The Mariners' Next Wave

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and that could end up moving Seattle's roster around a bit. Even if the club stays away from moving their bigger assets, the big league roster figures to see some turnover. We look at who could be part of the next wave of minor league talent to hit Seattle late this summer.

As I covered in some detail earlier this month, the Mariners could be sellers at this year's trade deadline yet again. And they actually have some pieces that could be hot commodities, too. But as winning this season figures to still be a big priority to the club and to those who are being judged in the public eye by MLB-level wins and losses, Seattle could decide they're best served by more or less standing pat. Even if they don't make any big moves, there figures to be a bit of shifting on the 25-man roster before the end of August.

Thinking ahead on that line, who are the players in the Seattle Mariners organization that could be called upon to fill those vacated roster spots if/when moves do go down? SeattleClubhouse has you covered with a look at 13 players who the M's may call on to get some time at the big league level before 2013 closes.

Starting Pitchers
Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer

Lefty Joe Saunders is probably the most likely member of the starting rotation to be moved in a trade before the deadline, although I don't get the sense that the club is itching to move him. Aaron Harang could be moved, too -- be it via trade or outright release after the deadline if they don't find anything of value for him. If one or both of them move, the M's do have options close by in Tacoma in the form of the "Big Four".

Walker has yet to lose at the Triple-A level and still has a sub-1.00 ERA there, and if Dwight Gooden helped him with his curveball, well, that could be huge for him. He's cut his walks way down over his last 10-12 starts and has unquestionably the best stuff among any pitcher in the organization, and the development of his cutter has been huge against lefties. Walker isn't on the 40 right now and it's possible that, 1) Seattle doesn't want to burn an option year on him and start his clock early, and 2) he may reach his innings limit soon (he's at 105 now and threw just 126 2/3 last year), but I was told from someone in the organization this week that they thought he was ready and could be up soon.

Hultzen would probably already be in the rotation if he was healthy. But he's made just five starts on the season, hitting the disabled list twice (where he is now) with "shoulder tightness". After struggling in last year's second half in the PCL, Hultzen has a 2.20 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 9.7 SO/9 in those five games this season. Perhaps most importantly, he's only walked seven in his five starts -- a big departure from his wildness for Tacoma that caused so much concern last year.

Paxton, at 24 1/2 years of age, has slipped a bit this season as he's struggled to miss bats and put people away at the minors' highest level which, in turn, has caused his pitch counts to climb early in games. He's averaging barely over five innings a start on the year even though he's thrown more than 90 pitches 16 of the 19 times he's taken the hill. But he has pitched great five of his last six times out, posting a 2.79 ERA and 3.7 SO:BB ratio in that stretch and holding opposing hitters to a .606 OPS in the process. That includes his first career complete game and shutout, July 8th in Tucson.

Maurer made 10 starts for Seattle to open the season, but he was blown up in the first two and the last two and was sent to the minors to work on refining his command and approach with Tacoma. He pitched strong in his first three outings, but he's given up four earned runs in each of his last five outings, landing his ERA at 5.63 through nine Triple-A starts. On the encouraging side, he's doing a better job with left-handed hitters (.250/.378/.397, only one HR in 82 PA), but he still doesn't look or feel like a complete big league pitcher.

Relief Pitchers
Logan Bawcom, Carson Smith, Bobby LaFromboise, Brian Moran, Dominic Leone

Oliver Perez really sounds like he could be a hunted piece as July rolls on and it is my opinion that the club would be wise to move him if they can get a prospect with some upside in return. The M's have a few other good left-handed relief options who are cheaper and younger than Perez that they can turn to. If Ollie's dealt, the club has a few options in the upper minors that could step in.

The right-handed Bawcom has 90 saves in his four minor league seasons and has some swing-and-miss to his stuff when he's going right -- 10.1 SO/9 in his 253 career MiLB innings and 8.5 SO/9 this year. He's four days older than Paxton, too, so the clock is ticking on him and he is experienced enough at the upper levels to be considered ready.

Smith is a 2011 draftee and only in his second pro season, but the right-hander uses good stuff and a funky delivery to keep hitters off-balance at the plate. He has 43 strikeouts in 32 1/3 IP (13 in his last 11 scoreless innings, covering nine outings) altogether this year, but more to his profile, he has a crazy 4.30 GO:AO ratio on the season.

