Nick Franklin, the Fangraphs UberProspect

Nick Franklin's 2010 season was praised all around -- hey, nice job there kid, we'll keep an eye on yer -- but it was SSI fans who rang the town bell. 

Franklin's season wasn't merely a pleasant surprise; it was the kind of season that nailed him as one of the best prospects in baseball.  "One of the top 20 hitting prospects in the minors, EASILY," quoth one of them, Taro or G-Money I think it was. 

Dr. D flung himself onto the pig pile, demonstrating that Franklin has an Ichiro-, Griffey-, Hamilton-class swing from the left side.

G-Money also recognized that the intersection of [Midwest League] and [Teenager] and [20 Home Runs] raised the possibility of an All-Star ML career for Franklin.  Gordon now links us up to Fangraphs' Bryan Smith, who (no doubt having a better database) kicks the ball further down the field as to G-Money's MWL comps.


=== Welcome To the League, Boy ===

Notes Smith,

I have written before about how difficult a hitting environment the Midwest League is, particularly for teenagers who are facing a great number of college players. And Franklin’s season stands out historically in that regard.

Smith's remark touches on the fact that you can't always completely "capture" a context by simply averaging out numbers.  Big kudos to Smith for intuiting the fact that the MWL simply isn't a confidence-inspiring league for a teenager fresh out of high school.  You've got a baby, with a baby's body, just learning to handle a wood bat in a "hardened" men's league.

No wonder that only Prince Fielder and Wily Mo Pena hit more HR's than Franklin, as teenagers, in this decade's MWL.

It takes a particular kind of athlete to sneer at players three levels above him.  Ken Griffey Jr. wasn't intimidated even by major leaguers at age 18-19.  Judging by Franklin's money debut in the high-minors AA playoffs, neither is he. 

If I remember right, that's what Griffey did in his debut in the AL:  doubled and walked off Dave Stewart.  Griffey wasn't a great AL hitter yet, but he was taking the fight to the big boys from day one.


The most that you can say about any low-minors prospect, even if he hits 60 home runs, is that he has about a 30% chance of being an impact player in the bigs.  But Smith's backdrop points out that Franklin's season was even more thunderous than SSI readers thought it was.


Another side benefit of the article is that the entire M's blog-o-sphere will now feel free to celebrate Franklin.  He's been FDA-approved, so the potential accusations of homerism are lifted and M's fans can settle in to enjoy the M's three franchise prospects.


=== Switch-Hitting LEFT Out, Dept. ===

Smith wth the most pleasant bit of 'reporting' I've heard in a month:

Franklin just hit the ground running and never looked back. Also, consider that the switch-hitter hit just .174/.221/.273 with two home runs from the right side, and the team is contemplating whether to give up his switch-hitting experiment.

It's a no-brainer.  In this series of articles, we specified the reasons that Franklin has a Josh Hamilton swing from the left side -- and has absolutely none of the magic from the right side.

I'm sure that Hamilton, or Ichiro, or Griffey, could have hit okay from the right side too.  Does that mean you were going to do anything whatsoever to get n the way of that magical stroke they had lefty?

I don't care if Hamilton, or Griffey, or Teddy Ballgame could have hit 260/330/420 swinging righty -- and don't care if they did poorly LH-on-LH.  If Franklin hit 200/300/350 lefty, I'd still want him to just swing lefty.  (He won't hit that.)

It would be one thing if Franklin had the same swing that mortals have.  But from the left side, he's got genius, and they need to go with that.


Good stuff,




Still can't believe the M's luck, having three franchise prospects, and those three prospects "happening" to play 1B, 2B, and SS.
Well, Ackley playing 2B is not luck.  That was a gutsy call by the Mariners, and it's going to pay off huge.


Just offhand, I wonder where Bryan Smith would have gotten information that the Mariners are contemplating Franklin as a LH-only hitter.

JFro''s picture

There were news stories floating around a few weeks back that the M's were trying to get his RH swing to be closer to matching his LH swing.  Personally, I would just keep him batting LH, but I can't blame them for trying, and Franklin I don't think would want to give up switch-hitting so easily.  That would be admitting a kind of defeat.


So Smith was maybe just projecting his own expectation?
Typically it could be admitting defeat, ya, but why couldn't the club approach it from, "Boy, we are excited about your lefty swing!"
9 times out of 10, switch-hitting is a defense mechanism, a passive approach to dealing with pitchers, as Franklin's no doubt was originally.  Not sure why the club couldn't tell him that we want to see you attack from the left side.
But, yeah.  I'll believe it when I see it.  As you imply, there's an in-stitutional in-ertia against giving up switch.


It really is a stunning turn of events.
Remember when Milwaukee started churning out young, excellent position player after young, excellent position player?

John's picture

Wow...good stuff...The KID is not intimidated by AA either...I would dump the right side and get better defensively.  He hasn't come close to his strength and size at 19...
Ichiro,Griffey,Hamilton are good comps...I could watch video of him hitting all the time.


It is echo'ing, isn't it?
I would argue that the difference is [a variation on] Stars & Scrubs thinking.
Jack seems to be laser-focused not on .... bulk talent ... but on those few difference-makers he plans to win with.
He could have traded Cliff Lee for quantity.  He focused on Montero and Smoak. 
He could have drafted a pitcher.  He was totally dialed in on the special LH, OBP bat.
The #27 pick in Franklin's draft, he went for upside (as opposed to, say, a Joshua Fields type).
Maybe I'm interpreting it according to my own biases.  But I think clubs should focus more on difference-makers than on spaghetti against the wall.


You're referring to the hitter's-box concept?  Connecting upper arms to your CG?
I would dump the right side and get better defensively.  He hasn't come close to his strength and size at 19...

Love the two things you, um, connect there.
Where do you see Franklin's power at age 24, John?

Anonymous's picture

It appears the good news is Franklin was 4 for 6 on the right side in AA playoffs.

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