Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Big offense from Zunino in his first AAA action

The first in-season weekly look at the statistical performance of six Seattle Mariners' prospects from the last week of minor league action: Three Up and Three Down.

Each Monday during the 2013 minor league season, I will again give our readers a rundown of the best and worst from the minor league week that was within the Seattle Mariners system. The goal is to concentrate only on true prospects (age 26 and under and not on the big league roster), but if any player has an exceptionally noteworthy good (or bad) week, he could appear here as well. The goal is to not only keep you up to date on the goings on, but to try and give you a better look of what talent is in the system by spreading the coverage around.

The first partial week of minor league action is behind us now, with each affiliate for Seattle having played four games Thursday through Sunday. Being so early in the 2013 season, this breakdown certainly doesn't mean that the prospects below are destined for monster seasons or epic failures, but it is a snapshot of who started of hot and cold. Here is a look at six of the players who stood out for their impressive and poor performances.

THREE UP

Mike Zunino - C, Tacoma Rainiers: .417/.500/1.250 (5-12), 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 4 SO
I don't think that the expectations are low from anyone right now for Zunino, but he continues to outdo whatever lofty heights are set for him. A scoring change on a wind-aided double meant that Zunino finished his first Triple-A game just a single short of hitting for the cycle and his first taste of the minor's highest level of pitching overall this past week with all five of his hits going for extra bases. That included a prodigious home run from the opener, too. Zunino still gets the "only one plus tool" tag thrown on him (for his power), but his plus makeup is already very evident, too. He'll be the big league catcher for a long time very soon.

Danny Hultzen - SP, Tacoma Rainiers: 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Hultzen from Tacoma's opening day win was the Hultzen that we saw in Jackson last year. He was locating all of his pitches, changing speeds, pitching up, down, in and out and keeping all of Fresno's hitters -- particularly the left-handed hitters -- off balance all night. Danny worked quickly and confidently and Zunino rarely had to move his glove after giving Hultzen a target all of which allowed the lefty to work six innings with only 73 pitches (52 strikes). His stuff has been better and harder to hit than projected pre-draft and he continues to be a strikeout pitcher despite not possessing plus velocity. He's close.

Julio Morban - OF, Jackson Generals: .533/.563/.867 (8-15), 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 5 SO
Following a very impressive spring in big league camp, Morban joined the Double-A Jackson team and has started off by showing that his impressive 2012 in High Desert and strong camp was no mirage. Morban ends the first week of action leading the Southern League in hits and total bases (13) while ranking 2nd in average and slugging. Repeating once again for those who may have missed it before, he has all of the tools, all Morban needs is a healthy season to vault his way up prospect lists -- within the Mariners organization and in baseball.

THREE DOWN

Denny Almonte - OF, Tacoma Rainiers: .091/.154/.091 (1-11), RBI, BB, 9 SO
Almonte's Triple-A debut was a rare accomplishment: five plate appearances, five strikeouts. Not exactly the way to break in. The week got a little better as Almonte drove in a run on Friday and scored his first hit and walk for Tacoma on Sunday, but nine Ks in 14 plate appearances is ugly no matter how you slice it. Almonte upped his plate discipline last season in Jackson, but he was getting beat pretty badly by average fastballs this weekend. He'll need to tune it up a bit as the season goes along and he continues to see the best pitching he's seen in MiLB.

Taijuan Walker - SP, Jackson Generals: 0-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 8 SO
Walker had a couple of good innings and a couple of bad ones in the Generals' opener, a good fastball at times (up to 96-97 a few times) and an average fastball at times, good command at times and no command at times. That lands him on the "Down" list this week, but make no mistake that he is still a very, very talented pitcher that could make noise at the big league level as soon as late 2013.

Jack Marder - 2B, Jackson Generals: .091/.167/.091 (1-11), 4 SO, 1 CS
Marder has among the best on-base skills in the organization, with good plate discipline, willingness to work the count, plus speed and aggressiveness on the bases. He also has a penchant for getting hit by pitches, and he did get on base once this past week that way. But the bat -- which has seen him hit a robust .348/.411/.556 so far in his minor league career has been quiet in the early going. It won't last, but his slow start lands him here on our list.

. . . . . . .

There were several other names with impressive (and less than impressive) numbers from the first week, but I will be giving you these snapshots weekly, so stay tuned every Monday.

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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