Obviously, the one thing we all want to know with shortstop Nick Franklin and prized pitching prospect Danny Hultzen is when they will be called up to Triple A Tacoma. Of course, general manager Jack Zduriencik won’t tell me that. But if I had to make an educated guess, based on a few people I’ve talked to, the two will likely be called up after the first half the Southern League season. The Jackson Generals have a 3.5 game lead over the Huntsville Stars in the Northern Division of the League.
The Mariners are big on minor league success and winning championships, so it seems plausible that they will keep Franklin and Hultzen there to clinch the first-half championship. The first-half ends 10 days from now on June 18.
But about Franklin … the talented young shortstop is putting up outstanding numbers, hitting .331 (60-for-181) with a 16 doubles, four triples, four homers and 25 RBI. He has a .402 OBP and a .530 slugging percentage. Over his last 16 games, Franklin is hitting .407 (11-for-27) with two doubles, two triples, two homers and six RBI.
But the interesting thing is his splits as a switch hitter. They are slightly exaggerated.
This season …
Hitting right-handed: .163 batting average (7-for-43) with a .213 OBP and .233 slugging percentage — three doubles.
Hitting left-handed: .382 batting average (52-for-136) with a .458 OBP and a .625 slugging percentage. He has 13 doubles, four triples and all four of his home runs from the left side.
Obviously, it’s a small sample size.
So how about for his career.
Hitting right-handed: .216 batting average (32-for-148) with a .273 OBP and .304 slugging percentage with five doubles, a triple and two homers.
Hitting left-handed: .329 batting average (126-for-383) with a .404 OBP and a .514 slugging percentage with 24 doubles, 10 triples and nine homers.
It’s pretty striking. It’s also led to some scouts and baseball insiders to suggest that Franklin should just scrap switching hitting and take his chances as simply swinging from the left side of the plate.
So why not ask Zduriencik about it?
He was candid without being dismissive.
“You talk about everything, but it’s not something we are going to do,” Zduriencik said. “It’s too small of a sample size to make that decision.”
In any discussions about switch-hitting, Zduriencik calls on the knowledge of special advisor Ted Simmons, who was a pretty good switch hitter during his playing days.
“Teddy has all kinds of theories on this ,” Zduriencik said. “But he’s a big believer in that it takes time. The thing is you have to just put a little more work to that other side. It’s almost like you are two different people with two different swings.”
Simmons hit .332 in 1975 and finished second in the NL batting title to Bill Madlock. Look at Simmons’ splits from that season.
It took years for Simmons to achieve that symmetry on both sides of the plate. Will Franklin reach that level? It’s tough to predict. But the Mariners plan on giving him every chance to figure it out.
“You just can’t give up that advantage of always having the ball come in on you,” Zduriencik said. “It’s such an advantage. Nick will figure out. He works too hard not to figure it out.”