The first pitcher of the "Big Three" to reach the big leagues has been made official, and it is actually the player that made that moniker stretch in number by one. 22-year-old right-hander Brandon Maurer, a 23rd round draft pick by the much-maligned previous front office, forced the hand of the current front office and field staff by turning in a dazzling spring training with the big club that sees him enter his last start tied for the lowest ERA of all starting pitchers this spring.
Maurer has battled injuries since being drafted back in 2008 and really only turned in his first complete season's worth of work for the organization in 2012. During that 2012 campaign Maurer threw a career-best 137 2/3 innings, winning nine games while posting a 3.20 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 7.6 strikeouts-per-nine as he earned Southern League Pitcher of the Year rights and was also recognized as the Mariners organization's Most Improved Player.
There has been a lot of discussion around the top pitching prospects for Seattle -- right-hander Taijuan Walker and lefties Danny Hultzen and James Paxton -- since the start of 2012, people guessing at which of them would get to Seattle first. But Maurer's great season for the Generals, in which he really impressed during the season's second half, shot him to the top of the list and made him shine above the rest this spring. He becomes the first Mariners' pitcher to break camp as part of the big league rotation without ever pitching in Triple-A since 1993, when left-handers John Cummings and Mike Hampton both turned the trick.
Maurer looks to be slated to pitch in the fourth spot in the rotation to start the season, according to the beat writers in Peoria.
This official announcement caps a meteoric rise for Maurer. He was a late-round draft pick and relative unknown in prospect circles just a few short seasons ago. But the one-time teammate of Pittsburgh Pirates' prospect Gerrit Cole at Orange Lutheran high school in California took some huge steps forward as the 2012 season progressed. And he carried those improvements into spring, forcing his way onto Seattle's 25-man roster with a dazzling spring.
Now I guess we can once again start referring to the Mariners' group of top pitching prospects as "The Big Three", because number four is already here.
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.