Is it fair to evaluate Nick Franklin based on what he potentially might be? Not really.
Let’s put it a different way: Franklin is an adequate middle infielder now. At 23.
Because of the power.
Because of the power, Franklin can afford to strike out a bunch. He can afford to be pretty mediocre as a RH hitter.
Franklin draws enough walks and has enough LH pop right now to hold his own.
So that’s that.
But what about that upside?
The upside is huge, but dependent:
- He can’t continue as the proverbial “punch-and-judy” hitter from the right side.
- Even with the power, he’ll need better strike-zone judgment from the left side as well.
How likely is that?
1) When we looked at his 2010 season, we saw a “triple crown of awful” as a RH hitter: he didn’t draw walks, struck out a bunch and didn’t hit the ball hard. By the time he reached AAA, Franklin had made considerable progress on the walks and strikeouts, though he still didn’t consistently hit with authority from the right (he’s in a rut in that ISO in the .090s). He did carry the walks into the majors, even though the strikeout rate spiked back up. Assuming the ISO ceiling is real, he will still need to cut down the K-rate. The weak RH-hitting is a barrier to super-stardom for Franklin, but he can be an impact player in the middle infield if he just attains that not-awful standard.
2) Based on his minor-league track record, it does seem likely that Franklin’s K-rate will drop as he gets more experience. Franklin was rushed through the minors, and one of those seasons was cut short with problems. Even with that, the strikeout rate came down nicely. Given that, his high rate in his initial season is not too much of a concern.
We moved Brad Miller ahead of Franklin last winter because it had become clear that Miller was the one the organization viewed as the shortstop of the future, and that his bat would be more consistent than Franklin’s.
Franklin’s upside is still formidable, but it won’t be unlimited until he figures out how to hit the ball hard from the right side, and might not. But even just figuring out how to “play defense” at the plate (not strike out, draw walks and put the ball in play) as a RH hitter will make him a very valuable middle infielder.