Top Mariners prospects Zunino and Walker all but certain to be sent out

Top Mariners prospects Mike Zunino and Taijuan Walker are going to be big stars in the big leagues, just not yet.

Both players have earned raves and are considered among the best prospects in the game. But their time isn't now.

Mariners higherups haven't said anything to suggest the catcher Zunino and righthanded pitcher Walker are anything other than candidates to make the team, but word is that it won't happen for them out of spring.

The Mariners will allow that it's unlikely for the pair to make the team since Zunino has played only 54 minor-league games and Walker is only 20, but the reality is it's beyond improbable. As is the case in many places, the preference is that players in camp retain that carrot. And of course, it's possible plans change.

Zunino, arguably the top catching prospect in baseball, hit .360 between Class-A and Double-A ball after becoming Seattle's No. 1 draft pick last June. Walker, as a 19-year-old, went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA at Double-A.

Zunino is four for 19 this spring (.211) with a home run. Walker is 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA in seven innings. No less than Felix Hernandez has likened Walker to a young King Felix. Walker was in the package offered to Arizona for Justin Upton before Upton invoked his no-trade clause and rejected the trade.

The Mariners' plan appears to be to go with Jesus Montero and Kelly Shoppach as catchers. Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Joe Saunders will be in the rotation, with Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, Hector Noesi, Jon Garland, Jeremy Bonderman and prospects such as Brandon Maurer, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton vying for the final two spots in the rotation.

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