Midwest League notebook

Franklin's comfort with wooden bat pays off in first full season

Nick Franklin's 21 homers are one shy of Clinton's team record. (Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com)

By Curt Rallo / Special to MLB.com | August 26, 2010 6:00 AM ET

It's revealed in the eyes -- steely, focused, locked in on offerings from enemy pitchers.

Clinton's Nick Franklin is only 19 years old, but his focus at the plate and in the field has helped him develop a maturity that could put him on a fast track for baseball success.

The Mariners' first-round 2009 Draft pick, Franklin emerged as the Minor League's first 20-20-20 player of the season. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound switch-hitting shortstop has blasted 21 homers, legged out 20 doubles and swiped 24 doubles so far this season. The Midwest League's home run leader is also on the verge of matching a 49-year-old record for the most homers hit by a Clinton player. Dick Kenworthy belted 22 homers in 1961 for the then-Clinton C-Sox.

"I really don't try to think about it too much," Franklin said. "A lot of people have mentioned it to me and it's been in the newspaper, but I'm trying to keep that as far away as possible. I'm just trying to help the team win.

"If I can get the home run record, that would be great," he added. "It would be awesome for Clinton and the Mariners, and for me as an accomplishment. This wasn't a goal that I had in my mind coming into the season, but it would be a great accomplishment if I could do it."

Franklin, who led Lake Brantley High (Florida) to a state title, said he often used a wooden bat in batting practice and individual work in high school last year.

"I feel like I'm a lot more focused with a wooden bat," he said. "You only have a little sweet spot on a wooden bat. With a metal bat, you're pretty much free-swinging. It doesn't matter where the ball hits the bat, it's still going to go somewhere. With a wooden bat, you actually have to work on mechanics. You have to focus to put the ball on the barrel of the bat.

"My power numbers have steadily increased," Franklin added. "I hit seven homers my junior year and I hit 11 homers my senior year, and I've hit [21] this year. I've always done well with wooden bats. As I develop as a player, I feel I will get stronger and faster, and maybe even quicker. I'm young, and I have room to grow."

This offseason, Franklin's objective will be to put some weight on and get stronger.

"I really haven't worked out until last year," he said. "I had a personal trainer, and he gave me a lot more strength and power."

Franklin also feels he can increase the number of stolen bases in the future.

"Most of the time, I try to get a good jump and try not to get picked off," Franklin said. "I don't feel I have a lot of stolen bases right now, but I feel I can get a lot more in the future. In high school, it's a lot different. It's a lot easier to steal a base. You can run off the pitcher. The catcher probably doesn't have a decent arm. Now, it's more reading the pitcher and thinking about the catcher's arm. You really don't have to be a fast guy to steal a base. You could just be a smart base stealer."

In brief

Submarine success: Kane County setup man Bo Schultz owns a 5-1 record and a team-best 2.39 ERA, a dramatic improvement from his senior season at Northwestern, when the converted walk-on outfielder posted a 3-8 record and a 9.23 ERA. Schultz's turnaround on the mound is due to another kind of conversion. Signed as a free agent after a tryout camp, he was turned into a side-armer by the Athletics.

"I was a little confused at first, but the Minor League pitching coordinator told me it was my best chance of success, being a side-arm guy," said Schultz, whose 6-foot-3, 215-pound build convinced the Athletics to make the move. "My control was always a little shaky, and unless I started to locate like Greg Maddux, I was going to wash out at A level. ... The Athletics are looking to replicate what they did with Brad Ziegler," he said. "I'm Brad Ziegler 2.0."

Triples mark: South Bend's Keon Broxton leads all of baseball with 19 triples. His 19 three-baggers have tied the Midwest League record for most triples in a season set by John Wyre of the Clinton Pirates in 1954.

Streaking again: The Dayton Dragons suffered a 24-game home losing streak that they finally snapped Saturday with a 6-3 victory against the Lake County Captains. Now the Dragons are streaking in a different direction, winning four games in a row at home. Despite the home losing streak, Dayton has sold out every home game this season.

Curt Rallo is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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