When the Mariners added Robinson Cano as a free agent this past winter, they forced one of their top prospects, Nick Franklin, from the position he seemed likely to hold onto for the foreseeable future. For all intents and purposes, this set up a battle for shortstop between the team’s top two middle infield prospects.
Brad Miller is the older of the two and had the better rookie season. He’s got a good eye, makes good contact and stepped up into the majors with only a small hit to his walk rate last year. He’s also played more shortstop than Franklin.
Franklin stumbled in the majors last year, hitting .225. He was able to draw walks in the majors, but his contact rate took a big hit and his batting average crashed. But even his minor league contact rates trailed Miller’s. Franklin has more power, however, he hit 12 homers last year, and might end up getting on base as much as Miller once he adjusts to big league pitching. The question is whether he’ll get the chance this year.
There are a few possibilities here and one could burn a lot of pixels over the backs and forths of the arguments, most of which end up with the logical conclusion that two bodies cannot exist in the same space. The bottom line is that last year Miller’s bat was ready, Franklin’s was not. Both are having strong springs, which makes this all clear as mud, but the course that makes more baseball sense is to give Millerâ€”the older more established candidateâ€”the job, send Franklin down for more seasoning, and see what happens.
If Franklin gets off to a hot start maybe there’s a trade to be had, or an injury will change all the conditions. If Miller stumbles, a team that has struggled to get prospects started on the road to their self realization as major league regulars (I’m not just blowing Smoak here), will have Franklin and Willie Bloomquist to fall back on.
That seems like the most likely way to get everyone in place to succeed.