By Brent Stecker
It’s been nearly a month since the Mariners sent down Dustin Ackley to Triple-A Tacoma and called up rookie Nick Franklin, a fellow 2009 first-round pick and second baseman, in his place. And while the Mariners haven’t exactly played the best baseball since the swap, the results have been promising for the franchise.
After a disappointing past season and a half with the Mariners, Dustin Ackley appears to have found his stroke with Triple-A Tacoma. (AP)
Through Saturday, Franklin, 22, has hit .295 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 25 games with the big club. Ackley, meanwhile, has seemingly found his stroke in the minors, as he is hitting .361 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 23 games with the Rainers – very strong numbers compared to the .237 average, one home run and eight RBIs he managed in 45 games with Seattle this season.
Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider joined “Wyman, Mike and Moore” on Friday and expressed that Mariners fans should be cautiously encouraged by the performances of the franchise’s second basemen.
Chruchill said Franklin’s hot start is eerily similar to Ackley’s in 2011, but while the switch-hitter has yet to deal with Major League pitchers adjusting to him, he may be ahead of the curve because of his quiet plate approach.
“Dustin Ackley did the exact same thing (as Franklin) through 23 games – the numbers are almost identical – and then he started to struggle. What we haven’t seen yet with Franklin is the league catch up to him a little bit and force him to adjust,” said Churchill. “I think once that happens, once they start pounding him in under his hands and inside and forcing him to make that adjustment, how he responds to that, I think that’s gonna tell us a lot about what Nick Franklin’s going to be for the future.
“The difference between the two players is Nick Franklin is extremely sound when it comes to his swing mechanics. They’re very basic to begin with, especially from the left side of the plate. He stays closed, there’s a very abbreviated stride. Dustin Ackley overstrides, there’s a lot of moving parts, he opens up early. Franklin hasn’t done that at any point in his minor-league career. … He’s become more consistent at hitting the ball the other way and using the whole field, and that bodes well for his future.”
As for Ackley, Churchill believes his demotion back to Tacoma was long overdue, as it gives the 25-year-old a chance to focus on rediscovering the raw skills that prompted the Mariners to take him with the second overall pick in the 2009 draft.
“I don’t think you wait almost a year and a half of a guy hitting .200 to .220 with lots of strikeouts and just completely getting away from what he is and what he was drafted as, what his natural skills are,” he said. “You can lose a player that way. You can actually ruin a player for the long term waiting too long.”
Even with his success in Triple-A, Ackley’s still working on being consistent with his approach, Churchill said.
“In the times that I’ve seen him it’s been on and off. (If) he gets that front foot down in time, he hits line drives and he hits the ball the other way. When he overstrides is when he strikes out,” Churchill said. “He’s hitting the ball in the gaps in Tacoma. Can he do that, cover the plate, keep his strikeouts down, work counts (in the Major Leagues)?
“He’s obviously doing this against Triple-A pitching and not big-league pitching, and that’s going to be a different story. We’re not going to know what Dustin Ackley has done or is going to be capable of doing until he comes up and does it at the big-league level.”