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Tampa Bay Rays: Versatility Leading to Super Utility Role

By Althea Pashman
Aug 2, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Nick Franklin (2) catches the ball at first base for an out against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Nick Franklin (2) catches the ball at first base for an out against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Currently out with a hamstring strain, the Tampa Bay Rays need to look no further than Nick Franklin as their super utility player in 2017.

Versatility is a key for any ball club especially for the Tampa Bay Rays who like having that one or two super utility player on their 25-man roster.

During this season, the Rays really didn’t have that one significant super utility player.

Some players may have moved around the diamond, but there wasn’t one that could play numerous infield or outfield positions without being a liability.

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The last real super utility player the  Rays have had on their roster was Ben Zobrist.

Since trading him two seasons ago they’ve struggled in finding that one player who could fill that role.

Until now.

Currently out with a  hamstring strain, the Rays may have found finally found their “Zobrist” in Nick Franklin.

It’s better late than never for Franklin.

With his two-plus years under his belt with the Rays organization may have finally earned his ticket to sticking around.

For the greater part of his tenure with the Rays, Franklin has spent the majority of his time shuttling between the Rays and Triple-A Durham.

Given every chance, with every call up to stay provided the same lackluster performance – a cold bat that never warmed up..

Having won the Mariners second base job in 2013, Franklin was bumped as Robinson Cano was signed during the offseason and would be their second baseman in 2014.

With the chance to move over to short, that wasn’t happening as Brad Miller won the job.

A trip to Tacoma and now expendable, a new opportunity arose when he was traded to the Rays as part of the three-team David Price deal at the trade deadline.

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Now came 2015 and primed to start at second.

An oblique injury near the end of spring training landed him on the DL and another trip to Durham.

Throughout the season, the scenario was the same – failing to run with the opportunity to show that he belonged.

It would be almost two-years since arriving that the shuttle service from Durham to Tampa would finally end.

Franklin seized the opportunity in June as a rash of injuries would make way for consistent playing time.

Over a six-week stay, Franklin performed better than most expected slashing .313/.377/.458 in 48 at-bats, with a homer and 13 RBI.

As players returned from injuries, Franklin’s playing time was reduced.

Another trip to Durham was looming.

Rays manager Kevin Cash made it clear that the demotion was not a result of his performance, but the fact that of reduced playing time.

"“Right now we’re getting a little crunched in the outfield, and finding him time in the infield would be difficult, also,” Cash said."

They also wanted him to get as much playing time as possible and to hone his skills in the outfield.

Nonetheless, Franklin credits the offseason work that has change his approach at the plate.

But more importantly, the ability and the versatility to play the outfield is the real appeal for sticking around.

A lot his success is also associated with not having the added pressure of getting that big hit every time.

Consistent play has taken that monkey off his back.

In 64 games at Durham, Franklin’s line was .254/.322/.392 with 16-2B, 1-3B, 5-HR, and 28-RBI before returning on July 30.

So far this season,  Franklin’s line stands at .280/.343/.465 with 6-HR, 26-RBI and 6-SB in 53 games (41 starts).

He has started games in left field (16-G), first base (7-G), second base (7-G), shortstop (4-G) and right field (5-G).

The next step will be center field.

Meanwhile, 2016 could come to an early close hamstring strain has kept him out for the past five games.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Souza to Undergo Season-Ending Surgery

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Regardless what happens the rest of the season, in my opinion Franklin has secured a spot with the Rays for 2017 as the new “Ben Zobrist.”

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