Rays News

Nick Franklin: Looking Back, Moving Forward

By Drew Jenkins

The Tampa Bay Rays have always been high on Nick Franklin, but prior to this year they had never found a way to acquire him. That changed at the trade deadline, as the Rays got creative in the David Price deal to include the Seattle Mariners as a third team and acquired Franklin. Now, the switch-hitting middle infielder seems ready to make his impact on the Rays moving forward.

Franklin’s big league stats in 2014 do not pop out, as he hit a combined .160/.222/.247 between the Mariners and Rays. However, he was much better at the Triple-A level, hitting .272/.366/.412 between the two systems. That line is brought down a bit by his .210/.288/.290 in 27 games at Triple-A since the Rays acquired him, but that is understandable because the Rays were having him make adjustments to his swing. Plus, he hit .424 in nine playoff games, showing signs that he was learning his new swing.

Franklin did not have a sizable role with the Rays in 2014, but expect the former top prospect to make his impact next season. Franklin certainly will not be handed a job with the Rays, but he seems to have the inside track on a utility role. Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar will take the starting middle infield jobs, and after that it seems like Logan Forsythe, Sean Rodriguez, and Franklin will vie for two spots, if Forsythe or Rodriguez is not traded this offseason. Given his upside, and the fact he has nothing more to prove in the minors, Franklin is likely to win one of those jobs unless he looks horrendous in spring training.

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Most of Franklin’s time has come at shortstop and second base, but he also has limited outfield experience, and expect the Rays to work with him on his versatility moving forward. For the 2015 Rays, Franklin is likely to see time at multiple positions given the fact that the Rays already have Zobrist and Escobar entrenched in the middle infield. We could actually see a similar career path with Franklin as we saw with Zobrist- he could be an “everyday” player at multiple positions before eventually somewhat settling into a role at a single position like Zobrist has at second.

The Rays will hope that Franklin can eventually turn into Zobrist’s heir, and 2015 will get Franklin a chance to get big league experience without having to have a lock on an everyday job. With Zobrist set to hit free agency after next season and an extension looking less and less likely, it seems probable that Franklin will eventually get a chance to take over the second base job.

The Rays finally got a player they loved in Franklin, and he is ready to make an impact on the club. The offense was the Rays biggest problem in 2014, but the addition of Franklin can help aid that moving forward. He may not be there yet, but the Rays might have just found themselves the next Zobrist in Franklin.