Can Nick Franklin Remain Top-10 at Second and Short?

Title: Can Nick Franklin Remain Top-10 at Second and Short?
Date: August 6, 2013
Original Source: Rotographs
Synopsis: This article looked at the Seattle Mariners’ quietly developing multi-position, multi-category performer in Nick Franklin, and attempted to get a handle on his future fantasy value.

A lot of ink has been spilled on Seattle Mariners’ infielder Kyle Seager this season. The multi-position slugger is looking to repeat on his 20-home run rookie season and is eligible at second and third, depending on your provider’s position rules. Not only does Seager have pop, he also tried to steal my girlfriend in a dream I had the other night (your heroic scribe was victorious…or just woke up in time).

But it’s Seager’s infield-mate who we’ll shed some light on in the shortstop space today even though he’s not really a shortstop. See, it’s because of The Great Gazoo that Seager is no longer taking aim at multi-position eligibility. For the Mariners,Nick Franklin’s got the keystone on lock for the foreseeable future.

Franklin, a switch hitter with an enormous helmet, saw his first major league action on May 27 after the Mariners pulled the plug on Dustin Ackley for what felt like the hundredth time. In the 57 games since, Franklin has been a house afire, hitting 10 home runs and chipping in five steals for his owners while piling up the RBI.

The power has given some pause, though, perhaps because Franklin is just 170lbs (he’s a little shorter and as lanky as Alexei Ramirez, for example). But the power isn’t exactly new for Franklin – he hit 50 home runs in the minors in just 438 games, or roughly one every 40 plate appearances. That rate has been a bit more extreme this season (one every 24 plate appearances) and might slow down, but the power in Franklin’s bat is a skill that’s been on display since 2010. He also hits a fair amount of fly balls (40%) and, if you trust stringer data in a 60-game sample, he makes really strong contact (25% line-drive rate).

The bigger concern might be that Franklin is now the owner of a fairly high strikeout rate (25.2%), topping anything he put up in the minors. His walk rate is decent enough (8.7%) to keep the OBP from being a sinkhole right now but his profile would look exceedingly average if a few of those home runs disappeared.

And it’s an odd strikeout and walk profile given Franklin’s approach – he rarely swings. His 42.2% swing rate is in the bottom-100 league-wide and his 59.8% zone swing rate is bottom-50. The issue, then, is that despite not swinging at much in the zone, Franklin still has a 28.5% outside swing rate and has an uninspiring 78.2% contact rate. Basically, Franklin is being very selective but not in the “sit on your pitch in the zone” kind of way – he appears to just not swing very often.

Granted, that’s not a huge concern on it’s own as there are plenty of examples of players succeeding that way. But one of Franklin’s key attributes as a fantasy tool was likely to be his OBP for that type of league and his .314-mark at present is below-average. His BABIP (.300) should be higher given his history and batted ball profile, sure, but Franklin needs those walks to come to fully live up to his top prospect status. That’s more of a “real baseball” comment than a fantasy one, especially since many still play in batting average leagues (where owners would just prefer the strikeout rate comes down to allow for more balls in play).

For the rest of the season, Franklin may still be making adjustments and figuring out the appropriate level of aggression against major league arms. Even with a below-average AVG or OBP, he’s a great own at either middle infield spot. When you figure in that his BABIP and walk rate could both be in for an increase as he figures out his approach, it’s not hard to see Franklin remaining a top-10 option at either spot.

The far bigger issue for dynasty league owners is that Franklin is yet to appear at shortstop in the majors, meaning his current flexibility could be lost. He’ll still be a fine own at second, but the option to move him around has certainly added value to his profile this year and would have made building your team with him as a piece that much easier.

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