Some of you may already be aware, but the Mariners have set the rosters for their minor league affiliates. There were a few surprises, notably, prized young shortstop Nick Franklin will be starting at Class A High Desert and not in AA, where he got to play in a post-season game last year.
Franklin, 20, posted an .837 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in the mid-level Class A Midwest League last season and there was some thought he might be fast-tracked to AA. But Mariners GM Jack Zdurienck said he’s not willing to rush things just yet.
“It’s a good jump to AA at a young age,” Zduriencik said. “We can always move him at some point in time if he has success. But you’d rather take the cautious route rather than rush a kid up there and find out he isn’t ready. You’d rather he find some success at one level first, then reward him by promoting him to a higher level.
“He’s had success. But like I said, it’s a pretty big jump for a high schooler to be going to AA this soon.”
Other mild surprises included onetime top prospect Carlos Triunfel and former No. 1 draft pick, relief pitcher Josh Fields starting at AA.
Zduriencik noted that Triunfel, 21, is only a year removed from his comeback off a leg injury and is still young enough that he doesn’t have to be rushed either. especially with a logjam of infielders up at AAA.
“Usually, when you put an infielder in AAA, that’s a guy you have in case of emergency that you could call up to the major league club,” Zduriencik said. “With Carlos, that’s not really the case. I can see where, with Carlos, AAA would seem like the natural progression, but he is coming off an injury.”
Triunfel hit .257 with just a .618 OPS in 129 games at AA West Tennessee last season. He’ll begin this season at shortstop, though there’s been talk the team will eventually move him to second or third base if he ever has a shot at the majors.
For now, the team merely wants to see some consistency out of him and more successful numbers.
“I know he came into camp in great shape and with a positive attitude, so we’re anxious to see how he does,” Zduriencik said.
As for Fields, 25, a guy who many expected to be in the majors by 2009 when he was first drafted in June 2008, he’s still looking to put a successful minor league season together. Fields posted a 3.14 ERA in 21 games of an injury-shortened 2010 season. He struck out 28 batters in 28 2/3 innings, but also walked 18.
This will be his third AA season. Zduriencik said Fields showed some positive this spring, running his fastball up to the 95-99 mph range. But he added that he isn’t about to handle players according to what the pre-conceived expectations for them are.
“i think you hit it on the head there, the expectations people have of these guys can sometimes exceed what they’re ready to do,” he said. “I’d rather have players perform, earn it, the move to the next level.”