LaFromboise was up with Seattle briefly earlier this season so they've seen up close what the 6-foot-4 lefty can do to some extent. What he does in the minor leagues is strike out a lot of hitters, particularly left-handed hitters (24 Ks in 71 PA in '13). He does it with deception more than stuff, but not quite to the extent of the next guy.

Moran is the lefty who really dominates thanks to deception. A teammate of Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager at North Carolina, his fastball rarely gets much higher than 86 but he's fanned 12.7 per nine in 83 2/3 Triple-A innings the past two seasons, including 40.4% of the left-handers he has faced.

Leone, who cracked my updated Top-25 a few weeks ago, has pitched at three levels this season and has been lights out thanks to increased velocity. The right-hander's first pitch in Double-A was 96 and he's been up to 97-98 at times this year. He had a 2.50 ERA in 39 2/3 IP for High Desert, didn't allow a run in three outings for Clinton and hasn't yet allowed a run for Jackson, either. Leone walked 5.2 per nine in his first season for Everett in 2012 but he's cut that number to 2.4 this year.

Infielders
Carlos Triunfel, Chris Taylor

Brendan Ryan doesn't have a starting job in Seattle anymore and his glove is so good that it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that the M's get an offer for him that they deem to be more valuable than keeping Ryan on their bench to help teach their young infielders his tips and tricks. Unlike the pitching possibilities above, whoever would come up in this instance would likely only be auditioning to be considered an option as a utility player heading into 2014 as Seattle is now set with Nick Franklin and Brad Miller up the middle.

Triunfel, once considered the crown jewel of the M's organization, has been given two very abbreviated auditions with Seattle and has hit just .152/.188/196 in his 19 games. But he showed a cannon arm and some solid extra base power the other way that could mean he has some value if he can find a way to put the bat on the ball on quality strikes more consistently.

Taylor, who has hit .300-plus at each of the four levels he's played this year and last, is having perhaps the best offensive season of any prospect in the system and leads the organization in hits, runs, walks and steals while playing in High Desert and Jackson. He's a plus defender at short, but he's been getting some action at second base in Double-A, too. Taylor has the most speed and best eye of anyone on this list.

Outfielders
Stefen Romero, Julio Morban

Raul Ibanez isn't going anywhere if you ask me. The home runs are a lot of fun, but the club brought him in to do exactly what he is doing -- mentoring and being a shining example or being a true professional. And I don't think that they'd want to move him and watch him potentially break Ted Williams' record with another team. That said, I think there is a real probability that one of the other veterans -- Jason Bay or Michael Morse -- will be traded.

Romero is the reigning Minor League Player of the Year in the organization and has hit fairly well all season for Tacoma. And although the power numbers overall aren't there this year compared to last, he has started to show more consistency there of late with 17 extra base hits in his last 36 games. Romero has been transitioning to the outfield this year after spending most of his time at second base prior for the M's.

Morban was added to the 40-man roster over the winter as a 20-year-old, surprising a few people that follow Seattle's system closely. He's a talented player that has a lot of tools, and some of those continue to shine this season...when he's healthy. And that's the book on Morban; he's been injured a lot in his career, and he isn't 100% again right now, missing a number of games recently for Jackson. It is usually leg issues, which hurts because Morban has the chops to handle center field when he's at full strength.

In addition to the prospects named above, Tacoma also currently has Franklin Gutierrez, Carlos Peguero, Jesus Montero, Robert Andino, Carter Capps, Blake Beavan, Josh Kinney, Stephen Pryor and Chance Ruffin on their roster. A few of those players (Gutierrez, Montero, Capps, Beavan, Pryor) will definitely be up before the season ends and most, if not all, of the others could be added once rosters expand. Andino and Kinney were removed from the 40-man roster earlier this season, but if the team wants to get one more look at them each after a trade is made they could still go that route rather than burning an option on one of the other prospects named above.

But the Mariners will be looking to dip into their next wave of prospects one way or another before 2013 is up, and the 13 prospects named above figure to be the ones considered for up close looks when that happens.

Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.


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