Top Mariners Prospects on the Move

As expected, pitcher Danny Hultzen is headed to the Pacific Coast League for the second half of the minor league season. Shortstop Nick Franklin will be joining him, while infielder Stefen Romero and left-handed pitcher Anthony Fernandez are set to take their places in Double-A.

As Ryan Divish let the world know on Twitter tonight, top prospects Danny Hultzen and Nick Franklin are finally headed to Tacoma after representing the Jackson Generals one last time in the Double-A All-Star game tonight.

Hultzen started and pitched a scoreless first inning for the Southern League North All-Stars in his final action as a Double-A player this afternoon, and the 2nd overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft heads to Tacoma with a sparkling 1.19 ERA in the first 13 professional starts of his baseball career. Since his first start -- when he allowed five earned runs and eight baserunners in four innings and admitted he had some nerves -- Hultzen has gone 8-2 with a 0.63 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP in 12 starts while allowing opposing batters to hit just .144 (34 for 216) in 71 1/3 innings. Left-handers have just six hits in 64 at bats (.094) off of the Virginia product and have managed a .362 OPS, and right-handers haven't been much better, hitting only .170 with a .495 OPS. Mariners Director of Minor League Operations Chris Gwynn told me today that it was about time to challenge Hultzen, "Clearly Danny has dominated at that (the Double-A) level."

Franklin's dominance has perhaps been a little less pronounced than has Hultzen's, but the overall package is still quite impressive for the 21-year-old shortstop: he ranks 2nd in the Southern League in AVG (.322), 4th in OBP (.394) and OPS (.896), 6th in SLG (.502), 8th in extra base hits (25) and t-10th in total bases (103) despite missing about two-weeks' time with a few nagging injuries. He was named the league's Player of the Month for May when he hit .394/.457/.648 in 21 games and he's also made just two errors in his last 41 games defensively. Nick is still having his struggles hitting right-handed (.196/.258/.250 in 56 at bats), but he is ready for the next level of competition.

Filling their roster spots for the first half champion Generals in Double-A will be second baseman Stefen Romero and left-handed starter Anthony Fernandez, both coming up from the High Desert Mavericks.

Romero -- a right-handed hitter -- ranks 2nd in the California League in AVG (.357), total bases (150) and hits (92), 5th in extra base hits (33), RBI (51), SLG (.581) and OPS (.973) for Pedro Grifol's club that is tied for the first half title in the South Division. Romero's hit and RBI totals lead the Mariners organization.

Fernandez -- who Grifol said succeeds because he, "is a quick worker, knows what he needs to do and works with great confidence" -- has the 10th best ERA by full-time starters in the Cal League at the season's mid-point with a 3.68 mark, despite pitching in the most offensively tilted park in one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in all of pro ball. The 22-year-old lefty has just two wins on the season but he has made huge strides in his game, as evidenced when comparing his numbers in High Desert this season to his seven starts for the Mavs last season (7.39 ERA, .384 oAVG). He won't blow people away with his stuff, typically sitting just 87-90 with his fastball, but he is a very smart pitcher.

There will be more corresponding moves yet to be determined to make the roster sizes work in both High Desert and Tacoma, and certainly there could be even more moves in store before Thursday.

Both of these clubs open their second halves on the road, so the hometown fans won't get a chance to see these new players in person for about a week, but the buzz starts now. And the buzz is loud for Hultzen and Franklin, now just a short drive from Safeco Field and the Major Leagues.

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