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Rays Top 50 prospects: No. 20, Austin Franklin

(Sandy Tambone / MiLB.com)

One of the youngest right-handers to be headed to full season play this season, Austin Franklin is a Florida native that many believe will develop into a staff leader,

No.20, RHP Austin Franklin, 20 years old

Born: October 2nd, 1997 in Laurel Hill, FL

Height/Weight: 6’3” 215 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R

Signed: by the Rays for $597,500 after being selected in the 3rd rd of the 2016 draft

Twitter handle: NA

Twitter profile statement: NA

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 11th best Rays prospect post 2016
  • Ranked as the 17th best Gulf Coast League prospect post 2016
  • Ranked as the 10th best Rays prospect post 2017

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 16th
  • Low: 27th

Austin Franklin: Abilities

  • Heavy Fastball
  • Plus Curve
  • Near plus Changeup
  • Developing Command

Grades for ‘18 (Pipeline): FB: 55 | CU: 60 | CH: 55 | Ctl: 45 | Overall: 50

  • Abilities notes: Franklin was also able to put up an impressive 80.9% LOB in 2017, showing a distinct ability to work well with men on.

Joined the Rays by way of....

The draft, one selection after Arizona’s top prospect Jon Duplantier, and one selection before the Orioles selected outfielder Austin Hays.

Coming out of Paxton High School, Franklin had been committed to Samford before signing with the Rays.

Latest Transaction: Assigned to Hudson Valley Renegades from Gulf Coast League, Rays June 19th, 2017

Note The Rays have had quite a bit of success developing high school arms, and along with 2017 addition Michael Mercado, Franklin represents their willingness to bet high (in terms of draft picks) on that skill.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

“Austin Franklin has a good body, has a clean arm action and delivery,” “He has a good fastball and can spin a breaking ball. Those are all things that are good ingredients to put in the system. It’s a long journey from there to the big leagues. We think he has a really good chance to make that journey.”

  • Great Bill Chastain article on Austin here, where he’s noted as a 4.0 student with outstanding work ethic.
  • Noted Austin as a Helium prospect in January 2017.
  • Minor League Ball has noted Austin as a sleeper prospect.
  • Austin got married Sidney Beck soon after the draft at The Barn at Water Oaks Farm in Laurel Hill.
  • If you want to know the basic process a prospect goes through after signing in the draft, Austin walks us through it here in a Q&A.
  • Noted that towards the end of his first season, “Marty DeMerritt and one of the pitching coordinators for the whole organization, Jorge Moncada, they started working on my changeup.”

Stats

Austin Franklin 2017

GP 13
GP 13
GS 13
IP 69.1
W 4
L 2
Sv (SvO) 0 (0)
H 51
BB 31
SO 71
HR 4
AvgA 0.207
Whip 1.180
BAbip 0.270
LOB% 80.9%
GB% 41.9%
FB% 38.4%
HR/FB% 6.1%

Stats Notes: Was more dominant vs RHB (.189 average against) than LHB (.228 average against) and also got better throughout the season when he managed 23.0 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 20 SO, .184 average against and 0.87 WHIP after the all-star break.

Interesting Comparison: Michael Wacha

Although Wacha has a couple of inches (3) on Franklin, they weigh the same and hold a similar arsenal mix. Wacha works primarily with a heavy fastball that reaches 96 MPH and also incorporates a changeup and curve.

It’s unknown right now whether Franklin’s change up will be as firm as Wacha’s (using a circle change grip) at 88 MPH on average, and Wacha has also incorporated a cutter, something Franklin may or may not attempt in the future. Another slight difference is that Wacha’s curve works 12 to 6 while Franklin’s works 11 to 5.

In terms of minors careers, we can’t match the two up because Wacha attended Texas A&M and was selected older than Franklin, but assuming Franklin continues to progress as planned he should reach Double-A in a similar timeframe (22 years old).

When he did make it through Double-A, Wacha managed to keep walk rates below 3/9 for the most part and we’d expect something similar for Franklin once his command is developed. Low HR/9 rates and high LOB rates should match up fairly well, although we’d hope Franklin can improve on a few of those.

(Sandy Tambone / MiLB.com)

Notes for 2018 and beyond

There’s a lot to like about Franklin and his potential. A likeable, down to earth, and very thankful individual, he’s appreciative of the opportunity at hand and is working hard to make the most of his abilities. What he brings to the table above many others is a high floor based on three pitches that are expected to grade as plus pitches.

From a mid-90s fastball with sink, to a curve with great bite and developing but already effective changeup, he can throw each for strikes but is still learning overall command. It will be interesting to see how he does in full season play and how far he can take those pitches.

One of the leaders on the New York-Penn league championship team, Franklin finished 10th in the league with 71 strike outs and managed an effective 1.12 WHIP. Most of that was due to being able to limit hits (only 51 in 69.1 innings) as he did allow 31 walks (4.02 BB/9), something to look for going forward. He’s also managed good GB rates, 41.9 % in 2017, something that should help him keep the ball in the park, as shown by his only giving up 4 HRs through 111.2 IP as a pro.

The ceiling placed on Franklin by most outlets is that of a mid-rotation starter, but a lot of that depends on how effective his changeup becomes. Having show good feel for it early on, it could push him higher, which is partly the reason BA has noted him as one of the more under rated pitchers in the system.

Franklin will likely begin 2018 in Bowling Green (Low-A) where he’ll join many of the talented arms he worked with in Hudson Valley. He’ll likely spend the entire season there among a group of pitchers that will be a lot of fun to watch.

Austin Franklin: Spotlight Videos

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 55 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list