I got to thinking yesterday about Nick Franklin's recent struggles and Dustin Ackley's recent string of success. I originally had some thoughts, then discarded them without much further brain strain because of small samples and such. They keep coming back, though, and I guess that's normal since these two players have been discussed together for the past couple seasons.
Ackley -- an outfielder and first baseman in college -- was converted into a second baseman by the Seattle Mariners quickly after they drafted him. It never looked pretty, but he got the job done through his minor league ascension while maintaining his hitting profile. Even after initial success at the big league level, though, we saw endless chatter about if and when Ackley would move back to the outfield and make way for the developing Nick Franklin or someone else.
The final nail in the discussion seemed to be hammered when Franklin was included in an agreed-to trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a package that would see the M's land Justin Upton. But that trade was vetoed by Upton. Ackley continued to struggle. Franklin kept on hitting. When Ackley was sent to Tacoma in favor of Franklin and the former was pushed to the outfield, it seemed like the decision may have again been made: This time seeing Franklin as the second baseman of the future.
Well, now we have reasons to question that again. Yeah, they play different positions now. But should they?
I of course tread forward cautiously, knowing we're talking small samples and without the knowledge of who will be making the decisions on this roster next season. But, what the heck, let's talk about this.
In 12 August games, Franklin -- sporting a triple slash of .104/.232/.167 -- would love for his line to just be considered paltry. He's in what could end up as one of the worst ruts of his career before he's even made it out of his rookie campaign. There's little reason to expect that line to continue, and he should make adjustments, but it's enough to ask questions heading into 2014 if he doesn't improve considerably season's end.
During the same period, Ackley is running hot with a .385/.415/.513 line. Obviously, that probably won't continue either, and we'd be donning the rosiest of glasses if we declared him fixed based on a handful of games with an arbitrary start date. Things continue to look up for the 2009 second-overall pick when you see his line of .329/.358/.434 over the past month and even the overall .283/.326/.375 number since his recall (36 games, 129 plate appearances) from the Rainiers.
Nick Franklin was hot when he came up, and so was Dustin Ackley. Both players began to struggle after a time, but Franklin's woes started much sooner. Ackley, not a middle infielder growing up appears to have been a pretty good defensive middle infielder in the big leagues. Nick Franklin, always a middle infielder, has not been especially good based the small number of advanced metrics we have to look at (though, the eye test has always said the same).
Does any of this mean anything for either player and what we should expect from them in 2014? I don't know. Probably not, but maybe so.
I just used several hundred words with the intent start a discussion, but I believe I've started to convince myself that Dustin Ackley should get another look at second base if he hits for the rest of the season. He's not good enough defensively to be adequate in center, and he doesn't fit the mold of a corner outfielder offensively. Nick Franklin is still a mystery right now at the plate, and could very well adjust. But how much? And does anyone believe he'll ever be more than below average with the glove?
So, hey, back to why I started typing on this keyboard: How has your confidence level changed for each of these two players, if at all? Would you consider another second base swap? Should one be traded or both retained? Knowing the Mariners easiest path to adding offense this off-season -- without blocking their young core -- might be in the outfield, does that influence your choice at all?
A decision won't be made this season because it doesn't need to be. The M's aren't contending and since the minor league season is ending soon, it does no good to relegate Franklin to the bench where he can't progress. Dustin Ackley can keep playing the outfield for now.
But what would you do with these two players come the winter and spring of 2014?