The Lumber King and his Gazoo Helmet

Nick Franklin hit his 22nd HR of the year last night, which ties the season record for the Clinton franchise -- set in 1961.

Reportedly he is the only player in the minors with 20+ HR, 20+ doubles and 20+ SB.

Unconfirmed internet reports say he is the first teenage SS to hit 20 bombs in A ball since some kid named Alex Rodriguez.  Didn't take the time to check that out, but it's possible.

The always valuable G_Money says that one reason Franklin is underestimated is that he wears an oversized "Gazoo helmet" that makes him look much smaller than he is.

Edit: with the permission of the photographer, then, I will import these pics, that give a pretty good sense of Franklin's actual physique:



moe's picture

Sheeesh.  The kid is 19.  He's supposed to be lean.  I can't believe that is a real issue that concerns people.
Take a look at Bonds in college...or his rookie pix's (before his forehead inflated to Graf Spee size!)....He was a scrawny guy...but still a hell of a ball player in his pre-juice days.
Look at Mays in his mid-20s.  Essentially the same body type as Franklin now. 
Or..more appropriately....Check out the rookie Robin Yount
Yount, you will remember was a major league SS at 18.  Had played 64 games at low A as a 17 year old.
He developed into a guy with considerable secondary power.  Lots of doubles and several years with 20+ taters.  His swing, as I remember, didn't generate quite the leveral as Franklin's LH cut. 
The guy is playing at a level WAY above his age.  One of two things are happening.  Either this season is a freak for him, an outlier, never to be duplicated and therefore not to be used in evaluating future performance.....or he's the freak.  Tremendous talent at a young age.
Body type worries?  give me a break.

moe's picture

make that "leverage."


Exactly right.
I do appreciate the pics, Spec - they do a good job of illustrating how much smaller Franklin looks in that helmet rather than standing in the field.
It's because we're used to seeing MLB helmets, not those nerf-lego monstrosities.
You see him in the field and he's lanky but not tiny.  He's the same size and current build as Dustin Ackley (though maybe a few pounds lighter).
But there's no reason he can't add a mere 10, 15 pounds as he matures, putting him in the same weight class as Derek Jeter, Pre-Roids Bonds, or any number of guys who could club decent numbers without being huge - and bigger than the aforementioned Robin Yount. 
The idea that a 6'1 hitter can't get enough leverage on his swing to hit 15-20 HRs a year is ridiculous.  Junior's the guy who never lifted a weight in his life and compared his swing to a golfer's.  "It's all about bat-speed" he said.
Franklin doesn't have the greatest batspeed in the world (he's definitely NOT Junior), but it's good. He doesn't need to weigh 220 to get balls to leave the park. I comped Franklin's middle-outcome to Jay Bell the other day - same size (though other-handed), same position, hit 30 2B and 15 HRs a year.  If he's Tulo instead, it's 40 and 25.
I don't see the outcome where he struggles to get it out of the park 10 times a year, not with that swing.  He's not Ronny Cedeno. Though since a league average SS this year is ballparked at ~.263/.317/.375/.693, he wouldn't have to be much better than Ronny to get there.
Nick has a sneaky-fast bat, a willingness to wait at the plate (which should turn into more walks in the future), and the ability to absolutely destroy pitches he likes.
And since I haven't seen a reason for him not to stay at short, and this is not a Bloomquist-like sample (that still didn't include power, in a hitter's league)...feel free to call it legit. 
Sometimes baseball rats *can* be blue-chippers.  We have at least two such rats in the system.


The guy is playing at a level WAY above his age.  One of two things are happening.  Either this season is a freak for him, an outlier, never to be duplicated and therefore not to be used in evaluating future performance.....or he's the freak.  Tremendous talent at a young age.
As I've said on MC:
Is it instant, guaranteed success? Cameron Maybin posted a .844 OPS in the MWL in 2006. He was a top-10 prospect in baseball 3 years running after that, and has been great in the minors as a CFer though he hasn't gotten it going in the bigs yet.
Jay Bruce posted a .871 OPS that year, same league, also as a teen. Top 15 prospect 2007, top-rated in ALL of baseball in 08. He's currently an average bat in the bigs ages 21-23 (in RF not a glove position).
Travis Snider? .904 OPS in 07 in A-Ball, in the bigs by 2009 as a 21 year old, posting average numbers in early returns (again, on a corner which makes Franklin more valuable if he can do the same).
If you can get to the bigs by 21, 22 and hold your own, you're probably gonna be pretty good. Maybe you'll never reach the lofty heights people imagine for you with Cal Ripken comparisons...but you should have a nice long career. And as a middle-infielder? The requirements go down and the hyperbole goes up.
And that's the track that Nick's on.  What he has done this year is far harder than he's made it look, and based on previous years, it's also fairly indicative of pretty brilliant talent. 
Could he still fail?  Sure.  Wlad posted a .834 OPS in a half-season in the Midwest League.  He's a fringe player...but at a non-glove position.
Wlad's atrocious major league line (and .655 OPS) is actually better than Cedeno's, and bare percentage points behind Jack Wilson's.  if Wlad could play short he'd be in the bigs right now.
And Nick is a better hitter than Wlad.  I just have an awful lot of trouble seeing how he WON'T be in the bigs for several years, even if he "fails."

