It looks like the Seattle Mariners are starting to feel the heat. After banishing Jesus Montero to AAA Tacoma this weekend, teammate Dustin Ackley will join him there. Taking Ackley's spot on the Mariners' roster is Nick Franklin, a top five prospect coming into the year for the Mariners.
First, we'll start with Ackley. He was the second overall pick in the 2009 Draft (behind a guy named Stephen Strasburg), and he made his major league debut for the Mariners in 2011. In that 90 game stint with Seattle, he showed flashes of stardom, hitting .273/.348/.417 with six homers, six stolen bases, and a double digit walk rate to go along with excellent defense at second base. In the two years since, the defense has remained, but the offense has fallen off a cliff. Last season, Ackley hit .226/.294/.328 in 153 games with 12 homers and 13 steals, and he bottomed out in 45 games this year, hitting a paltry .205/.266/.250 with one home run and one stolen base. The Mariners will likely try to figure out just what the hell is wrong with Ackley in AAA, and hopefully salvage the 25-year old's career.
The 22-year old Franklin isn't in Seattle's starting lineup today against the Padres, but he'll be expected to start at second in place of Ackley. Franklin, taken 25 picks after Ackley in the 2009 Draft, had a breakout year in 2012 between AA Jackson and AAA Tacoma, hitting a combined .278/.347/.453 in 121 games with 11 homers and 12 steals. This year with Tacoma, Franklin is hitting a solid .324/.440/.478 in 39 games with four homers and seven steals. The switch hitter has also walked 30 times to just 20 strikeouts, and he can hopefully give the Mariners some solid production in the lineup, something that Ackley hadn't done for a year and a half.
However, if Franklin struggles, the Mariners brass is going to need to take a long hard look at their major league coaching staff. Ackley, Montero, and Justin Smoak were all heavily hyped, top 15 prospects in baseball that have struggled immensely once setting foot in Seattle. If it happened with one player, I could write that off as a fluke. Two players, it's probably a coincidence. Three players, there's something going on there. But four players? Something is happening, and something needs to be changed. Thankfully, it looks like the Mariners are taking their time in promoting Mike Zunino, who has a .232/.304/.514 line in AAA this year after setting the minors on fire last season after being drafted third overall.
But anyway, I think the Mariners are making the right call by demoting Montero and Ackley and recalling Franklin. Smoak should probably be joining those two in AAA, but as a 26-year old, lord knows if he's even worth trying to salvage anymore.