Is Nick Franklin a future Seattle Mariners outfielder? After a recent Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals, this is a question worth asking.
In the final innings of that game, Franklin trotted out to right field and manned that third of deep green space. This led to a firestorm of speculation, criticism, and derision by Mariners fans.
But after the game Seattle Time’s Ryan Divish had a chance to talk to Nick about his very short stint in the outfield.
Franklin said he had been doing fundamental work in the outfield with coach Andy Van Slyke the last couple of days. Being a natural shortstop (in his opinion), Franklin feels his footwork and body control allow him to pick up all other positions in the field.
He said it was his idea to get reps in the outfield, in hopes of making himself more versatile and more valuable to this Mariners ballclub. He all but said that Brad Miller will be the Opening Day shortstop– everyone and their mother knows that to be the case after the phenomenal Spring Miller has had.
All Franklin is doing is giving himself a chance to play for the Mariners in whatever way possible. Much like when Dustin Ackley was converted to the outfield when the same Nick Franklin replaced him at second base mid way through last season.
When talking to Divish Franklin made it clear that he wanted to be on the team, earn his spot, and prove he is an asset to this franchise. “What am I going to do, wait around until somebody gets hurt?” he said, to which he responded he didn’t feel comfortable.
I think it can only help that Franklin is taking fly balls and running reads in the outfield. What’s the harm in versatility? Moreover, the Mariners outfield is far from solid, and with so many question marks out there Franklin could very well find playing time later in the season.
He is a gamer. He is capable of competing. Sure, he had a rough go to the end of last season– but prior to that he was in AL Rookie of the Year discussions.
More than anything else I am glad the Mariners haven’t traded him yet. I think he could prove to be an integral piece to successful Mariners teams in the future. And maybe, MAYBE, that’s what the Mariners are doing: holding on to him because they know he has the potential and the makeup to be an everyday player. It’s just hard when your job is taken by arguably the best second baseman in baseball.
Don’t expect Franklin to become a full-time outfielder this season, but be wary that this kid has the drive, the determination, and the talent to find his way into the lineup. He may very well start the year in Triple-A Tacoma. But he will be waiting for his opportunity to prove himself.
That’s the kind of player the Mariners need. He is hungry. And given the chance, expect Nick Franklin to not only get at-bats at the Major League level, but also become a key cog in a potential post-season run.
Though all this is dependent on the Mariners first and foremost figuring out their rotation woes. What a nightmare that has become in recent days.