By Brent Stecker
It was just weeks ago that Nick Franklin, coming off a monster two-homer game, was garnering American League Rookie of the Year attention and leading Mariners fans to believe the future is here at second base. Then everything came to a screeching halt, as he’s encountered every player’s worst nightmare – an extended slump as a result of opponents adjusting to him.
After a strong first two months with the Mariners, second baseman Nick Franklin has no home runs and just three RBIs to his credit in the month of August. (AP)
On July 28 in a win over Minnesota, Franklin collected three hits, including a pair of home runs, to push his slash line to .277/.340/.492, and take the AL rookie lead in homers (10) and RBIs (32). Since then, his offensive production has been feeble at best, dragging his line down to .239/.307/.422 through Friday. He’s also homer-less with just three RBIs since that game.
August has been a particularly brutal month for Franklin thus far – he has just five hits in 11 games, and he’s slugging an abysmal .190 – and his defense has also taken a dive over the course of his slump, reminding fans and analysts alike that he is still just 22.
Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson has said he’ll stick with Franklin as the usual No. 2 hitter in the team’s lineup, which will give the rookie a chance to work through his problems. The hope is that the support of the franchise will help him regain his confidence, but it could also compound his problems by keeping pressure on him to perform.
Of course, it shouldn’t be all that surprising to see Franklin struggling, as an adjustment period almost always hits first-year players that start off strong. But the worry among the Mariners’ fan base is that Franklin will take too long to solve opposing pitchers, especially considering the cautionary tale of Dustin Ackley.
Like Franklin, Ackley was a hot-shot second-base prospect who enjoyed a strong first year with the Mariners and was in the Rookie of the Year conversation. Since that season, Ackley hasn’t been the same player, to the point that he was even shifted to the outfield when Franklin was called up and Ackley was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma in late May.
Analysts including Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider have said they believe it’s unlikely that Franklin will have as drastic a drop-off in production as Ackley has endured, noting his status as a switch-hitter and reputation for having a quiet approach at the plate. The microscope clearly is on Franklin now, though, and time is ticking on him to prove people like Churchill right and critics of his rapid ascent to the MLB wrong.