By Brent Stecker
At Triple-A Tacoma, Nick Franklin made himself hard for the Mariners to ignore with his steady hitting, and as a result was promoted to the big club on May 27.
Now 52 games into his MLB career, Franklin is making himself hard to ignore to the voters for the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Franklin, 22, went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a pair of home runs in the Mariners’ 6-4 win over the Twins on Sunday – his second multi-homer game of the year – to push his slash line to .277/.340/.492. He also has 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 21 runs, 12 doubles and five stolen bases – not bad for a rookie whose oversized batting helmet continually draws him comparisons to Dark Helmet from the 80s cult classic “Spaceballs.”
One look at the statistics of the rest of the league’s rookies shows that it’s not crazy to think Franklin could end up with some hardware at season’s end. He leads all AL rookies in homers and RBIs, and ranks in the top five in batting average, OPS and stolen bases.
His defense at second base has been solid as well, as he’s turned 40 double plays.
His toughest competition for the Rookie of the Year award will likely come from the Tampa Bay Rays, who lay claim to both outfielder Wil Myers and starting pitcher Chris Archer. Myers has played in just 33 games but has a .328/.354/.537 slash line with seven homers and 26 RBIs, while Archer is 6-3 with two shutouts, 47 strikeouts and a 2.39 ERA in 11 starts (67 2/3 innings).
Regardless of if Franklin can maintain Rookie of the Year-quality numbers, the Mariners are clearly pleased with his play. He’s been cemented into the starting second baseman spot, even prompting a position change for previous second baseman Dustin Ackley to the outfield, and has helped Seattle establish a solid, youthful top of the order with rookie shortstop and leadoff man Brad Miller.