|Nick Franklin (image from milb.com)|
It's been a fun day down on the farm for the Mariners. The Rainiers just clinched their second straight division crown (guaranteeing at least one game in Safeco Field). Even lower down, the Clinton Lumberkings clinched a playoff berth, albeit on a day where they lost.
Still, it doesn't really dull Franklin's story.
On the day that Clinton clinched a playoff berth, Franklin went deep for his 23rd home run of the year. That leads the Midwest League, and is a new single-season franchise record for the Lumberkings. It will stand as Franklin's last game in the league too, as he will be promoted to AA West Tennessee to take injured SS Carlos Triunfel's spot.
So, to recap, that's a franchise home run record, playoff berth, and promotion, all in one day. That'll do.
Granted, if I really wanted to break down Franklin's abilites, I would delve into his walk and contact rates, as well as his power and speed numbers. However, this day tells of Franklin's talents in its own way, and definitely explains why he is worth getting excited about.
Franklin's 23 home runs may seem good at first blush, but it is a spectacular total. First of all, it's good enough to lead the league, and 19-year-old shortstops simply do not lead leagues in power categories.
Even more impressive, the total also set the new standard in Clinton Lumberkings history, and the franchise has been around a while. The old record was 22 home runs, set by Dick Kenworthy in 1961. That's not a typo. Franklin just beat a record that had stood for nearly 50 years...again, as a 19-year-old shortstop.
Now, I don't know my Lumberkings history all that well, so I don't know who has played a full season in Clinton that might have challenged the record. There are likely some guys who were really, really good, and ended up getting promoted before they got a chance to eclipse Kenworthy's mark. Also of note, Kenworthy wasn't exactly one of the greatest players of his generation. He played sparingly for the White Sox in the late 1960s, totaling 4 home runs in his major league career. Being lumber king of the Lumberkings isn't exactly a one-way ticket to greatness.
However, Franklin's feat is an auspicious sign. There were doubts about his power coming out of high school, so beating a 49-year-old home run record in his first full season is a pretty awesome way to squelch those worries. I doubt even the Mariners envisioned this kind of power out of Franklin, and they were the ones that took him in the first round.
Good shortstops are hard to find. Good, young shortstops are even more rare. Good, young, switch-hitting shortstops with a little pop can probably be counted on one finger.
To be fair, astute talent evaluators, such as Jason Churchill, both praise Franklin, and caution against the power numbers, arguing that it is a sign of polish more than upside. Still, how many polished hitters have played a season in Clinton in the past 50 years without breaking the home run record? How many high upside guys have passed through too? How many baseball teams have a home run record held by a shortstop? How many 19-year-olds hold home run records in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League?
What Nick Franklin accomplished isn't normal. Great prospects do things that aren't normal. It was apparent early in the season that Franklin is better than expected, and today was the exclamation point. The Mariners have themselves a shortstop of the future that any team would love to have.