The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
There are some new names on the backs of Seattle Mariner jerseys, but the hopes of Mariner fans remain the same. It’s a hope that this latest wave of highly touted minor league prospects will finally deliver at the major league level. It’s been awhile since a homegrown product has turned into a big league star for the M’s. Granted that particular prospect, Felix Hernandez, has turned into one of the best pitchers in baseball. Since King Felix, the Mariners have been on a considerable dry spell. The latest young guns to dash Mariner fans’ hopes and dreams, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley have all struggled to find any consistency and Smoak is the only one currently on the major league roster. So to recap, the lone bright spot of that trio is a measly .230 hitter four years into his Mariner career.
Even though we as Mariner fans have been burned time and time again by the up-and-comers that never panned out, we still hold out hope that the next ones will deliver what the others failed to accomplish; a competitive and exciting team to root for.
That optimism now resides in Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. Franklin, a first round pick of the Mariners back in 2009, has hit at every level of the minors and has even had a nice start to his big league career. In 26 games for the Mariners, he is hitting .283 with four home runs and 13 RBI. If he keeps that type of production going, he will become what we thought Dustin Ackley was going to be. The problem for the Mariners and their fans alike is we envisioned building a middle infield around Ackley and Franklin together. Franklin was supposed to be the shortstop of the future as Brendan Ryan was simply a place holder keeping the position warm until Franklin was ready. Ackley was supposed to be his running mate at second turning double plays and piling up runs. As it stands today, it appears to more of an either or situation. But optimism remains. Ackley is currently tearing the cover off of the baseball in AAA Tacoma and he will be back in a Mariner uniform at some point. If he can figure out major league pitching, the Mariners might just have that thriving middle infield we all envisioned just a couple years ago.
Then there is Zunino. The highly touted catching talent out of the University of Florida, Zunino’s ascension to the big leagues has been meteoric. He only played 91 games in the minors hitting a blistering, for a catcher, .295 with 24 home runs and 86 RBI. As soon as the Mariners drafted him 3rd overall in the 2012 draft, it was obvious he was their long-term solution at catcher as there were serious concerns about Jesus Montero’s ability to play the position full-time. Even with Montero gradually switching positions, he was still called upon to do a majority of the catching duties until those concerns were realized and he became too big of a defensive liability. Montero was always seen as an offensive first type player, but he has really struggled since joining the Mariners and it was his stalled development that played a major role in Zunino’s rapid rise to the big leagues.
It’s too early to tell if this latest batch of prospects will bring different results. Hopefully it isn’t new faces same outcome, but they have to play in order for us to find out. The hope that competitive baseball in Seattle is coming is what keeps us at ease during another forgotten season. We must tell ourselves this time will be different.
Or maybe we really are insane.