RockiesJeff's picture

I watched Arod play in high school. He was a tall, lean shortstop....NOT a middle linebacker. Good points about body type....Franklin works hard and will have baseball strength. Who cares what he can or cannot bench when that is developed.

Chrishwish's picture

I've been blessed to see Nick play a ton this season.  As a matter of fact, those are my flickr photos.  (Don't worry about copyright issues on those.)  Anyway, he is VERY good at the plate, and has maturity far beyond his age.  I heard one of the top pitchers, in the Midwest League, say they have never feared a batter...but they did fear Nick.  That speaks volumes to me.


He studied a large group of players aged 22, who had been league-average players in the majors.  He found that 30-40% of them went on to HOF careers.
Many of the other 60-70% were stars in the majors, and most were at least Ruben Sierra or something.
The age-arc makes sense.  If you're a quality big leaguer at 22, the sensible arc-plot is that you'll be a GREAT major leaguer.
And if you are doing as well as Franklin is at 19, it *raises the question* of whether you'll be a quality major leaguer at 22.
The Bruce comp is provocative.  :- )  Puts the age-19 MWL success into context.


With the hat on backwards, creates a much different impresson of Franklin's wiry strength.
An amazing optical illusion, the Gazoo helmet.  I'll never forget about that one.
thanks again Chris for the photos. :- )  C'mon back with more from the MWL!


I thought so too about Bruce.  I'd like to say the MWL guys I picked weren't entirely random, but there weren't a lot of guys to choose from. It's a rare feat in the last half-dozen years.  :)

Over .800 OPS in the MWL as a teen:
2005: Carlos Gonzalez (killing it for Colorado now as a 23 & 24 year old CF/OF)
2006: Bruce, Maybin

2007: Snider, Gerardo Parra (in the bigs at 22 in '09, not yet successful splitting time at CF/LF)
2008: Mike Moustakas (ravaging AA and AAA at 21), Andy Lambo (average in AA, same age)
2009: Jaff Decker (top 100 prospect)
2010: Nick Franklin, Mike Trout, Matt Davidson - all 1st round picks who will be top 100 if not top 50 players on next year's Baseball America rundown.  Some are calling Trout the undeniable #1 hitter in baseball, after all.
There were a few 20 year olds that cleared .800 this year, which is up from past years, so maybe this year the MWL is easier and drawing the line at "teenagers" is too arbitrary.  Still, the comps looked accurate to me as far as skillset goes:
Franklin's EYE:  .42
Bruce: .42
Snider:  .38
Maybin: .43
Franklin's AB:K : 4.2

Bruce: 4.2
Snider: 3.6
Maybin: 3.3

Franklin's ISO: .208
Bruce: .225
Snider: .212
Maybin: .153

3 guys is not a scientific sample, but when a guy has power, a decent average, and a survivable K-rate in that league at 19, I have to like his chances.  
BTW, neutralized for park and luck:
Franklin: .309/.375/.527/.902
Bruce: .299/.370/.533/.903
Before Jay stomped on the Midwest League at 19, he was the #76 prospect in the country.  After?  #14.
I think Franklin's a top-20 hitting prospect in the minors, EASY.  And for all that Mike Trout impressed the universe in his MWL stint, Franklin outhit him using neutralized stats.  There's a danger of overselling this year for sure, but it's impressive any way you slice it, and even when you look at its weaknesses.
The fact that he can improve and STILL did what he did is a good thing, not a bad one.  When Smoak and Ackley leave the system, it's hard to see a better hitting prospect in it than Franklin.  Maybe Choi. ;)

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