James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen were once the much-hyped future of the Mariners pitching staff.
PEORIA, Ariz . — Once, not so long ago, they were the shining hope of the Mariners, a trio of power arms dubbed “The Big Three” who were going to help lead them out of the wilderness.
Now, only one remains, and James Paxton hopes — again — this is finally the year he harnesses his massive potential. Same goes for Taijuan Walker, but he’s now toiling down the road with the Arizona Diamondbacks. And Danny Hultzen is a college student again, sitting this year out while finishing his studies at the University of Virginia, hoping against hope that his damaged left shoulder recovers enough to allow him to continue his career in 2018. But after two major surgeries, Hultzen knows the odds are against him.
“I really thought that at some point all of us were going to be pitching together in the big leagues,’’ Paxton mused from Mariners camp.
But baseball is funny that way. There is nothing more unpredictable, fickle, maddening, occasionally exhilarating, and often heartbreaking — sometimes, all in the same guy — than a pitching prospect on the path to the big leagues.
“It’s prospects,’’ shrugged Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. “It’s hard to be a big-league baseball player. It’s particularly hard to consistently perform over and over, year after year. So it is a selective class that is allowed to play in the league for a term.”
No matter how touted or hyped a young pitcher is — and this Mariners trio might have been done wrong by the amount of both — there is rarely a straight path to the major leagues. The detours and roadblocks are frequent, sometimes career-ending. And when an organization pins its hopes on a subset of prospects, well, it rarely works out the way it’s drawn up.
It was former Mets general manager Joe McIlvaine who said, if you have several top pitching…