#14: Austin Franklin, RHP, 21
The first starting pitcher to appear on the list, an underrated arm in a loaded Rays system who will be out until 2020 due to Tommy John surgery.
Height/Weight: 6’3″ / 215
Drafted: | Signed: 3rd, 2016 (90th) | $597,000
School: High school
Pitch Grades (Via 2080):
FB Velocity: 92-93, T-95
Franklin underwent Tommy John surgery in July after a good start at Bowling Green and as a result we will have to wait until 2020 to see him pitch again. Baseball America is higher on the young righty than FanGraphs, having named him the 10th best Rays prospect prior to the 2018 season.
Off-speed pitches: Franklin features what is considered to be one of the best curveballs in the Rays system and if the Rays hadn’t drafted Matthew Liberatore in the most recent draft, his sharp 11/5 curveball would be the system’s best. Regarding his changeup, Baseball America had this to say, “His changeup has the potential to be above-average, and he’s working on making the delivery of his off-speed pitches mirror that of his heater to create more deception.”
Delivery: Franklin’s mechanics will be the deciding factor on his future as a major league ballplayer. If he can clean up his mechanics and in turn improve his fastball command, he could make it as a backend starter. If not, then his future resides in the pen. He swings his hips open a bit too early in his delivery to home plate and as a result his arm can lag through the zone resulting in a lack of control.
If he can work on staying closed, his fastball command will improve and you could even see a little bump in velocity. If he doesn’t clean up his delivery, his command will relegate him to a relief role.
2018 Numbers at LoA (prior to tearing UCL):
6-5 // 82IP // 3.62 ERA // 65K/31BB // 1.32 WHIP
Thoughts: I like Franklin. I like his build (tall and stocky), and I believe he could make it as a starter. If the Rays ever go back to a 5-man rotation, Franklin would likely fill the 5th spot. 2080 has concerns regarding his ability to withstand a lineup more than twice, but if his changeup develops then he should be fine.
Like I said earlier, his fastball command will decide his career path. Here is a video of Austin Franklin pitching for the Hot Rods from 2080 Baseball. In the video, you can see the control issues that I talked about: