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Prospects Will Break Your Heart: Nick Franklin Edition

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Nick Franklin scorched the International League last summer while with Triple-A Durham, displaying some nice pop and making a decent amount of contact. It was clear he was a former first round pick and a perennial top-100 prospect. If he had never been to the Show before, we'd all be clamoring for a look at him to see what he could do in the majors.

Only thing is, he has been to the Show, on several occasions,  with each trip worse than the previous one. He is still just 25 years old and has five years of team control left, so there is still time for him to work out the kinks, but the clock is loudly ticking.

Where Did He Come From?

Nick Franklin was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft -- 27th overall -- by the Seattle Mariners, who were able to sign the young short stop just hours before the deadline. The next day, Franklin's pro career got off to an immediate start as he played for the Rookie-level Arizona League Mariners. As an 18 year old, Franklin showed some tremendous poise. He went 21 for 63, striking out just eight times, with an OPS over 800.

Franklin in excelled in Low-A the following year and earned a call-up to Double-A at the very end of the season. He showed greater than expected power, blasting 23 home runs.

Franklin's ascent was derailed by some bad luck in 2011. He suffered a concussion when he was struck by a flying bat during a round of BP. Then, while recovering, he had bouts of food poisoning and contracted mono. When he was healthy that season he did manage to put up terrific numbers in Advanced-A and Double-A, maintaining his prospect status.

In 2012, Franklin put it all behind him and put up his best year yet.  Mariners fans clamored for him to reach Seattle.

They got their wish. In 2013, Franklin had several cups of coffee in the majors, none of them encouraging as he struggled over 100 games. He was still just 23 years old and may have just needed more experience. However, in 2014, he continued to lag, so the Mariners decided to pull the plug on his prospect status and sent him to the Rays in a three team swap that brought Austin Jackson to Seattle from the Tigers.

While with the Rays in 2014, Franklin's woes just continued as he couldn't even hit at the Triple-A level where he'd been mashing for Seattle.

After brief, uninspiring stints in the majors with Tampa Bay at the end of 2014, Nick Franklin entered spring training with one goal in mind, to be the club's starting short stop on opening day.

Asdrubal Cabrera was awarded the position after just over a week of games, moving Franklin to second base. He might have had a chance to stick at that position, but an oblique strain sidelined him until mid-May.

Once activated, Franklin's poor performance continued until he was finally optioned to back to Triple-A, while Logan Forsythe took advantage of his regular playing time to blossom into the team MVP.

Franklin would return to the majors when the rosters expanded, but things weren't much better.

The Numbers:

Season Level PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wRC+
2013 AAA 177 4 7 16.9% 11.3% 0.324 0.440 0.472 147
MLB 412 12 6 10.2% 27.4% 0.225 0.303 0.382 93
2014 AAA 333 9 9 14.1% 18.0% 0.294 0.392 0.455 121
AAA 113 2 2 8.8% 30.1% 0.210 0.288 0.290 62
MLB 90 1 2 6.7% 35.6% 0.160 0.222 0.247 34
2015 AAA 221 11 4 12.2% 21.7% 0.266 0.353 0.500 147
MLB 109 3 1 6.4% 33.9% 0.158 0.213 0.307

*Table courtesy of jtmorgan

His Future:

Last September, the Rays were forced to give up on a former elite short stop prospect who could hit and run like the wind at one point, but who had been unable to bounce back from injuries. This player was Hak-Ju Lee and the Rays reasoning for having to let him go was their overload of talent up the middle.

They may soon face this same predicament with Nick Franklin, as the team has more than a handful of top prospects rising through the system. Has Franklin's window of opportunity completely closed?

Nick Franklin just turned 25 years old last week, and it has taken plenty of other players much longer to be able to find their niche. It may just be a case of gaining confidence in the majors or by getting consistent playing time, such was the case for Logan Forsythe.

Here's what Pecota and ZiPS project Franklin to do this upcoming season, with Pecota actually thinking he'll perform rather well considering that's over just 128 plate appearances.

.254 .230 .310 .381 4 2.8 0.5 128

PECOTA offers a look at what Franklin may do off the bench, while ZiPS looks to what he could do if he were maintained in a major league roll.

.295 .230 .299 .374 12 26.0% 8.8% 465 0.9

Due to his up-and-down travels from the majors, Franklin is entering his last option-eligible year and it'll probably be used towards the end of spring training as he isn't likely to make the opening day roster ahead of Brad Miller and Tim Beckham.

Nonetheless, Franklin only has one full year of service time under his belt, leaving him under team control through the 2020 season. If he is somehow able to figure it all out, he could still turn into an extremely valuable asset.