I generally disapprove of wild fanbase mood swings. When the team is on a skid, and the game threads consist of a bunch of people spewing invectives at Wedge and Z and the players, I try to pop in with encouraging news. When the team is riding a win streak, and the game threads consist of a bunch of people singing the praises of Endy Chavez and Raul Ibanez and the front office, I try to bring the enthusiasm down a little bit. Think of me as Lookout Landing's pH buffer.
So it is at this juncture, following a 7-1 demolition of the Padres, that I invite you to observe: this season has been a complete and utter disaster. I mean, the team is bad, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the implications of this season so far on the long term future of the franchise. Given that this team isn't going to contend for a playoff spot in 2013 - no, really, they aren't, they're bad - I've sort of stopped caring about what Endy Chavez and Jason Bay do, y'know? At this point in the season I care about the young players' performance. The "future core"'s performance.
Let's take a look at that.
|Felix Hernandez||still the king|
|Kyle Seager||is boss|
|Michael Saunders||decent, but slumping horribly|
|Carter Capps||can't get lefties out|
|Justin Smoak||new ceiling is "mediocre"|
|Dustin Ackley||infinite groundouts, sent to AAA|
|Jesus Montero||isn't a real catcher, sent to AAA|
|Brandon Maurer||can't get lefties out, sent to AAA|
|Taijuan Walker||improving, but still in AA|
|James Paxton||has thrown 6 IP in a start once|
|Mike Zunino||can't hit anything bendy|
|Brad Miller||still looks like Kyle Seager|
|Nick Franklin||to be discussed|
I'm exaggerating the struggles of the minor leaguers a little bit, because I want to set a tone. Walker's improved control in his last few AA starts is really quite encouraging, and Zunino's contact struggles are probably temporary. But the point is that by and large the team's "young core" has looked like crap this year, and that irrespective of the team's record this is a pretty ominous sign. If Jack Z's job security is determined not by the team's record but by the success of his imports, as it should be, his seat must be getting deservedly hot. Because it's really only Felix and Seager who have done well in the major leagues.
But luckily there is a beam of hope... and that beam's name is Nick Franklin. The legend of Franklin has grown exponentially this season, as he put on thirty-five pounds over the winter, demolished AAA for a month with improved contact and swing rates, and finally earned a callup at the expense of Dustin Ackley. And then, today:
I wrote a while back that, given Franklin's contact and swing rates, he would need to maintain something around a .130 ISO to be a league average hitter. A 100 wRC+ second baseman with good defense - which Franklin should have - is worth about 3 WAR.
So far he's off to a good start. Keep bringing the hope, Nick.
- Here are some two-homer facts. The only two Mariners younger than Franklin to have multi-homer games, ever, were Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. Last year, another hot middle infield prospect hit his first two major league home runs in the same game. His name is Manny Machado. Just in case you think I'm pumping up Franklin's ego too much, the only other two rookies in the last three years who hit their first two home runs in the same game were Ryan Lavarnway and... Jesus Montero. Welp.
- Check out this picture by AP reporter Lenny Ignelzi. The nice way to say what I'm about to say would be "Nick Franklin is physically projectable and should develop more power." The not-so-nice way to say it would be "he has a very small body and looks funny in his big batting helmet."
- Brendan Ryan hit a home run today.Over the last two weeks he has a 160 wRC+, bringing his 2013 season wRC+ up to... 54. Good lord, Brendan Ryan was terrible for the first month and a half of the season. But the reason I'm writing this is because, after the game, Ryan provided an interview that was reprinted by Larry Stone and should remind us all why we love him:
- Speaking of reasons to love Brendan Ryan, watch this video. The man can't hit, at all, but he deserves to be remembered as the greatest defensive player of the early 2010s. Maybe more. Remember that, when he's traded this summer: the Mariners will have lost the greatest defender in the world.
- Now that I've made a direct comparison between Brad Miller and Kyle Seager on three separate occasions - and to be fair, it's an easy comparison to make, because the resemblance in both minor league numbers and career arc is just flat uncanny - I accept full responsibility for when Miller eventually busts.
I don't even know how to describe that one. On that pitch, it was a changeup in and I got the barrel to it. And it was like, whack, I hit it, and I was starting to prepare for the next pitch. I was 102 percent for sure it was a foul. I don't know what happened, if the wind brought it back, or if the spin did it, I don't know what happened. But that was the least expected, most awesome result I could ever not imagine.