There have been a few changes to the Mariner team recently that has injected some excitement into the team. And with the trade dead line looming this month I thought I would join the fun and write a little about what I see and what I think may or may not happen in the next month.
Nick Franklin aka The Werewolf. As I wrote in a previous post, when most people wanted Franklin to come up and replace Brendan Ryan at short stop I thought he should come up and replace Dustin Ackley instead. Which I am glad he did. I think Franklin’s best position is at second base. As we have seen, he has started out very well. But usually when guys first come up they get a lot of fastballs and if they show they can handle them then the off speed pitches start coming more frequently. I think Franklin is at this stage now. Let’s hope he makes the proper adjustment to seeing more off-speed pitches. We are already seeing his strike outs going up and his walks going down. Also, I think the scouting report on him as being a better left handed hitter than right is accurate. In the end I think he will make the needed adjustments and be a productive second baseman moving forward. The werewolf just seems to have that inner strength and confidence to get it done.
Brad Miller aka Crazy Legs. I hope he can stick at short stop because I believe that is where his best value to the team will be. I think so far he is doing a good job defensively. If he can make the routine play and the occasional great play I will take that. Although I don’t think he has a great arm, from what I’ve seen it’s good enough. One thing I have observed is that he has a tendency to tap his glove once before he throws the ball. This is going to be a problem on close plays. I do think this can be fixed but it is a flaw mechanically none the less. I really like his approach at the plate. When he sees a pitch he likes, he goes after it aggressively. His swing is level with a slight downward tilt which will produce many line drives. One thing I see as a concern already though is that he has the tendency to swing at the high fast ball. That can be a problem. But he has proven he can hit the fast ball in the strike zone so now he is going to start seeing more off speed pitches. He too will have to make the needed adjustments to this. I hope he can, but we shall see.
Dustin Ackley being moved to the outfield. In my opinion this move is irrelevant because I think he is destined to be a utility player. I was never on the Dustin Ackley bandwagon. If the Mariners think he can handle center field everyday they are mistaken. His offensive skill set profiles better in CF but his defensive skill set profiles better in LF. So what do you do? In my opinion you make him a utility player. Kind of like a poor man’s version of Mark McLemore. Ackley doesn’t hit for enough power to be an everyday corner outfielder and he isn’t good enough defensively to be an everyday CF. Therefore, I feel they should use him as a backup outfielder, backup infielder, pinch hitter and pinch runner. He can still be a fairly valuable piece to the ball club. Just not as a starter in my opinion.
Mike Zunino. I think it is obvious that he is overmatched at the plate at this time. But certain circumstances led to his promotion so he is with the big club but he should still be in AAA. I do think he is doing a fine job behind the plate and the experience he is getting working with pitchers at the Major League level is invaluable. You can already see his confidence growing as he is taking charge of the staff more. Now, about his offense. He is overmatched. In my opinion he is too close to the plate and is getting jammed too much. Although it did seem like he is standing away from the plate a little more the last game I saw. So I will look again next time to see if in fact he did move farther away. I hope he has because he has to get the barrel on the ball more. Like Franklin and Miller, he is going to have to adjust to the off speed pitches which he is having trouble with but that was expected. He was having trouble with them in AAA as well. I think in the end he too will be a nice player for the Mariners. I don’t think he will be the next Buster Posey like some had him pegged. But I will settle for the next Dan Wilson, with a little more power.
Justin Smoak. We all know the circumstances that brought Justin to Seattle. We also all know the struggles he has had since arriving here. And finally we are all aware of the recent success he is having. The one reason I have optimism this time is because he has actually changed his mechanics when he is hitting. That is he holds onto the bat with two hands on his follow through as opposed to letting go with his top hand on his follow through. This has made his swing much shorter and quicker. Smoak still has a tendency to deviate from his fundamentals and try’s to hit 500 foot homeruns but for the most part he is sticking to his new mechanics. But as with Franklin, Miller and Zunino, we shall see how this turns out.