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Tampa Bay Rays: Nick Franklin Feeling the Pressure

By Robbie Knopf

The Tampa Bay Rays believe in Nick Franklin. They acquired him in the David Price trade after liking him for at least a year before and anointed him their starting second baseman before he went down with an oblique injury. However, his first eight games with the team have been extremely questionable as he is 2 for 22 (.091) at the plate and has not played well at both shortstop and second base. He is drawing the ire of fans, especially on Tuesday, when he went 0 for 5 with a big error at second base. However, the Rays’ belief has not been shaken–he starts today at shortstop.

Nick Franklin has been the polar opposite of Tim Beckham to begin this season. Beckham was the former number one overall pick who had fallen from grace, but he made the Rays’ roster to begin the season and started delivering big hit after big hit. Franklin, on the other hand, had been a top prospect for years and nothing had changed other than him losing his rookie status with a solid big league debut in 2013. However, his start to his Rays tenure has not been as good, and people are thinking that he is good for nothing.

Even in Franklin’s rough beginning, there have been reasons for optimism. Franklin has struck out just 4 times while walking twice, working good at-bats even after getting down in the count early. He has missed badly at some breaking pitches, but he hasn’t been going down helplessly–he has been getting back into counts and finding pitches to hit. And though the hits have not come, he is hitting the ball extremely hard, delivering a 39% line drive rate compared to the 26% league average. He is just hitting those liners in the wrong spots right now.

Franklin’s performance in the field may be the most concerning aspect, but he is making physical errors–it is not as though he can’t play good defense. Maybe it is just bad luck, or maybe he is under stress after his rough start at the plate. Either way, if a couple of those liners can drop for hits and he can hear a few more cheers, the errors should become more infrequent. He has long been considered a potential above-average second baseman and serviceable shortstop. Just like we have been saying about the rest of his game, a rough 10 days doesn’t change that.

It may seem hard to believe to some people, but Nick Franklin is going to be fine. Give him a few weeks, and he will be a productive player for the Tampa Bay Rays. He has experienced bad luck and the misfortune has cost him his focus, but the Kevin Cash and the Rays have not wavered in their faith in their young, talented middle infielder. Before long, he will reward their trust.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Dayron Varona Shines in Debut

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