It must be good to be Danny Hultzen about now, as the Seattle Mariners left-hander is having his way with Arizona Fall League hitters - so much so that some already consider him the fourth best starting pitcher in the organization.
Fourth? Well, they put Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas ahead of him.
Hultzen started the AFL Rising Stars game and pitched two scoreless innnings, striking out three and showing a 91-93 mph fastball. Yes, he'll be in spring training. Overall, the lefty's AFL stats are powreful: 1-0 with a 1/62 earned run average in 16-plus innings.
In that Rising Stars game, Hultzen's teammate - Mariners shortstop prospect Nick Franklin played despite a .215 average, then went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a home run, earning MVP honors for the game.
Meanwhile, in the Dominican Winter League, outfielder Carlos Peguero remains a force, hitting in 13 of 15 games at a .364 clip with seven doubles and six home runs. Think Seattle would like to bottle him right now and not open up until opening day 2012?
Outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, obtained in the Erik Bedard trade to Boston, was named Eastern League Player of the Year after batting .340 with 37 doubles, 18 home runs and 76 RBI in just 88 games. Chiang is playing in the AFL and batting .286.
As always, thanks for the notes supplied by Kelly Munro, the coordinator of Mariners baseball information.