For the Seattle Mariners last 10 games, it's like "coming home again."
After a torrid first series that saw them scored 26 runs in three games against the Angels, the Mariners are back to swinging their bats like Elaine Benes swings her legs when she's dancing. Over the last 10, the M's are averaging 2.7 runs per game and have been shut out three times. The latest non-scoring affair came on Tuesday night against Robbie Ross, a former reliever that was making just his third major league start.
For that reason, Seattle called up SS/DH/now-OF prospect Nick Franklin on Wednesday. Franklin is the M's best shot at adding a potent bat to their lineup, having torn it up early on in AAA Tacoma this year (.395/469/.744 with 4 HR) but they'll hope he can do better than his 102-game trial in 2013.
Last season, Franklin hit .225/.303/.382 with 12 home runs, 20 doubles, 113 strikeouts and 42 walks in 412 plate appearances. At first glance it doesn't seem that bad, especially for a shortstop that was just 22-years-old, but Franklin was atrocious at the plate after a solid start to his career. Franklin hit .192/.278/.335 with 96 strikeouts over his last 295 plate appearances last season.
That's a clear example of a player that is being outmatched for a half-season worth of at-bats.
However, there's plenty of reason for optimism:
- Franklin has hit well for the majority of his minor league career, compiling a .290/.363/.467 line over 405 games, most of which have been spent at levels where he was considerably younger than the competition.
- Plenty of players do not hit well in their first season in the majors. Mike Trout hit .220/.281/.390 in 40 games as a rookie.
- Franklin couldn't really be any worse than the players he will replace.
Over his last 10 games, after a start that had some wondering if he was the best shortstop in the AL, Brad Miller is hitting .171/.227/.268 with 14 strikeouts and one walk. That's a strikeout rate of 31.8%.
Though he doesn't have a single inning in the outfield in his career, many expect that Franklin will take some reps in place of Michael Saunders and Logan Morrison, the latter of which may be the player he replaces on the roster. Saunders, despite one decent season in 2012, is a career .224/.294/.374 hitter. He's hitting .227 this season and is officially just not a good major league baseball player.
But Morrison is much worse, and is hitting .150/.227/.150 over an eight-game sample.
The M's brought Stefen Romero with them after spring training as one of the "somewhat-surprising" players to make the roster, but he's hitting .167/.211/.222 and is not yet looking like an option to take OF at-bats away from Saunders and Morrison. That leaves a huge hole in right field, which is even more concerning for a team that already has notable concerns at just about every other position besides second base.
And even Robinson Cano has yet to hit a home run, currently batting .320/.386/.360 with two doubles. Has "The Safeco Effect" really already gobbled up a player that averaged 28 home runs per game over the last five seasons?
Kyle Seager is off to a horrible start at the plate as well. The second-most reliable player in the lineup going into the year, Seager is hitting .146/.300/.220 without a home run.
Catcher Mike Zunino might actually be the most valuable position player so far, and he hasn't even drawn a walk yet.
But the Mariners are still 7-6, still in second place in the AL West, and still doing so without three of their four best pitchers. With Hisashi Iwakuma expected to return by early May, and hopefully James Paxton coming back around that same time, the rotation may be enough for them to get away without leading the league in any hitting categories. Though Taijuan Walker was recently scratched from a start for a stiff shoulder (no, that's not a good thing but not yet a death-kill) he was absolutely murdering minor league lineups and would be another huge addition to the rotation.
Right now Seattle is hoping that Cano can start hitting for power, Seager can start doing anything besides draw a walk, and just maybe Nick Franklin can provide significantly more than Saunders and Morrison and Miller.
It would be hard not to.