The recent demotions of the Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley look like crushing blows to the long-term promise of the Seattle Mariners, but things in Seattle may not be as gloomy as they seem.
It was announced this week that Dustin Ackley, the former second overall draft pick out of Chapel Hill, is getting time in the outfield at Triple-A Tacoma, but the change isn’t due to his own poor play at second base. Rather, the bevy of hitting prospects emerging throughout the Mariners’ farm system necessitated the move. Nick Franklin, a 1st rounder himself , has taken over at second base and seems likely to hang on for the long haul. Interestingly, Nick Franklin was a shortstop throughout his minor league career and nobody is believing that his shift to second base nor Ackley’s shift to the outfield was made to accommodate their current starting shortstop, 31-year-old Brendan Ryan, who is hitting .210.
The Mariners have another top prospect tearing through the minor leagues, Brad Miller. Last season he was second in all of minor league baseball in hits. While at Double-A this season, Miller led the Generals in batting (.294), hits (45), home runs (6), RBI (25), on-base percentage (.379) and total bases (72). It’s more just than his great bat that is catching eyes though:
“Brad has been a leader both on and off the field this season,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He has a knack for getting things started when they need to get started and motivating his teammates throughout the game.” (Orange and White)
After starring for their Double-A affiliate, the Jackson Generals (that’s Tennessee, by the way), Brad Miller was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma in late May. Since his promotion, Miller is hitting .352 with 22 RBI in 77 at bats. At just 23 years old, he is the future starting shortstop for the Seattle Mariners, and that future is fast approaching. He is the reason Ackley and Franklin can’t share the middle infield.
He won’t be called up before the “Super Two” date which is considered to be in late June, and likely not until September call-ups, but at that point he is likely to make his case for the starting shortstop spot on the 2014 edition of the Mariners. I expect him to continue to excel. With his biggest weakness being his sometimes erratic throwing arm, I would be shocked to see him flop at the plate in Ackley-fashion.
That’s not to throw the former Tar Heel and Winston-Salem native completely under the bus though. Since his demotion Dustin Ackley has been crushing the ball, making his move to LF/CF all the more promising. He is hitting .417 with a 1.110 OPS in 60 at bats as a Tacoma “Rainer.” He’s taken the demotion like a man and slugging is the way back to the bigs. He’ll be there soon. Conversely, see Ian Stewart’s rant on being mired in the Cubs farm system where he is hitting below the Mendoza line.
If Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, and Dustin Ackley weren’t enough for the M’s, Mike Zunino was called up to take Jesus Montero spot, as the team’s promising catcher of the future. He was the 3rd overall pick in 2012 out of Florida and is a better defensive catcher than Montero (Update: Montero will be out 4-6 weeks following surgery on the torn meniscus in his left knee). Additionally, former UVA Wahoo, Danny Holtzen and top prospect Taijuan Walker offer future support for Felix Hernandez in future Mariner rotations. With such a great core of young players, the future at Safeco isn’t as gloomy as the Seattle rain would seem to indicate.
Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Brad Miller’s career at Clemson. As a junior, Miller batted an amazing .402, 30 walks, and a .533 on-base percentage en route to winning ACC Player of the Year honors.
For a more Seattle Mariner focused article, check out my companion piece on Sports-Kings.
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