Mariner fans have heard about the youth movement for a few years, in fact the five year plan became the seven year plan. No matter. The 2014 season will determine if the youth movement provides dividends, or if the Mariner brass invested in the wrong players.
Consider the call-ups of rookies Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, and Mike Zunino. They all show promise at the major league level, Franklin in particular. In 38 games he has 6 homers, 19 rbis and is batting .284. But all three rookies need to have a warning label applied. The reason is Dustin Ackley.
In 2011 Ackley made his debut and hit .273 with 6 homers, and 36 rbis in 333 at bats. The promise he showed has been fading ever since. In 2012 he hit .226 and is currently hitting .202 after a stint in the minor leagues to regain his stroke, his confidence, and learn to play the outfield because Nick Franklin appears to have taken the second base job.
Will Nick Franklin suffer the same setback in 2014, or will he be like Kyle Seager, being consistent since his arrival in Seattle?
Jesus Montero was to be the catcher of the future, but he could not catch with proficiency, nor could he hit. He was sent to Tacoma, also to learn another position, but injury and links to the performance enhancing drug lab in Florida have sent his career into the Twilight Zone. Mike Zunino is now the catcher of the future, but will he struggle. He is hitting .217 in 19 games, so he is on a learning curve. Brad miller in 10 games is batting .229, again not enough to judge.
Franklin, Zunino, and Miller could end up like Seager, but they could also be a bust. Michael Saunders has shown flashes of promise, then goes into deep funks, not slumps that everyone goes through, but long funks where he looks lost. The same is true of Justin Smoak. Of late he has been hot, but we have seen this before; he looks to have it figured out, then goes back to being the worst hitting first baseman in history, not an opinion, a fact based on 1,500 at bats.
That is why 2014 is make or break. If Smoak-provided he is still here, Ackley-if he is still here, Saunders, Franklin, Miller, and Zunino all struggle, the Mariners do not have anyone to replace them. They make up six spots in the lineup. If the young guys flame out in 2014, it could be the longest season in Mariner history. Is there a ten year plan?