K-Pax, Hultzen and Taijuan in 2013
How much to downgrade them? Zero. With a capital Z.

From BJOL today:


Hey Bill, is there a way to tell how a minor leaguer will do when he is called up?
Asked by: jdubovis
Answered: 9/17/2012
Minor league batting stats predict major league batting stats with the same reliability that past major league batting stats predict future major league batting stats. 

There have been very fine articles around the block, to the effect of "Let Danny Hultzen's AAA season be a lesson to us.  Prospects aren't as much a sure thing as we sometimes come to believe."  Which is definitely the case, if we got caught up in believing that the Mariners had three guys who were Best Bets to the extent that Michael Pineda, in August of 2010, was a Best Bet.  Or if we thought that Hultzen was a Best Bet on the magnitude of Tim Lincecum coming out of college, or of Stephen Strasburg in early 2010, or Kyle Seager in April 2012.

In my view, James Paxton has a terrifically high chance of impact in the majors assuming that he executes his pitches the way he has sometimes shown in the past - and his mechanics, pre-injury, in turn made that very likely.  That's not to say that Paxton has a 90% (non-injury-scenario) chance of becoming an All-Star as Tim Lincecum did.  But if his knee didn't foul him up, I'd put his chances of a 120 ERA+ at 60%, minimum.

Danny Hultzen's template is tailor-made for the major leagues.  True, he's got a funky delivery.  His recent command issues don't change his projection at all in SSI's view:  the moment he is comfortable throwing strikes again, he's one of the Seattle Mariners' five preferred starters.  In my view. ... But Jason Vargas is that right now, too, and Jason Vargas could run a 5.75 ERA next year.  See James' quote, above.

Taijuan Walker is a teenager and the seismo's show upside beyond that of Paxton, Hultzen, or even Pineda.  The seismo's are pretty close to that of Felix.  But the teenager asterisk weighs at least 4 grams on paper.

If we were thinking that we had three Pinedas, we thought wrong.  That was never the case.  But if we thought we had three of the six or eight best pitching prospects in the game, we thought right.  Normal development processes have not changed that.

It's true that Paxton and Hultzen might have gone through 2012 without any developmental hiccups at all.  That was the way with Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, and Felix.  Dr. D pretty much expected this to be the case, especially with Paxton's awesome delivery.  The fact that a golfer shoots a summer full of 82's, though, hey.  Sports aren't easy.


If K-Pax, Hultzen, and Taijuan are throwing the ball great next March, they're in my rotation.  (Not all at once, and maybe not Taijuan; you know what I mean.)  But is there a 30% chance that they could disappoint?  Sure.  Keep in mind that there is also a 30% chance that Jason Vargas and Hisashi Iwakuma could disappoint.  A couple of months of control issues, on the part of Hultzen and Paxton, aren't worrying Jack Zduriencik.  Not at all.  He's been through this drill before, and he knows that nothing unusual is occurring.  He's seen Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Matt Cain go through ups and downs.  

When David Price battled his command in 2009, did that downgrade a left-hander with a 97-MPH fastball and Fister-like leverage?  When Matt Moore walked 27 men in his first 49 innings this year, did the Rays freak out?

As soon the Big Three are throwing the ball great, they're in there.  The chances that they WILL throw the ball great, at some point near in the future, such as next March?  I dunno.  80, 90%?  Chill, guys.  Real quick you'll get the flash report that, WOW THAT GUY LOOKS TREMENDOUS RIGHT NOW and off we go.






But I have faith that the ones that remain will be really good. I've said it before, but Paxton is my favorite of the Three. I expect him to be the one that gets moved, because he wasn't a #2 pick in the draft (as Hultzen was) or a top-10 prospect in all of baseball, like Walker may be rated after this year. Okay, maybe top-15 after his 2nd half.
It's hard to get "full value" for trading a Walker. You saw guys flip about about the Pineda trade, even knowing pitchers are more fragile and therefore are normally traded in bulk, along with "more stable" hitters. If you gave me my choice, I would trade Walker, even knowing he might be the best of all of em - there are several more hurdles to clear for him, and he's the only one I think would be a stretch to make the team out of ST.
But I trust Jack's eye. He's done very well in the pitching dept, the Fister gaffe notwithstanding. We'll be able to live without whoever goes out the door. It's who's coming back that interests me most, because we cannot - CANNOT - afford to whiff on this season's trade acquisition, whomever it is.
Hultzen is 2 seconds from Beast Mode every time he takes the mound, Paxton's getting his command and firepower in order to wrap the year healthy, and Walker is simply figuring out how to deploying an arsenal that could eradicate several third-world countries on a consistent basis.
They're all good. Whichever ones remain will be tasked with helping to make the Mariners great again. I may not be able to see the fire as it climbs behind the ridge, but I can taste the smoke in the air.
The two remaining Felix years are gonna be REALLY interesting, even if he doesn't get extended. No more bringing a knife to a gunfight, I'm hoping. Knife-fighters like Figgins and Olivo need no longer apply, which is the best part of finally doing the 5 year rebuild we should have started 5 years earlier.
Our breeding grounds for fire-breathing dragons look to be nicely stocked heading into 2013. Just need to acquire a couple of mature ones to go with all the youth and then storm the AL castle.

Taro's picture

Paxton's stock is even, or a bit higher. Walker is young enough that he could figure it out, but more likely he doesn't (pitching doesn't develop in a linear matter). Hultzen I'd be worried about. Could be labeled a bust within a year.
For the right young hitter (or MLB-proven SP), the Ms should considering dealing one or both of Hultzen and Walker this offseason.

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