SEATTLE: Danny Hultzen, the Seattle Mariners' No. 1 draft choice, gets acquainted with his new ballpark after the team announced the signing of him and Brad Miller prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
So here's an impressive number:
Here's another impressive number:
And finally, two more impressive numbers:
I saw those four numbers on a baseball field in Scottsdale, Arizona, last night. One after the other.
The first belongs to Mariners pitching prospect Erasmo Ramirez, who's got a 5.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four minor-league seasons. He's not a big strikeout guy -- more on that in a moment -- but his control's been outstanding, he reached the highest level in the minors last season, and he doesn't turn 22 until May.
The second belongs to Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 pick in the entire draft last June. Hultzen signed too late to play in the minors last season, but he might start the season in Class AA and figures to be on the fast track. So far, all systems are go. And he pitched a couple of shutout innings against the Diamondbacks last night.
The third and fourth numbers belong to Taijuan Walker and James Paxton; those are their strikeouts per nine innings as professional baseball pitchers. Walker's just a baby, turned 19 last summer while pitching in the short-season Midwest League. Paxton's a different story. The 37th pick in the 2009 amateur draft, Paxton got caught in one of those lovely disputes between the NCAA and the agents and Organized Baseball, and wound up not signing with the Blue Jays (who drafted him) but also ineligible to pitch as a college senior. In 2010, he threw just a few innings in an independent league, then fell all the way to the fourth round in last summer's draft, when the Mariners grabbed him.
I'm not home so I don't have my books, and can't figure out how that happened. Maybe because he pitched so little in 2010. Anyway, Paxton dominated his professional opponents after signing last season, and (like Hultzen) is on the fast track.
All four of these guys pitched against the Diamondbacks Saturday night in Scottsdale. It was a Parade of Pitching Prospects. Though more alliterative than illustrative, since I'm not a scout and, from my spot in the press box, could merely distinguish between fastball and curveball.
You can't blame Mariners management for being bullish about the future. There are some young hitters coming up, and there's also this impressive crop of young pitchers.
About whom, I do have to say something that is perhaps more amusing than important.
Along about the seventh inning, the people covering the Mariners were informed that Erasmo Ramirez and Danny Hultzen would be available in the clubhouse for questions. A couple of my colleagues headed downstairs, and I tagged along. Ramirez and Hultzen both seemed good-natured, as ridiculously young baseball players so often are. I hoped to discover something interesting about their psyches, but I'm afraid my powers are highly limited in that area.
Anyway, I did happen to notice that ... well, that I've got a couple of inches on Ramirez, who stands as yet another example of the "little lefty" that's become a cliché over the decades. No big deal. But I couldn't wait to get back to the press box and check something ... and yes, sure enough: Erasmo Ramirez is listed as being six feet tall on the Internet. I'm six feet tall, exactly, when I've had my Wheaties. So there's no way Ramirez is six feet.
I don't really think it matters. Billy Wagner, etc. It's just odd, this tradition of teams lying about pitchers who aren't six feet tall. Like we're really going to care, as long as they keep getting guys out.
ERRATA: No, Ramirez isn't a lefty. And one can find other, different numbers for his height. All the embarrassing (to me) details are here.