Marines' prospect Nick Franklin burst onto the scene back in 2010 when he clubbed 23 home runs for Clinton in the Midwest League as a shortstop. That home run power hasn't showed up as often in the years since, but he actually matched his extra base output from that season in 2012 in fewer plate appearances split between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma.
Invited back to FanFest to be one of the prospects showcased for a second time this year, Nick took some time between his scheduled appearances to talk with me about advancing to Triple-A, playing both middle infield positions and hitting from both sides of the plate.
SeattleClubhouse: Thanks for taking a quick break here to talk with me, Nick.
Nick Franklin: Yeah, absolutely.
SC: Last year was a very good year for you; from the Southern League Player of the Month to your first taste of Triple-A, to another great showing in the AFL. But most of all, you were healthy. What was the biggest difference for you in terms of health from 2011 to 2012?
NF: Washing my hands more. (laughs)
No, but seriously, you start thinking of the things you do the year before and what you can do to improve on that and stay away from those types of things and I think that a big thing was eating healthy. You do have all the fast food restaurants that are convenient and there, it doesn't mean that you have to grab it all the time. You know, get a taxi cab, go a little out of your way and try and eat healthier when you can. On top of that, I also learned that after night games I don't need to go home and get on the computer or turn on the TV or whatever. Just go to bed. The next day then you can check all of that stuff. So just kind of learning from things from the year before.
SC: What were the biggest challenges or adjustments on the field for you at the Triple-A level?
NF: At Double-A I had an approach and a routine that was working and I stuck with that, but once I got into it at Triple-A, it almost seemed like I didn't need an approach or couldn't use an approach. A lot of Triple-A guys are veterans, 32 or 33, been around and they're looking to survive and throwing everything they've learned and everything that they've got left to survive at you. When I'd face a younger pitcher I'd say, "OK, he's going to have an approach on how he is going to attack me so I can have an approach to him," but for the most part I just took to Triple-A as a hitter from a see it and hit it standpoint.
SC: You saw a lot more time at second base following your promotion to Tacoma where you and Carlos Triunfel split time and that continued in the AFL. What is your comfort level at the two middle infield positions at this point?
NF: We split 50/50 at Tacoma and I'm comfortable at both, but -- and I've said this before -- I honestly feel like second base is more of a vacation. Not saying that it is an easy position, but comparatively speaking between shortstop and second base, it's less responsibility. You're a flip away with your throws a lot of times. Shortstop is a leader position and catcher is a leader, and when I played second base I worked to try and make that position more of a leadership position, so I try to help out with positioning and shifting guys around and whatnot because I'm familiar with that from when I'm at shortstop.
SC: Another aspect of your game that gets a lot of attention is your switch-hitting; you've experienced a lot more success from the left side thus far in your career – what do you think the reason is for that and what part of your approach or swing from the right side needs work in your opinion?
NF: I'm a natural right-handed hitter. During the course of the season, obviously, we see a lot more right-handed pitchers than left-handers. So it is a lot harder for me when, one day, you have all right-handed pitchers -- a righty starter, righty after righty out of the bullpen -- and then a guy comes in for maybe just one out or sometimes as a closer or something and it's just like, "OK, I didn't see that lefty," because they are usually specialist type guys. So you're waiting to get that left-handed starter. When you finally see one, and then it is like three at bats, then you don't see one again for a week or more. So it is difficult on the hitter. But I try and take BP more on my right side than on my left side just to get that repetition and that work in and help with that confidence. For me, now, even though I'm a natural right-handed hitter, my left side is more or less my natural side now because of the amount of at bats I've had on each side. The Fall League this year is actually the first time that I've hit better from the right side than from the left side.
SC: Getting back to this experience here, what does being one of the few prospects here at FanFest to speak with the fans mean to you?
NF: I'm honestly just thankful that I'm out here and get this chance to interact with the fans. I want them to that I'm more than just a ballplayer. I want to interact with them and let them know that I'm just like them, I'm a human but I'm also a ballplayer, but I like normal everyday things just like they do.
SC: Obviously the Mariners think highly of you as they've brought you here two times now, sent you to the AFL twice and have been touting you as a prospect for some time ever since spending a first round pick on you. Do the trade rumors and rumblings dampen that in any way for you?
NF: You know, honestly, when I first heard my name in trade rumors I was like, "Oh well." I can't let it distract me or deter me. I'm still going to be the same player that I am right now regardless of where I might end up. I don't let it affect me and I don't use it as a motivation tool or anything like that. My motivation is that I love the game of baseball and nothing is going to change that.
SC: You'll be in camp with the big league club once again this season -– how beneficial do you think that experience was for you in 2012 and what are you looking to take from it this year?
NF: Last year was more of a "be seen, not heard" type of situation, trying to get experience and learn from the veterans on the field and in the clubhouse. This year I'm going to go in there and try and make a statement, let them see what I can do and try and make a good impression.
SC: What is your biggest emphasis in your personal Player Development Plan for the upcoming year?
NF: Mainly this off-season I've been trying to put on as much weight as possible. Usually I tend to lose a lot of weight throughout the season but I think from what I learned last year that I'm trying to get stronger and maintain that weight throughout the season. Other than that I just want to stay consistent and get back into that baseball shape and get that right-handed swing down.
SC: What is your weight at right now and what are you hoping to play at in 2013?
NF: At the end of last season I was down to 161 and today I'm at 195. So, back to Chipotle, I literally eat there three times a week. Down in Peoria, it's the three Cs; Chipotle, Carraba and the Corner Bakery. And sometimes Chick-Fil-A. I want to try and be at 200 by the time I come to Spring Training so that I'll hopefully play around 190. Those long days in the sun in Peoria tend to get to you, so I'm going to lose weight, but I hope to be able to play around 190.
SC: What are your goals for the 2013 season and beyond?
NF: In 2013 I'm just trying to be a better player and a better leader than I was last year. Improve on the field and off of it. I want to come to camp, show them what I can do and hopefully make the big league club and make a contribution.
SC: Thanks so much for your time, Nick. Enjoy the remainder of FanFest and best of luck in 2013 and beyond.
NF: No problem, thank you.
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