Nick Franklin May Force Change In Seattle Mariners' Infield Plans

By Thom Tsang
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Dustin Ackley may want to watch his back, because his job with the Seattle Mariners may be slipping away faster than anyone might have anticipated.

That’s not to say that the team should be giving up on their 25-year-old former top prospect, of course, but even the longest leashes have an end point, and Ackley has just about reached it.

Never mind the disappointing .226/.294/.328 encore he had in 2012 to follow up a 2.9 fWAR rookie season; with an even worst .218/.227/.265 line thus far in 2013, the M’s incumbent second baseman is barely staying above water at replacement level these days.

Of course, having a top prospect in the minors knocking on the door isn’t going to help him out either.

In this case, I’m referring to Nick Franklin, the Mariners’ first-round pick from 2009 who has been a top-100 prospect in the game in the last three seasons. He’s considered to be the second-best position player in the team’s farm system, and is wasting little time in showing why in 2013.

Though he had a rather pedestrian debut in Triple-A in 2012 (.243/.310/.416 triple-slash), Franklin has shown massive improvements thus far, carrying a .318/.441/.481 line through 163 PA, with four home runs and six steals to go along with it.

Somewhat ironically, the most notable change is that the infielder has worked his plate discipline numbers to a more Ackley-like level, cutting a 23 percent strikeout rate to 11.7 percent this year, and boosting his walk rate from 8.1 percent to 17.8 percent.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that he’s just 22-years-old, too.

It’s worth mentioning that Ackley debuted in the bigs at 23, so he’s no slouch either, but the fact of the matter is that his power has all but disappeared, and he’s making far too many outs at the plate to make his defense count. Having a wiz like Brendan Ryan is one thing, but two offensive non factors in the middle infield is probably not what the Mariners, who have made moves to improve their offense, are hoping for.

Age may be against Franklin’s side right now, but with the ability to play shortstop and second (he’s probably better at second), the team aren’t going to be able to ignore him for long if he keeps smashing Triple-A, even if it means giving Ackley a breather to work out his slump in a reduced capacity.

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