SB asks: "Should the Mariners make any moves at this time?"
While I am not one to make early season moves just because the Mariners string together some bad games I do think we are far enough along into the season and have seen enough trends to be thinking about making some moves to better the ball club.
So with that said, here are a couple moves I would make right now.
First, I would send Jesus Montero down to AAA and bring up Jesus Sucre. (Zunino is not ready). Sucre is not the answer, but this is about getting Montero right and not about Sucre. I would tell him his catching days are over. I have seen enough of his poor framing of pitches, using the wrong fundamentals when receiving throws to home plate like Brendon Ryan’s throw last week and the other teams running at will against him (although more often than not they are stealing off the pitcher) none the less he has terrible fundamentals when attempting to throw out runners.
I think it was too much to ask for a 23 year old to learn how to catch and hit at the major league level. Montero’s value to this team is going to be with his bat. And that bat right now is none existent. He needs to go down and clear his mind and concentrate solely on his hitting and maybe work out some at first base but mostly learn to be a DH. One hitting tip I would give Montero is that he has to generate more backspin on the ball, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts on him last winter. I describe Montero’s swing as kind of “picking the ball” with his bat and hitting the top of the ball. That is why you see him weakly grounding out to the short stop so often. He needs to drive down on the ball to create that back spin, which in turn will make the ball go farther. One thing I suggested last winter and I still believe would benefit him, would be to let go of the bat with one hand on his follow through. This type of swing, along with swinging down on the ball, keeps the bat through the strike zone longer thus creating that all important back spin. Conversely, I like how Smoak is keeping two hands on the bat on his follow through. But that is for another post at another time.
My last thought on Montero, which might be the most frustrating, is his total lack of focus when he comes up to bat. He constantly smiling, looking in the other dugout and chatting with the opposing catcher. Sure, when you are an established player in the league you can exchange pleasantries some when you come to bat. But not when you a struggling young hitter who clearly has focus problems and has been hovering around the Mendoza line all year.
Montero needs go to AAA, forget about catching, work on his hitting mechanics and for crying out loud go up to bat with the intent and look on his face that he is going to do serious damage to the ball.
The second move I would make at this time is sending Dustin Ackley down to AAA and call up Nick Franklin to play second base and short stop a couple times a week. I realize many people want Brendon Ryan out which is another post for another time. This is about getting Ackley fixed and giving Franklin a chance to see if he is ready for the major leagues. Footnote. I do believe Franklin’s eventual position is going to be at second base. But I digress.
Ackley has batted .227 since the start of last year, with a bad OBP and his current slash line is .224/.284/273. While I think he has done a very nice job of playing second, even though he is as mechanical as hell when he fields and throws the ball, I have to give him some credit there. I do not think he should go to the outfield. His value is at second base and that value would go way down if he is moved to the outfield, or first base for that matter. With that being said, he came here with the reputation as a hitter and he has not done that. Like Montero, Ackley needs to go down and concentrate on his hitting. I do like his new, new stance (he has changed it twice) since last year. He needs to work on hitting the ball the other way, hitting with more authority and get that OBP up. And where did his stolen bases go? Is he still hurt? If he is truly going to be part of the core for the Mariners moving forward, he has a long ways to go.
As far as Franklin goes, from all indications he is ready for a call up. As I said earlier I think eventually he is going to be a second baseman and this will give him a chance to play there and at the same time get some starts at short stop. If he shows he can play short, great, call up Ackley when and if he gets his hitting straightened out and you have your middle infielders for the foreseeable future. If Franklin proves he is a better second baseman than Ackley, then you have your second baseman moving forward.
It’s time the Mariners make people earn their positions and playing time. Something neither Jesus Montero nor Dustin Ackley have done yet. As Jack Zduriencik says, “nobody is on scholarship here” and it’s high time to play the best players regardless of their draft position or minor league hype.