Earlier this week, ESPN's Keith Law released his Top 100 Prospects list for the upcoming season. While the Mariners' farm system was lauded by several scouting organizations in 2013, this year's list only features one Seattle rookie, 21-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker.
Walker placed 16th on Law's list, seven spots removed from his place at #9 last season. Another member of the Big Four, Danny Hultzen, finished at #66 in 2013 but was removed from contention this year after sustaining a shoulder injury. Neither Mike Zunino nor Nick Franklin -- Law's other two picks last year -- qualified as prospects under the guidelines for 2014.
Law also published his rankings of MLB minor league development, beginning with the eternally young Houston Astros and ending with the Milwaukee Brewers (for the full list, you'll need an Insider subscription to ESPN.com). The Mariners took a big hit here as well, dropping from eighth place to 21st on the list.
It should come as little surprise that the M's farm system looks a bit deflated this spring. Six of Seattle's 2013 top 10 prospects graduated to the majors last year, five erasing their prospect status with partial or full seasons under their belts.
Now, the Mariners' highest-rated prospects are being developed at Low-A and High-A levels. Both FanGraphs and Baseball America included just two players in Double- and Triple-A for the organization's top 10 prospect lists: southpaw Hultzen and shortstop Chris Taylor. Baseball Prospectus' top 10 list is the only one to omit Hultzen from the M's top prospects, as his return is tentatively projected no sooner than 2015.
The Mariners' lack of major league-ready prospects shouldn't be taken as a sign of failure -- on the contrary, the system is working well if their most promising players are already carving out big league careers. Hopefully, the young talent at the bottom of the M's system will follow suit.
Whose major league debut are you anticipating in the coming seasons? Do you think Hultzen will make a triumphant return in 2015, or has his status been removed as one of the Big Four?
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