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Southern notes: Franklin heats up

Mariners' No. 3 prospect finding confidence following injuries
May 22, 2012
Nick Franklin missed about a month last season with Double-A Jackson, but he made that up in a big way during the Arizona Fall League.

The No. 27 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft won MVP honors in the AFL's Rising Stars Game and is firmly on the fast track to Seattle again as he ranks among the top hitters in the Southern League this season.

"The chance to play in Arizona was a big help," Franklin said. "The competition was great and it made up for the games I missed."

The switch-hitting shortstop stole the show in the Rising Stars Game -- he was 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer, the round-tripper coming off 2011's No. 1 overall Draft pick, Gerrit Cole.

Now the 21-year-old Florida native is getting the best of Double-A pitchers, ranking among the Southern League leaders in batting average (.336), on-base percentage (.389) and slugging (.513).

The only drawback to Franklin's season so far is a few more games missed, although that hardly cooled off the player who is ranked No. 47 among's Top 100 Prospects and holds down the No. 3 spot with the Mariners.

After missing a little over a week with a strained right thumb, Franklin went 4-for-4 with a double, two triples and two RBIs on Friday against Mobile. He walked in his other trip to the plate in the 12-5 victory.

The thumb was just a minor setback for Franklin, who was hit by a teammate's bat before a game last season and suffered a concussion. In took several weeks to be cleared to play and, in the meantime, an illness set him back further.

"I guess one of my goals for this season is to not get hit by a bat again," he said.

Franklin, who had been promoted to Jackson last June, ended up getting into only 24 games for the Generals, but hit .325. This season, Franklin was on a .387 tear over a three-week stretch when he had to take a seat again. He hurt the right thumb while favoring his swing with his left hand, which he had banged up earlier.

"After I missed the time last year, I was definitely itching to get back in there," Franklin said. "It was frustrating, but I had to let my thumb heal."

Mobile pitchers, of course, would have preferred he stay out a little longer. Three of his four hits came batting left-handed Friday, and that remains the switch-hitter's best side statistically. But the gap may be closing.

"I feel as good hitting right-handed as left-handed," he said.

Franklin split time between shortstop and second base last season, but has been at short almost exclusively this year. With Dustin Ackley established at second, shortstop is the Mariners' need is in Seattle.

"I definitely prefer shortstop," said Franklin, who had committed seven errors. "That's what I want to play."

Jackson has held first place in the Southern League's North Division most of the season behind a prospect-laden pitching staff that ranks No. 1 the league.

"It's great to play behind them," Franklin said.

But the Generals also boast one of the league's top position prospects.

"I want to push and push and play as hard as I can," Franklin said. "I don't want to put a timetable on anything, but I obviously want to get to Seattle as quickly as possible. I just need to keep working and stay healthy."

In brief

Quick recovery: Jackson's Taijuan Walker, ranked No. 16 among's Top 100 Prospects, was back on the mound a week after having to leave a game at Tennessee when he turned his ankle covering first base in the third inning. The right-hander worked into the sixth inning Monday against Mobile in a no-decision, giving up four hits and striking out six while being charged with two runs. Walker, the Mariners' No. 2 prospect behind Danny Hultzen, is 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA in eight starts.

Not heating up: Jacksonville players burned their bats after a shutout loss to Mobile on May 9, but the Suns' new sticks have been almost as cold as the old ones. Jacksonville did snap a 10-game streak without double-digit hits, but was still at the bottom of the Southern League in team batting with an average of .216 and was also last in runs scored with 165 in 45 games.

M*A*S*H unit: Outfielder Joseph Dunigan, who was hitting .303 with seven homers and 21 RBIs, joined the crowded Jackson disabled list because of a sprained right wrist. Already on the DL were first baseman Rich Poythress (stress fracture in foot) and outfielder Johermyn Chavez (broken bone in hand). Steven Proscia was promoted from Class A Advanced High Desert to replace Poythress and hit four homers in his first eight games.

Davidson powers up: Mobile third baseman Matt Davidson had four two-hit games over a five-game stretch in which he belted four homers and drove in eight runs. The power surge gave him the Southern League lead with nine homers. Davidson, Arizona's No. 5 prospect, was batting .288 with 25 RBIs.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to