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Mariners' pipeline seeing a rapid rise in talent

Mariners' pipeline seeing a rapid rise in talent

Mariners' pipeline seeing a rapid rise in talent

SEATTLE -- While the Mariners' big league bats may be struggling, help is on the way. The 2013 First-Year Player Draft saw Seattle continue to stockpile big-name offensive talent, adding corner infielder DJ Peterson out of New Mexico with the No. 12 overall pick and Stanford's Austin Wilson in the second round.

In total, the Mariners took 40 players, adding to a farm system that has seen a rapid rise in talent since general manager Jack Zduriencik and amateur scouting director Tom McNamara took over.

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"I keep telling our guys the next 15 picks are just as important as the last five or six," McNamara said. "We've taken a couple of good players the last couple years here outside of the fifth round and we plan on doing that. Some teams, you can tell as the Draft goes on that the white flag's coming up a little. We just want to keep grinding until the last pick."

Peterson and Wilson join a plethora of interesting hitting prospects in the Mariners' Minor League system, highlighted by catcher Mike Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick from last year's Draft and Seattle's third-best prospect. Already in Triple-A, Zunino's bat is proving to translate to the professional level; the talented backstop is hitting .244 with 11 home runs.

Seattle also boasts still-developing hitters who are already contributing at the Major League level, including third baseman Kyle Seager and second baseman Nick Franklin. Dustin Ackley -- the No. 2 pick in the 2009 Draft who was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma after struggling in Seattle -- has been on a tear in the Minors. The second baseman is hitting .408 with a stunning 1.100 OPS.

Still, pitching is the bread and butter of the organization, and the Minor Leagues are no different. Seattle's young hurlers are among the top prospects in baseball, and the Mariners are counting on them being able to contribute in the next year or two.

Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 Draft, was widely regarded as one of that year's draft-eligible players who would have the shortest path to the big leagues. The left-hander's career has followed that script so far, as he's already in Triple-A Tacoma, posting a 2.78 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings.

Taijuan Walker may be the best of the bunch. The 43rd overall pick in the 2010 Draft is considered a future No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher by many, and he's been backing that up with his numbers. While Walker is still considered raw by most scouts, he's finding success with Double-A Jackson with a 2.52 ERA. The flame-throwing righty has fanned 77 batters in 71 1/3 innings.

Another guy to watch is shortstop Brad Miller, who is defying positional stereotypes by absolutely raking in Tacoma. The 2011 second-round pick has put up a .361 batting average, while showing the ability to hit for power as well.

A 2013 Draft class that the Mariners feel very good about will join these players. If even a couple of the new prospects can join the ranks of the organization's top talent, Seattle fans will have a lot to look forward to in the future.

"Overall, we're very pleased with the athleticism, talent level and character of the players we drafted," McNamara said. "Our scouts did an excellent job traveling all over the country finding the top talent at both the high school and college levels. We look forward to getting many of these young men signed and in uniform."

Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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