Changing the stigma
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Seattle Mariners' new motto is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Of course, it really should be, "If you don't succeed, don't succeed, don't succeed, try, try again."

Seattle has failed with highly touted prospects Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak over the last few seasons, but the best thing for bad teams is that there's usually more prospects coming through the system.

The Mariners have brought up infielder Nick Franklin and catcher Mike Zunino, their first-round picks from 2009 and 2012, respectively, over the past month. Baseball America ranked Franklin 79th and Zunino 17th on its preseason list of top-100 prospects.

Prior to those two, the Mariners selected four position players in the first or supplemental round of the MLB Draft since 2003. Three -- catcher Jeff Clement (2005 No. 3 overall), third baseman Matt Mangini (2007 52nd overall) and Ackley (2009 second overall) -- were busts, and one -- outfielder Adam Jones (2003 37th overall) -- became a star for the Baltimore Orioles after being traded for Erik Bedard.

That doesn't include Montero, who came up in the New York Yankees organization, and Smoak, who was drafted and brought up with the Texas Rangers. Montero and Smoak played a combined 88 major league games with their original franchises, so it's not like they were fully developed when they came to Seattle.

The failures of Ackley, Montero and Smoak in particular have to be on the mind of fantasy owners who are thinking of picking up Franklin and Zunino, even though Franklin has hit .299 with three homers, six RBI, two steals, an 11/9 K/BB and a .904 OPS in his first 20 games. Remember, Ackley batted .273 with six home runs and a .766 OPS in 90 games in 2011 before batting .221 with a .600 OPS over his last 198 games, so initial success isn't exactly indicative of someone having "made it."

Franklin had an impressive 20/30 K/BB with Triple-A Tacoma this season, but Ackley's career minor-league K/BB is 130/146 over 1,017 plate appearances, and that didn't mean anything.

Zunino, meanwhile, may not even be ready for the big leagues. The 22-year-old had 11 homers over 185 at-bats in Triple-A this season, but he also was hitting .238 with a 59/14 K/BB.

The problem might be related to the daunting task of hitting at Safeco Field. Even though Seattle moved in the fences this season, the park still ranks 27th in the majors in run factor at .878 and 29th in home run factor at .632.

Franklin has hit .297 in 12 games at Safeco compared to .300 in eight road games, but all three of his homers have come away from home.

Fantasy owners haven't really been in a rush to add either player -- Franklin is owned in 27 percent of Yahoo! leagues and Zunino is owned in 10 percent, even though both play at a scarce position.

The only way these guys are going to be able to change the stigma surrounding Seattle Mariners' prospects is by succeeding at the major league level, so we'll just have to track their progress and see how they do over a larger sample size.

The Mariners have three more road games against the Los Angeles Angels this week before playing 22 of the following 31 games at Safeco Field, so Franklin and Zunino are going to be put to the test.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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