By Brent Stecker
The shortstop position has been the antithesis of productive at the plate for the Mariners this season. Starter Brendan Ryan has managed just a .173 batting average and .212 slugging percentage, and the only player on the team with worse marks is his backup, Robert Andino (.167 average, .212 slugging).
Meanwhile, 2009 first-round draft pick Nick Franklin is becoming increasingly hard to ignore by raking minor-league pitching at Triple-A Tacoma, which led ESPN analyst and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden to tell “Bob and Groz” last week that it’s time for the Mariners to give the 22-year-old infielder a shot.
“I love Ryan defensively, and I like Andino, (but) how long can you go with a shortstop who doesn’t even hit .200?” Bowden said. “The reality is you got Nick Franklin sitting down there at Triple-A hitting (through May 15) .339 with eight doubles, four homers, 16 RBI, five stolen bases (and) hasn’t got caught yet, and quite frankly like (Mariners third baseman Kyle) Seager he’s ready to hit in the big leagues now. For me, you bring Franklin up, put him at shortstop and solve the offensive position there.”
That’s not the only idea Bowden has to improve the Mariners offense, which is ranked 27th out of the 30 MLB teams in batting average. He also called for struggling second baseman Dustin Ackley (.229 average, .279 slugging) to take a trip back to Tacoma.
“I’d option (Ackley) out and let him fix (his hitting) in the minor leagues,” Bowden said. “I know that sounds harsh, but I sent both Bret Boone and Aaron Boone out when they had similar service time that Ackley (does). I sent them out about this time, late May or early June. Both Boone brothers, sent them down, and they had really good big-league careers.
“There are some times when they struggle at this level so much that the only way they’re gonna get out of it is to go to the minor leagues where there’s no pressure, no microscope on him. You gotta get him fixed, put him in a groove, get him hot, (and then) you bring him back. It’s a huge wake-up call for a young player, but they’ve gotta understand the reality at this level, you gotta produce. You don’t get a free ride just because you’re a first-round pick. I’d option Ackley back – I still think Ackley’s going to be OK – and I’d bring up Franklin.”