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.