Let's start off with this: There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. TINSTAAPP for all, and for all a good night. That being said,
The last 5 Tacoma Rainiers games have been started, in chronological order moving backwards, by: Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer, Erasmo Ramirez, and James Paxton. Every one of those guys has been recently (say, within the last 10 months) viewed as a potential building block for the Mariners, a pitcher who could one day occupy a rotation spot higher than #5. Walker may be the best pitching prospect in the Minors. Hultzen was a #2 overall pick just a couple years ago. Ramirez has had Major League success. Maurer, though rushed, has also seen the majors. And Paxton has shown flashes of dominance, though often separated by periods of struggle.
These players are not toiling in A-ball while fans dream of what they might become. They are just down the road, in the hitters paradise of the PCL, one short step below a Major League team that is starting Joe Saunders, Aaron Harang, and Jeremy Bonderman. And, at least recently, they are succeeding. In those five starts:
3-0, 29 1/3 IP, 7 ER, 18 H (3 HR), 8 BB, 40 K, 2.15 ERA, 3.01 FIP
It's a small sample to be sure, but it doesn't seem like the big club is in a rush to promote any of them at this time, so we may get a few more weeks to see these 5 in action, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-yougetthepicture. The PCL is not an easy place to pitch. Two of the 5 are coming off injury concerns. Tacoma management seems completely unable to let any pitcher go past 6 innings. They are currently facing Las Vegas, the 2nd-ranked hitting team in the league. There are many things that could go wrong, many obstacles still to overcome. But in the perpetual tunnel of Mariners Fandom, five talented young men throwing serious stuff at AAA hitters qualifies as a bright light.
Makes you a little worried about that train you always hear at Safeco.