Prospect Franklin brimming with confidence
Former No. 1 Draft pick coming off strong first pro season
Nick Franklin knows all about the word that's been used to describe him. He's got a different one in mind.
"There's a big difference between being cocky and confident," said the Mariners' top shortstop prospect, who's coming off a huge year for Class A Clinton.
Franklin's finally getting some time off after a grueling season that saw him bat .281 with 23 home runs, 65 RBIs, 22 doubles, seven triples, 89 runs scored and 25 stolen bases for the LumberKings in his first full professional season and then head to Arizona for the advanced instructional league known as "co-op."
Franklin, a 19-year-old switch-hitter, was selected by the Mariners with their second first-round pick (27th overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Lake Brantley High School in Florida. By the end of the 2010 season, he was ranked the sixth-best prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America and he was one of only three players in the Minors to record a 20-homer/20-steal season. He also broke the 49-year-old Clinton franchise record for long balls in a season.
Not bad for a guy who's barely 6-foot-1 and all of 170 pounds.
"A lot of people, if I told them I was going to hit 23 home runs, they'd look at me and laugh," Franklin said. "But I have confidence and strength. You can create elevation no matter how tall or short you are. You have a good swing and you get things flowing.
"I look back at [my season], and I thought it was pretty good. I never would have said 23, but I know I have the strength in me. I was kind of surprised that it beat a record."
As far as the Mariners are concerned, nothing Franklin does from this point on will be a surprise.
"All the tools are there," says Andy Stankiewicz, the Mariners' Minor League field coordinator. "Everything's there to be a very good big league shortstop. Nick's a confident kid, no question. He believes in himself, and in order to have success, you have to believe in yourself.
"This game will humble you, and he will tell you he's already been humbled. And to be humbled and say he's still a good player, that says a lot about how he deals with the ups and downs and bounces back."
Franklin has no problem admitting he has quite a bit of room to improve.
He made 22 errors and logged a .947 fielding percentage in 2010, numbers that he knows will have to change in a hurry if he's going to continue on the fast track to the Majors.
"Defensively, I think toward the end I got better," Franklin said. "At the very beginning, I was kind of getting it, and toward the end, defensively I felt solid. Not only on just ground balls, but positioning myself on the field -- knowing the type of hitter at the plate and where they might hit it, what to do on a certain count, and things like that.
"When the ball was hit to me, I felt that I could make every play."
Stankiewicz got similar reports about Franklin and watched him play in the co-op league. He said Franklin had good days and bad days but is working, with success, on correcting some of his flaws -- such as arm-slot consistency on throws from across the diamond, footwork, and learning the importance of being a verbal presence as the heart of an infield.
"It's really just getting experience and innings and consistency," Stankiewicz says. "It's part of his learning experience in wanting to be a leader. I mean, it's hard to tell a kid when he's 19 years old to be a leader, but we ask all our shortstops and catchers to be leaders.
"And we know that's going to take some time. But he's doing well. He's played a long season. He had minicamp last February, he was here [in Peoria, Ariz.] for Spring Training, he started the season, his team went deep into the playoffs, and then co-op league. It's been a long year for him, and he's handled it well. We're just asking him to finish strong, that's all."
Franklin did just that and said he's looking forward to starting it all up again after the new year.
"I think the most important thing I can do is just stay within myself and do what I can do and not try to go outside the limits of what I am as a player," Franklin said.
"And again, it's not cockiness. It's confidence. You either have it or you don't. And if you can keep it, I don't think anybody can stop you."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.