Should Nick Franklin give up Switch-Hitting?

Last year, Mariners shortstop prospect Nick Franklin turned himself from a sort-of interesting prospect to national top-100 material with a .281/.351/.485 batting line, with the slugging driven by a surprising Clinton franchise record 23 home runs. To put up those kind of numbers as a 19-year-old is unprecedented, even if it was only A-ball competition. Franklin, a switch-hitting shortstop taken with the 27th overall pick in 2009 draft, was projected to be a passable shortstop with perhaps gap power, given his slight 6’1″, 170 pound frame. The surprising power is a welcome sight, but the overall line hides one glaring weakness.

He can’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag if he’s trying to hit right handed. Last year he posted a paltry .174/.221/.273 line with two home runs as a right-hander, and this year the trend is continuing, as he’s managed only a .190/.292/.190 as a righty this year. As a Mariners prospect who is looking at playing half his games in Safeco Field, hitting right-handed is less beneficial anyway, unless you have the power to hit it out of any stadium, which I’m not sure Franklin has. Even with his slow start this season, Franklin’s got an impressive .254/.405/.460 line as a left-handed hitter, with all eight of his extra base hits.

It’s unlikely that Franklin will be asked to stop hitting right handed this season. The Mariners likely hope that he will learn how to be at least close to as dangerous from the right side, thus improving his value and always giving him the platoon advantage against late-inning relievers. However, if he struggles as much in 2011 as he did in 2010 while standing in the right-handed batter’s box, I would not be surprised in the least if the Mariners approached him about becoming an exclusively left-handed hitter in the future. It’s possible that doing so may make him an even more impressive prospect.

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Tags: Nick Franklin

  • Conor

    Short answer? No.

    Long answer: His right handed swing is a ways behind behind his left handed swing, but the base and mechanics are there, he just needs repetition. He only had 157 pro at bats against lefties coming in to the season, and by the sound of things didn’t have many more than that during his high school career. Give him time, the swing should start to come around this year.

  • Brett Miller

    Interesting…how long would you give him before you just give up on the RH swing? Through next year? Longer?

    • Conor

      Until he makes AAA, at the absolute earliest. So, probably at least 14 months or so from now.

      You also have to consider that dropping his right-handed swing will temporarily halt his development as he adjusts to seeing left-handed pitching from the left side of the plate, which will probably drop his numbers against them for awhile.

      • Harrison Crow

        I agree. It should be given a year and then some before such a change is made.

        Churchill had some interesting (and similar) thoughts last week on KJR. Good stuff.

  • http://Retired maqman

    I agree with all of the above. He needs more time to hone his right-handed skill with the bat, but it’s something that should be tracked. I believe Smoak had a similar indication when he got to Seattle but has improved his off-side performance quite well.

  • G_Moneyball

    Justin Smoak is naturally right-handed, actually, and has been switch-hitting since he was twelve.

    Franklin started switch-hitting as a junior in high school, so around age 17, back when people said he’d never hit for power so he needed an edge.

    He’s seen plenty of pitches from the left-side. He grew up ONLY seeing them from the left. I expect him to go back to being a lefty before long – it can’t be any worse than what we’ve seen, and I can’t see somebody managing to switch their dominant side to being a plus batter from their weaker side against pro pitching. And the sooner he gets back to using his dominant side for everything, the sooner he can get better at it.


    • Harrison Crow

      G! Thanks for stopping by! It’s good to see you check in. Always appreciate the feedback!