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A spring training prospect showcase

3/5/2012
Taijuan Walker was hitting 94 mph today seemingly without exerting himself. Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

The Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners played a "B" game on Monday morning in Goodyear, Ariz., featuring Cincy's Daniel Corcino (the No. 54 prospect in the minors heading into 2012) and Seattle's Taijuan Walker (No. 24) as the two starting pitchers, after which the Mariners threw all their best pitching prospects with two top hitters in the lineup for good measure.

&bull; Corcino, the Reds right-hander with a remarkable physical resemblance to Johnny Cueto, started out around 88-91 mph, but warmed up and eventually hit 94 in his second inning of work, sitting 90-92 by that point with an average slider, a hard changeup with good action, and what I assume was a cutter at 85-88 that he threw three times.

The 21-year-old has a high leg kick and rotates his hips really well to generate torque and thus arm speed, coming around from a slot just under three-quarters, cutting himself off slightly in his landing so he's a little cross-body. You don't mess with the kind of success he had last year (10.1 strikeouts per nine for low Class A Dayton), but if he struggles at some point I'd like to see him a little more online to the plate.

&bull; Walker, Seattle's first pick (in the sandwich round) in the 2010 draft, looked like he was throwing with about 80 percent effort, starting at 89 and warming up to 92-93 by the end of the first, hitting 94 in the second. His curveball was slow but sharp with a pronounced two-plane break, better at 76 than at 73 when it came out of his hand earlier and was easier hitters to pick it up.

Standing 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, his arm action is absurdly easy, and he stays over the rubber, drifting forward to take a long stride (easy for him, as he has the legs of an ostrich), but his front foot always lands askew, pointing toward the third-base line. I've had scouts tell me they saw Walker hit 99 mph on the gun last season, and if he can hit 94 while more or less throwing a live side session, it's easy to believe.

&bull; Danny Hultzen (No. 30 on my top 100) was his usual solid self, especially after a misplay behind him seemed to tick him off. He was 91-93 with a short slider at 78-80 that he moved around very effectively, throwing one changeup at 82 that he left up to a right-handed hitter.

&bull; Erasmo Ramirez (off the top 100, but No. 7 in the Mariners' organization) was 90-91, working quickly with a short arm action and some effort in the delivery. He showed both a slider and a curveball, neither plus, and was getting on the side of the ball through much of his outing. Off this one look, I'd probably peg him as a reliever or maybe back-end starter, with the lack of any clear out pitch and the effort he showed.

&bull; Seattle southpaw James Paxton (No. 51 on my top 100) was better in his first inning than his second, sitting 91-93, touching 94 once, but struggling with his breaking ball, with one very sharp one at 78 but the rest softer in velocity and break at 72-76. His arm action has always been long, but he repeats it pretty well and always gets on top of the ball. He's starting on the extreme third base side of the rubber but finishes online toward the plate, landing close to the home-second base axis of the mound.

&bull; Lefty Mauricio Robles, the final Mariners pitcher of the day, seemed to be recovered from his problems with extreme wildness (he walked 39 men in 33 innings last year across four levels, including winter ball), throwing strikes at 88-91 with good deception and a usable curve in the upper 70s.

&bull; Oft-injured Kyle Lotzkar threw for the Reds, sitting 90-93 with a slightly less problematic delivery than he had as an amateur, flashing both a slider and a hard curveball. If I'm the Reds, I put Lotzkar in the bullpen and push him up the ladder as fast as I can while he's momentarily healthy.

&bull; Nick Franklin (No. 57 on the 100) struggled badly in the field at second base, with two awful misplays of ground balls hit directly at him, although he recovered later with a solid play on a grounder to his right that required a quick throw to first. I don't want to extrapolate too much from two bad plays, but if I had to attach an explanation to this (as opposed to the most likely answer, it was just random) I'd say his hands were working a bit slower than usual.

&bull; Vinnie Catricala (No. 8 in the Mariners' organization) has a very simple, straightforward swing, with a little hip turn that won't generate a ton of power, but quick hands and a direct path to the ball with good balance throughout. Most scouts I've talked to about Catricala have him unable to stick at third base, but given the swing and the adequate plate discipline he showed last year I could see him profiling as at least a fringy regular if he has to move to left or first base, whereas at third he could be an above-average regular.