Pessimist’s Guide To Mariners Pitching Prospects

Jeff Sullivan · July 3, 2013 at 4:17 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Prospects are exciting, and pitching prospects are no different. When teams acquire prospects, they see bright futures, provided things break right and the players develop as they ought to. Every single player in professional baseball, at one point, had a reasonable shot of making it in the bigs. The talent was there, or at least it could’ve been. But most players don’t make it, and more of them fall well short of their ceilings. Even top prospects bust at an incredible rate, and when people stop evaluating them by their potential ceilings, they start to notice the red flags. There are always reasons why a guy doesn’t fulfill his promise. If you have a top prospect who doesn’t materialize into anything special, you can identify after the fact what went wrong. Things go wrong.

Pitching prospects go wrong, kind of a lot. Danny Hultzen might be going wrong before our eyes. That much, we don’t know yet, but the possibility exists. As such, let’s look at Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, and Brandon Maurer, and try to identify the reasons why they might not make it big. For every single one of them, it’s way too early to call them disappointments. But if they were to become disappointments later on, what follow might be the explanations. You can think of these as predictions by a negative jerk.

Danny Hultzen
Doesn’t excel because: plagued by shoulder problems. They’ve popped up in 2013, and the shoulder is the bad one. The elbow is the bad one, too, and I guess everything’s better than, I don’t know, brain cancer, but if you’re a pitcher, you don’t want to hear anything about your shoulder. You don’t even want to hear good things. You just don’t want to hear a word about it because you don’t want to have to think about it.

Taijuan Walker
Doesn’t excel because: secondary pitches don’t develop enough, and the fastball gradually erodes. You can get by for a while at the start with a blazing heater. But in most cases, there need to be other weapons, and Walker’s are presently still coming along.

James Paxton
Doesn’t excel because: inefficiency, caused by inadequate control of the strike zone. In Double-A and Triple-A, Paxton has thrown a below-average rate of strikes, and he remains inconsistent. This might just be his thing, and maybe instead of turning into peak Erik Bedard, he becomes one of the other Erik Bedards.

Erasmo Ramirez
Doesn’t excel because: elbow. I know Ramirez is back and pitching and pitching well and pitching comfortably, but he missed some time with an elbow injury that wasn’t repaired surgically, and I’m of the opinion that these things eventually tend to be addressed surgically. It seems almost inevitable, and as much as we prefer elbow problems to shoulder problems, you’d rather there just be no problems, and there’s no such thing as a guaranteed post-surgical return to effectiveness. Maybe Ramirez’s body isn’t cut out for this. Maybe he’ll lose some of his command.

Brandon Maurer
Doesn’t excel because: mediocre command and incomplete repertoire. Maurer’s still trying to figure out lefties, and it’s not like he was amazing in Double-A. The best thing he did was prevent home runs, and that’s maybe the least reliable skill. The ability is in there, but Maurer might just end up as a reliever, or as a starter who gets exposed by lefty-heavy lineups. Developing that weapon isn’t automatic.

Tacoma’s starting rotation right now is incredibly interesting and incredibly promising, especially if this latest Hultzen flare-up is a minor one. It’s easy to imagine any single one of those guys going on to have a long and successful major-league career. It’s less easy to imagine busts, but that’s only because we don’t want to acknowledge the possibility. And I don’t want to seem like I’m actually this negative about all the guys. This post is deliberately over-the-top negative to make a point. But, let’s just say all of them bust, or at least that all of them disappointment. There will have been signs. Signs are always there. It’s a matter of how much attention they get.


12 Responses to “Pessimist’s Guide To Mariners Pitching Prospects”

  1. Bodhizefa on July 3rd, 2013 4:32 pm

    When Hultzen gets brain cancer, I’m finding you, Jeff Sullivan. I’m finding you and giving you a stern talking to!

  2. californiamariner on July 3rd, 2013 4:36 pm

    I’d say 2 of these 5 being good major league starting pitchers would be a success. Walker and Erasmo seem the most likely. Hultzen seems capable of going either way. Personally, I don’t expect much from Maurer or Paxton.

  3. Liam on July 3rd, 2013 4:43 pm

    Casper Wells
    Doesn’t excel because: never given a chance.

  4. henryv on July 3rd, 2013 4:45 pm

    Hopefully Hultzen doesn’t get Guti Disease, which is now defined similarly to Münchausen syndrome except instead of the patient thinking they have everything wrong with you, or faking it (or both), they do in fact have every single conceivable disease known to man, and several that are in fact not yet discovered.

  5. Paul B on July 3rd, 2013 4:55 pm

    The weather is so nice, why are you being such a downer, Jeff?

    I suggest you spend all day tomorrow climbing a volcano.

  6. outfieldgrass24 on July 3rd, 2013 5:25 pm

    Apparently we’ve already decided that James Paxton won’t excel. After seeing him a few times in the AFL, I think may be right to conclude that. The command just doesn’t appear to be developing as needed.

    RE: Wells, not only did we not give him a chance as an outfielder, but that changeup he threw over the weekend to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera was enough reason to think we should have put him on the mound once in a while.

  7. Hutch on July 3rd, 2013 5:37 pm

    I am still cautiously optimistic about most of these folks but it sort of blows my mind that there are people that would bet on Paxton having a successful career in the rotation. Shut-down closer maybe…

  8. MrZDevotee on July 3rd, 2013 6:00 pm

    “defined similarly to Münchausen syndrome”

    aka M’s Syndrome

  9. Don Money on July 3rd, 2013 9:14 pm

    This blog doesn’t excel because it wastes so much time on negativity. I always thought most people understood Chicken Little wasn’t really a role model.

  10. dnc on July 4th, 2013 9:31 am

    I think you missed the point of this post, Don. The point wasn’t to be negative, the point was to illustrate that there is risk with all of these prospects.

    As far as “not excelling” is concerned, Jeff and Dave are easily the two most successful Mariner bloggers by a longshot. They might not be your cup of tea but they’ve done pretty well for themselves without trying to lower their standards to appease those who don’t get it, I doubt they’re going to change now.

  11. flightrisk on July 4th, 2013 9:32 am

    But no, Mr Money, this blog excels because it considers many of the possibilities. In case you hadn’t noticed, the sky DID fall on the Mariners about a decade ago and they’re having a dickens of a time getting out from under. Sometimes we say, gee, the sky isn’t so heavy today, or, this plan is going to get the sky off our backs, but next day, there it is again heavy as ever.

    Topic at hand: The career arcs of so many players include a “walk in the wilderness,” right? For pitchers it involves all the things you mention: command, injuries, stuff, the mental side (did you mention the mental side?). Few pitchers (which makes Felix so special) blossom into starting rotation material right out of the minors and then stay there without getting sidetracked (this is just me thinking through the careers of the few pitchers I know). So, I’d say it’s possible that Maurer, say, becomes a legit, league average starting pitcher, but it just might not be with the Mariners.

    For some reason, I like it when a team has the patience to stick with a pitcher through his walk in the wilderness and then finally reaps the benefits. I’m thinking of Chris Tillman right now.

  12. bongo on July 4th, 2013 11:47 am

    The assessment of Walker is right on target. I was at his debut in AAA and by the way the press talked about it, you’d think Walker is Felix #2. However, he didn’t have great command of his curve, and threw few if any changeups. So I’m in no hurry to see him called up, to become the next Brandon Morrow (throw ’em fastballs till they get tired of homering).

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.