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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 2, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Nick Franklin is darkhorse Rookie of Year candidate in down year for AL rookies

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Here is today’s Mariners’ minor-league report, with news of Taijuan Walker’s second strong start for Tacoma. There’s also word today that outfielder Carlos Peguero and pitcher Brian Moran of the Rainiers were named to the Triple-A All-Star team, while outfielders Julio Morban and James Jones, and starter Roenis Elias of Jackson were named to the Southern League All-Star team. So was Walker, but obviously he won’t be doing now that he’s with Tacoma.¬†

Nick Franklin chose a good year to break into the big leagues. OK, technically, the Mariners chose him, but either way, there happens to be a wide open path to the Rookie of the Year award in the American League. That’s unlike, say, last year, when Mike Trout was such an obvious choice that no one else needed to bother to have shown up.

But, as Rob Neyer points out, all the really impactful rookies so far this year have been in the National League, from Yasiel Puig to Shelby Miller. All five rookie pitchers who have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title are in the National League. All three rookies who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title are in the NL. No rookie relievers in either league are making much of an impact.

So in the American League, it’s probably going to come down to guys who got called up at some point in the first half. The Mariners have a lot of those, but Franklin not only had the biggest head start (debuting on May 27), but he also is performing the best. In 31 games, Franklin is 33-for-112 with nine doubles, four homers, 15 RBIs, five stolen bases and a .295/.363/.482 line. That’s a .845 OPS and 141 OPS-plus. Not too shabby. Keep that pace¬† up in the second half, and Franklin will make a strong case to become the Mariners’ first Rookie of the Year since Ichiro in 2001. There are those who question whether veteran players from Japan are legitimate rookies. That’s an entirely different debate, but taking Ichiro and Kaz Sasaki (ROY in 2000) out of the equation, and the last (also, the only) traditional Seattle rookie to win the award was Alvin Davis in 1984

Right now, the obvious frontrunner is Boston’s Jose Iglesias, Puig’s former teammate on the Cuban national team, who has forced his way into the Red Sox’ third-base job by hitting .409/.455/.530 in 132 at-bats. A converted shortstop, Iglesias has played so well the Red Sox recently sent down Will Middlebrooks, their intended third baseman. There is nothing in Iglesias’s minor-league career to suggest he can keep up anything close to this pace, but we’ll see.

In 35 games, Royals outfielder David Lough is hitting .314/.336/.471 with two homers and 14 RBI. Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck is hitting .288 in 163 at-bats. Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia of the Twins has a .283 average with six homers and 25 RBI.

Three AL rookie pitchers have made double-digit starts — Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch of the Rangers, Dan Straily of the A’s — but their stats have all been underwhelming. Reliever Dane De La Rosa of the Angels leads all AL rookies in appearances with 35, followed by Cody Allen of Cleveland (32) and two Mariners: Carter Capps (30) and Yoervis Medina (28). Allen, with a 2.16 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings, has been the best of that group.

You never know who might break out in the second half, like maybe Wil Myers of the Rays or Jurickson Profar of the Rangers. But at the midway point, Nick Franklin is at least in the conversation.

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