As we hit the top three, we come across one of my favorite single players in this system both for his on-field exploits and his off-field personality.
3. Nick Franklin
Position: SS | Hits: S Throws: R
DOB: 3/2/1991 | HT: 6’1″ WT: 170 LB
Notes: Franklin is an absolutely fascinating prospect. A switch-hitting shortstop from Florida, he was taken by the Mariners in the first round of the 2009 draft with the pick the team had gotten as compensation for Raul Ibanez signing with the Phillies. At the time, he was seen as a “solid” type of prospect, in that he had no glaring weaknesses, but no huge strengths, either. After watching video of him, I fell in love with the pick, as he had a good approach for a high school player and a great swing for a player that so many saw as mediocre.
All Franklin did after that was hit. In his 2010 season, Franklin exploded out of the gates with Low-A Clinton, posting a 1.000 OPS in April, including five homers. People thought he’d never maintain that pace, but he never hit fewer than four homers in a month the rest of the way (except September, but there’s only a handful of minor league games in September). As the year went on, people’s opinions of Franklin started to change, and by the end of the year prospect analysts that had been crying “fluke” just months before were looking at him as a legit prospect.
Franklin gets his results he does thanks to a swing that generates almost ludicrous bat-speed. His swing triggers quickly, and his strong hands really whip the bat through the zone, and gets very good plate coverage. His swing is much more sound from the left side of the plate than the right, but that seems to mostly be an issue of repetition more than anything else. There’s no real mechanical flaws or hitches or anything in his swing, but it is a hair slower and rougher from the right side, an issue that should smooth out with time and more at-bats from that side.
While Franklin is probably not always going to be a 20-plus home run guy, getting somewhere in the 15-20 range is far from unlikely. He’ll also rack up a goodly amount of doubles, probably right around 25-30 a year. Speed has been a good part of Franklin’s game as well, as one of the few 20 homer/20 steal guys in the minors last year. I’m not convinced that Franklin will be a 20 steal guy going forward as his speed is only above average, but he does pick his spots well and tries to keep himself out of trouble on the basepaths.
Franklin has a great swing, but because he swings as hard as he does, he tends to have a problem with swings and misses at times, leading to higher than preferred strikeout rates. That’s always going to be there, so what you’d like to see is for him to become more selective at what he swings at, and thus up his walk rate as well. Franklin did see steady improvements in his walk rate in 2010, and is drawing walks like crazy to start the 2011 season while he adjusts to a higher level of pitching.
Defensively, there are some concerns as to whether or not Franklin can stick at short. In terms of instincts and defensive mechanics, he has what it takes to play the position, but his range is fringy at best for the position, and he occasionally has issues making all of his throws from the position, especially when he has to move to his right. In the long run, Franklin probably fits best as a second baseman, but the presence of Dustin Ackley at the position above him in the organization makes that more complicated.
One thing that you should never, ever hear questions about is Franklin’s personality and makeup. You’ll repeatedly hear that he’s very confident, bordering on cocky, and you’ll even hear about him talking about himself in the third person. While I’ve never heard him do that myself, I’ve heard about it from multiple people from within the Mariners organization, the first time without any prompting or questioning about it whatsoever.
While he is extremely confident in himself, I think “cocky” is the wrong word; Franklin is someone that uses his confidence that he can succeed to his benefit, and doesn’t let that get to the point of arrogance or condescension. I also hear over and over from people who have talked to him that he’s a very polite and kind and generous young man on top of the confidence. That combination of mental makeup is not something you run in to often enough in athletes of his skill, and will serve to help him much more than it will ever hurt him.
2011 Outlook: Should spend at least half of 2011 in High Desert, and get a chance to advance to AA Jackson later in the year.
Major League ETA: Late 2012/Early 2013