Shortstop is currently in the worst shape of any position on the Mariners roster, outside of maybe catcher. There’s a bright star in the minors, but the next couple of seasons are going to require some creativity if Jack Zduriencik wants to improve the position.
On the Roster
Jack Wilson– Wilson brother #1 will receive $5 mil. in the last year of his contract. I don’t even know what else to write. I can’t see any way they could trade him at all, much less get any salary relief or anything good in return. He can’t stay healthy, and if he is on the field, he can’t hit. He’s still a slick fielder, if not quite at his previous level. The Mariners hope has to be that he’ll revisit the retirement thoughts he had briefly this season, but that’s pretty doubtful as well. Despite all that, I’d say the odds are 50-50 that he’s the opening day shortstop.
Josh Wilson- This is so depressing. Wilson #2 is pretty much like #1, giving away some defense for durability. I guess I might prefer Josh to Jack, but does it really matter? At least he’s cheap.
In the Minors
Nick Franklin– Finally, some hope. Franklin, a 19-year-old 2009 first rounder, put together a huge season at Low-A Clinton this year to jump into the discussion of the top shortstop prospects in the minors. Viewed as a switch-hitting baseball rat with a good bat but little power, Franklin proved all that true expect the power. He started hot and ended with 23 homers and a .485 slugging percentage. His defense doesn’t sound elite, but it shouldn’t be an issue to stay at the position. He ended the year at Double-A to help out in the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he stayed there in 2011, skipping High-A altogether. There’s been talk that he’ll be in Seattle at some point next season, but that’s pretty premature. Not impossible, but I’m not planning on anything before 2012, and even that might be too soon. He’s entering just his second full season in the pros and has issues to work on with his swing from the right side, but his future is extremely bright.
Carlos Triunfel– Carlos, the perpetual prospect. I’m not going to rehash his whole story, so here’s the short version: been around forever because he started playing at 17. Looked like a mega-star in the making. Injuries and a lack of production have taken the tarnish off. Has great contact ability, but can’t take a walk and the power hasn’t come around. Not likely to stay at shortstop long term. Still time, as he’s only 20 and lost a whole year to a badly broken leg, but he needs to show big improvement this year or the system’s going to pass him by.
Not too be too dramatic, but the situation’s pretty dire. Ideally, the team would find an average stop-gap they could sign for a decent price who would fill in until Franklin is ready. Basically, what they tried to do with Jack Wilson. I thought Hiroyuki Nakajima, a Japanese star, might be that guy, but reports differ on how good he is, if he can play short in America, and whether he’ll even be posted for major league teams. Otherwise there aren’t a ton of options. This position needs a massive upgrade, but I just don’t know if it’ll happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go with the Wilsons again for next year until Jack’s contract expires, but I’m sure they’ll look everywhere possible for an upgrade first. Jack Z., our prayers and hopes are with you.