a say in the end,” he said. “It’s nice because I can just continue to work hard and when they think I’m ready, that’s when the jump will be made. I’m just going out there and playing to the best of my abilities everyday.”

It takes a unique player to go from the college ranks to the big leagues in less than a year, but Mike Zunino has the skill and approach to make it happen. If a promotion to the majors doesn’t happen in 2013 (which would be a huge surprise to me), his Major League Debut is bound to come in 2014. At this rate, Zunino isn’t giving the Mariners much of an option. If he stays healthy, they’ll have to call him up sooner or later, because there’s no stopping a train going full speed down the tracks.

Have you ever seen Seattle Mariners prospect Mike Zunino in action? What do you think of him? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on the world of sports, music and food!