Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin and the Mariners Second Base Dilemma
By Matt Seto
Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Ackley Goes Back to Second, Franklin Goes Back to Tacoma
Franklin could actually stay on with the Mariners as a bench player, he’s versatile enough to play either second or short in a pinch. And he had a good enough season to earn himself a spot in Seattle. Though if the Mariners do decide to stick Ackley back at second base, then it might be better to send Franklin down to Tacoma, just to keep his playing time up.
Given the season that Franklin showed us, this seems like a long-shot, but it is something to seriously consider.
Ackley saw action at second base 53 times this season. Over those 53 games Ackley committed exactly zero errors (over 231 chances he managed 81 putouts, 150 assists, and 30 double plays). Those numbers are nothing to take lightly, had he been able to keep his place in Seattle for the whole season, we most definitely would have heard his name in the mix for a Gold Glove.
As we all know, it’s not Ackley’s fielding that makes him questionable, it’s his streaky bat. Over the first 45 games with the Mariners, Ackley batted .205/.266/.250 and definitively earned a spot on the bus to Tacoma. Over each of those 45 games, Ackley started at second base (or came in as an offensive substitution). When he came back and moved to the outfield, Ackley turned things around batting .285/.354/.404 in 68 games as an outfielder.
You could say that Ackley simply plays better when he’s in the outfield, and you’d have some pretty solid evidence to back it up. But given the dramatic turnaround, I think that there could be something else going on. Maybe he just had a moment of enlightenment, maybe Rainiers hitting coach Howard Johnson re-tweaked his swing, or maybe he just got back in the groove. Any way you put it, something made him good, and I’m ok with it.
The way I look at it, Ackley could play pretty much anywhere. Defensively, he is very good at second. He’s also very good in the outfield. His 61 games in the outfield were defensively as good as his 53 at second. Ackley committed only one error while playing center, but still managed 134 putouts on 136 chances (.985 fielding percentage). 2013 Gold Glove Candidate Lorenzo Cain managed a barely-better fielding percentage of .990 with three fielding errors this year.
Defensively, you can put Ackley anywhere and he’ll contribute to a very good defensive roster. Putting him back at second base also opens up the possbility of Jack Z bringing in Jacoby Ellsbury. The Mariners aren’t exactly flush with big-name outfielders, but keeping a spot open for Ellsbury would make a lot of sense if that’s how they proceed.
Verdict: Moving Ackley back to second base frees up room in the outfield for a big-name signing, without giving up defensive ability. Moving Franklin to the bench or to Tacoma hurts because he looks to be MLB-ready, but keeping him available for depth gives the M’s some breathing room when injuries pop up.