Mariners Minors Monday Mupdate: Taijuan Walker and Steve Baron

It's the Hitter and Pitcher of the Week! For Mariners' Minors!

The Seattle Mariners minor league affiliates played some baseball this week. In fact, they probably played like 24 games or something! Maybe even more. That's a lot of baseball and a lot of things happen down there in the leagues where wins and losses don't really matter.

Although, it can't hurt to be on teams where you are used to winning and to have a winning tradition in your organization. We sometimes forget that the Mariners aren't just a team, but they are an organization. The 25-man roster, the 40-man roster, but then there's also the whole idea of all the players that are in Tacoma, Jackson, High Desert, and Clinton. Then there's the short-season leagues in far-off exotic locations like Venezuela and Everett.

The Mariners made some news today by signing 17-year-old Domincan outfield Hersin Martinez for $1.1 million. I don't know anything about Martinez, other than he's described as having a lot of "plus raw power" and that he once hit a home run 507 feet, but I do know this: $1.1 million is a big bonus in international free agency. It's money you give to a guy that you think could be great.

How often do they turn out great? Not very often. But it's better than not having Martinez. I just wouldn't really start to worry about him and his results for another couple of years. Guillermo Pimentel was once in his position and we're finally getting to see him in full-season ball! And it's not pretty so far!

Onto the awards:

Pitcher of the Week: Taijuan Walker

I chose Walker over other pitchers this week because I felt like it. Get your own blog! I also chose him because even though he only made one start, he struck out eight batters and walked only one in five innings. Better yet, Walker is only 19-years-old. The average age of batters in the league is 24.3, to give you some perspective.

Walker was scheduled to go Saturday but apparently woke up with neck stiffness and had his start delayed. It shouldn't be anything to worry about and Walker could start tomorrow. The M's are going to limit him this season anyway, he pitched 96.2 innings last year and you might expect a bump up to something like 130 innings this season.

Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are both very good pitching prospects in their own right, but Walker seems to possess an "it factor" that few pitchers in baseball possess. If he continues down this path, stays healthy, I could see the Mariners having the number one pitching prospect in baseball going into next season and no, I'm not talking about Anthony Vazquez.

Hitter of the Week: Steve Baron, C, Clinton

You may remember that Baron was the Mariners third first round draft choice in the 2009 draft, after Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin. Seattle cleaned up in the draft that year (Ackley, Franklin, Seager, Vinnie Catricala, Andrew Carraway, James Jones, Rich Poythress, Brian Moran, Vazquez, etc.) but so far Baron has been a major source of disappointment.

Described as a player that was drafted for "Defense" I don't think people really thought he'd be so bad with the bat that he couldn't advance thanks to the glove. Well, he was that bad at hitting.

Baron hit .179/.241/.292 in 2009, .222/.258/.310 in 2010, and .196/.263/.318 in 2011.

If he was a 15th round draft choice, maybe he never even gets another shot after one or two years, but the M's have kept him around because he's got the defense and he's young and he was a first round pick. He's finally doing something at the plate that doesn't suck.

This year, Baron is hitting .313/.353/.500 with six doubles and four stolen bases. It's still early, but Baron has ten hits this season already after only getting 42 hits all of last season. He's striking out at a lower rate and showing some speed for the first time in his career as well.

What does the future hold for Baron? I don't know. This might all be a fluke. But I was quick to name Baron the hitter of the week based on the fact that I have always had a soft spot for the kid (he's been my favorite player that sucks for the last two years) and the fact that he would make the 2009 draft class even that more special if he could even become a backup catcher in the bigs.

His defense would be a welcome addition to the big league club as well.

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