The first week of Prospect A-Z wrapped up on Friday with Edwar Cabrera, MILB’s strikeout leader in 2011. He doesn’t have the top of the rotation stuff like previous leader Matt Moore does, but his great changeup allowed him to dominate A-ball this year. That’s not to say he doesn’t have ML potential, but at his best he’ll be pitching at the back of a rotation and not the front. AA will be a big test for him since that’s when the prospects that aren’t good enough to make it are usually weeded out. To kick off Prospect A-Z on this short week, we’ll go back to the Cal League for a player that also spent half the season in high-A, Seattle’s Nick Franklin.
Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners (2011: A+ High Desert, AA Jackson)
Coming into the draft, Franklin appeared to be an athletic shortstop who would provide quality defense and make enough contact to be a solid hitter. If someone went into a coma during the 2009 draft and woke up after the 2010 season, he wouldn’t believe it was the same Nick Franklin. He was supposed provide average power at best, but in the Midwest League, he became the first teenager since Prince Fielder in 2003 to hit 23 or more home runs. Now, scouts were questioning whether or not he could stay at shortstop long term.
2011 was a bit of a different story. He was set to play in High Desert which of course is likely the best hitters park in the minors. How many home runs would he be able to hit? 25? 30? Maybe not if he earned a promotion during the season which was considered possible. However, the season got off to a rocky start with a couple injuries that kept him out for a while plus a bout with mono. He only ended up playing 88 games, and that certainly contributed to his down numbers.
Franklin did not meet the lofty expectations in homer happy High Desert. He put up modest statistics in 64 games with the Mavericks, hitting for a .275 average, .356 OBP and .411 SLG. The power was obviously down from last year with only five home runs. The injuries were a large contributor, and it seemed like he never got it going. His rate stats looked okay especially for a shortstop, yet they were below the Cal League averages, especially for a High Desert player.
That’s why it was a shock when Franklin was promoted to AA. It was only an okay performance, but he actually had a little prior experience in the Southern League from last season, so they felt comfortable that he could handle the promotion. His average improved to .325 and he hit for a little more power. It wasn’t quite a lost season because he was able to advance to AA, but the injuries really limited his performance. Ideally he doesn’t have as many setbacks in 2012, and he could have a shot to reach AAA Tacoma.
To make up for lost time, the Mariners assigned Franklin to the Arizona Fall League to pick up some of the at bats he missed during the season. Again it was a subpar performance, but it’s hard to draw any conclusions from a month in an offseason league, although it tends to favor hitters for sure. He only hit for .258 without much power and struck out a lot. However, in the game where he was most visible, he stood out. He was the MVP of the Rising Stars Game with four hits including an opposite field home run against first overall pick Gerrit Cole.
Franklin should be a very good offensive player up the middle. He makes the most of his 6’1, 170 pound frame and puts a lot of effort into his swing. It may not lead to a great average, but his plate approach is good enough to keep the strikeouts from being a huge concern. The Mariners could certainly use some power, so they should be excited about his future. However, it may not be at shortstop. Because of his arm strength, he may have to move to second base which is already occupied by #2 overall pick Dustin Ackley. It’s not a problem since Ackley could eventually end up back in the outfield though. Franklin also has the athleticism to pick up some steals, and he was 18/22 in stolen base attempts in 2011.
Prospect A-Z continues tomorrow with the letter G. Will it be Trevor Bauer‘s college teammate, a recent Oakland first rounder trying a new position or a Padres infielder who’s kind of a jerk?