Right now the Mariners have a capable short stop in Brendan Ryan. Nobody (except other teams and their fans) is thrilled that Ryan is currently hitting just .180, but that's not the start and end of Ryan's value. There are walks; Ryan has elevated his walk rate this season from a steady 7% in prior years to 13% in 2012. There is the defense, where Ryan is a consensus world-class fielder. And there is evidence that Ryan's batting average is being held down in part by the bad luck that accompanies everything associated with the Mariners since we fans all did very bad things in past and current lives.
As a total package, Ryan can be an average to above average Major League player. For just $1.75 million in salary, he's a terrific value. He'll surely get a raise next season in his final year of arbitration eligibility, though how much is debatable if his offense doesn't recover. While I am totally satisfied with Ryan's performance and personality on the Mariners, he will be a free agent after next season and in case he and/or the team moves on, it's a welcome sight to gaze down into the minors and see the starting short stops doing well.
Brad Miller hit well in college and he has not missed a single beat since moving to the pros. The usual High Desert caveats apply (.500 wOBA at home, .343 on the road), but even adjusting for the park, Miller's tearing up the league. With his advanced level, coming from college, and ease in handling the High-A level, Miller ought to be moved up to Double-A.
Except that would be difficult because sitting (not literally*) in Jackson is Nick Franklin. Franklin hasn't demonstrated that his surprising power in Clinton during 2009 — he hit 23 home runs and 52 extra-base hits — has returned but the rest of his hitting skills are showing no signs of slacking against the tougher competition in Double-A. Instead, he's flashing increasing control of the strike zone this season with just 19 strike outs against 15 walks.
*probably. I don't know what Nick Franklin is doing right this moment. I assume it's not sitting in Jackson since the Generals are playing the Biscuits in Montgomery.
Just down the road (from me) in Tacoma, Carlos Triunfel has been on our collective radar for years now and that can make it difficult to remember that he barely just turned 22 years old. Triunfel began in a similar fashion as Franklin, blowing away expectations in Low-A Wisconsin except that Triunfel didn't hit for power and that he was amazingly only 17 at the time.
That young age fueled hopes for Carlos that he would fill in the power department as he aged, but it never seemed to come. His career high in home runs is just eight, over nearly a full year at High Desert. His .401 slugging percentage that season stands as the highest he's finished a year with.
That lack of development downgraded Carlos from exciting prospect to dismissed bust in many's eyes. But Triunfel might finally be taking that step of turning youth and projection into reality. He has five home runs already in the tough Cheney park and his slugging is at .449 with a career high .176 isolated slugging. Further encouraging is that he's kept his strikeouts in check (18%) and isn't just a hacker (6% walk rate).
Now those are just hitting numbers. They don't cover defense, which is a concern at least with both Miller (17 errors this season in 45 games) and Triunfel (12 errors in 44 games) and possibly Franklin as well (7 errors in 25 games). It's possible, some might even say likely, that none of them play much time at short in the Major Leagues. We've been hearing for years that Triunfel wouldn't stick at short.
However, I don't put a lot of stock in minor league defensive numbers and scouting reports. We have recent first-hand experience with Dustin Ackley (at second base), Kyle Seager (at a couple positions) and Alex Liddi (at third base) all having been regarded poorly by reports from the minors only to look adequate in the Majors. So for now, I'll shrug those concerns off. For as long as the above continue playing short stop, I'll consider them short stops.