Hultzen among Mariners’ Arizona Fall League entrants

While the MLB playoffs are just gearing up for the eight fortunate franchises still playing in October, the rest are looking forward to offseason improvements. And for the Mariners, a big part of that means continued development of their young prospects.

That begins Tuesday, ready or not, with the start of the Arizona Fall League.

There are seven Mariners prospects on the Peoria Javelinas, who open their 38-game AFL schedule Tuesday against Salt River.

The biggest intrigue for Seattle fans will be watching the progress of first-round draft pick Danny Hultzen, the left-hander out of Virginia. Hultzen will be invited to Major League camp in the spring and given a good look, so keep an eye on how he does in the AFL.

You might recall that Dustin Ackley was the MVP of the AFL last fall and certainly helped build his confidence with an outstanding season in that league.

Steven Hensley, Forrest Snow and Brian Moran are the other three Mariners prospects pitching for the Javelinas.

The three Mariners position players are all worth watching as well. Adam Moore, coming back from his knee injury, is one of three catchers on the squad. Certainly he can ease some concerns if he plays well and proves healthy.

Young shortstop Nick Franklin and outfielder Chi-Hsien Chiang are the other two Mariners products participating. Franklin was heating up in a hurry after a promotion to Double-A in midseason when he got hit with a bat in pregame warmups and suffered a concussion, then got sick during his return from that incident. As one of Seattle’s top young prospects, this will be a nice chance to see where he’s at after a difficult end to his promising 2011 campaign

And Chiang also is of high interest as one of two young prospects — along with Trayvon Robinson — acquired in the E.rik Bedard trade. Chiang, 23, had huge offensive numbers with the Red Sox’s Double-A squad (.340, 18 HR, 76 RBIs in 321 at-bats), but then fell off dramatically after joining the Mariners’ Double-A Jackson team (.208, 0 HR, 10 RBI in 130 at-bats).

How the Taiwan native handles the AFL action will be important coming off that Jekyl and Hyde season. Certainly the Mariners would like to see more of what they expected at the time of the trade, now that he’s had time to settle in.

I’ll keep you posted on AFL doings and everything else Mariners-related over the course of the offseason, so stay tuned!

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