mariners

In The Battle For Short, Franklin & Miller Making A Case

In Center, The Issue May Be Already Decided

It’s a bit early still in the 2014 Seattle Mariners Spring Training season, but you wouldn’t know it by the way Nick Franklin and Brad Miller are duking it out over the starting shortstop position.

Just a couple of weeks ago, manager Lloyd McClendon announced that it was an open competition between these two guys for the right to be double-play partners with newly acquired second baseman Robinson Cano.

And battle they have!

The Numbers At 2nd

Miller is batting a whopping .407 headed into Friday’s game.  Better still is his OBP at .484 and his three homers in just 25 ABs.

Franklin is batting .269 with a .345 OBP and on homer in just 26 ABs.

Now, I know what you are saying: How can I call that a statistical dead heat when one guy is batting nearly 100 points higher than the other?  Well, like I said before, it’s still a bit early.

Franklin has seven hits and Miller has eleven.  That just four hits difference, and they are within one AB of each other as well.  That means if Miller goes 0-for-3, or Franklin goes 3-for-3 on a given night, the tables turn.

Which one of these guys will play short? (Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)

Which one of these guys will play short? (Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)

Defensively, both Miller and Franklin have made all the routine plays and both have made an occasional amazing play.  Neither has committed a single error.

It’s very early, but it’s still very fun to watch these guys battling it out on every play, and Lloyd McClendon has to be loving what he sees so far.  Too often when you have a legitimate position battle like this, one guy fades away while the other takes off and runs with it.  That’s not happening here.

McClendon is going to have a tough decision on his hands come the end of the month when one of these guys is going to have to go to AAA.

The Numbers in Center

Originally I pegged Center Field to be the battle between Michael Saunders and Abraham Almonte.  So far, Saunders has played just eight innings in Center vs. 50 innings for Almonte.  Veteran Endy Chavez has picked up the majority of the time in Center other than Almonte making it a three-way battle.

Chavez has not been able to do a whole lot with the bat in his playing time.  He’s batting .238 with just a .278 OBP.  That’s probably not going to get it done in McClendon’s mind.

Saunders, while not in Center, has been playing in other outfield spots and has received plenty of ABs.  I think McClendon knows Saunders can play Center; we’ve seen him out there for some time now and he’s brilliant defensively.  McClendon is just trying to give as much time in Center to Almonte as possible to get a look at him.  Saunders has had a hot bat so far in the spring.  He’s batting .333 with a .393 OBP and one homer.  Saunders is also second on the team with eight RBIs.

Almonte, while looking brilliant in Center, has really struggled at the plate.  He’s batting just .121 with an OBP of .189.  He has hit one homer which also accounts for his one RBI.

If Spring Ended Today…

If McClendon had to make the call today on who gets the Shortstop spot it would be very tough, but I think the nod would have to go to Miller.  Like I said before, though, the numbers are so close that one night can change them.

In Center I think you have to give the spot to Saunders again.  Now, that doesn’t sound very sexy, but do consider this:

McClendon is very high on Almonte.  Given that the M’s are so left-handed-bat heavy in their lineup and Saunders is yet another lefty, he might just give Almonte a chance to start the season despite the poor numbers just to get another switch hitter in that lineup. 

If that does happen, it would not shock me in the least.

I guess we’re going to have to wait another couple weeks to find out on both of these battles.

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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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