Nick Franklin is taking advantage of his time in the Arizona Fall League to not only show off his potent bat, but display its surprising pop as well.
The Mariners middle infielder went 2-for-4 on Monday, belting a three-run homer for Peoria in a 9-2 victory over Mesa. Seattle's No. 3 prospect has hit safely in all three of the AFL games he's played in so far, with Monday's shot being his first home run for the Javelinas.
Franklin took Houston prospect Nick Tropeano's 1-1 cut fastball on the inner half of the plate in the fifth inning and sent it clear of the right-field fence, to give Peoria an 8-1 lead.
Franklin said he thinks having the opportunity to continue playing this season will further develop an offensive game that took strides this season. He's 5-for-12 early on in Fall League play.
"I think playing with the top guys around the [Minor Leagues], it's a chance for me to see good arms and to learn, and just continue swinging the bat," said the 21-year-old. "I think that playing baseball year round is the best thing for you, especially if you love the game like I do. You know, playing baseball every day is what I live for."
Franklin began this season with Double-A Jackson, where he continued to show the form he displayed with the Generals at the end of last season. He had batted .325 with a .482 slugging percentage in 21 games in 2011. In 57 Southern League games this year, MLB.com's No. 29 prospect batted .322 with a .394 on-base percentage and a .502 slugging mark, knocking four homers and 17 doubles while driving in 26 runs.
That earned Franklin -- the MVP of the AFL's Rising Stars Game last year -- a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma for the first time at the end of June. The 27th overall selection in the 2009 Draft proceeded to hit .243 for the Rainiers in 64 games, getting on base at a .310 clip and slugging .416 in his first exposure to the Pacific Coast League.
Franklin said he was encouraged by the progress he felt he made this season.
"I think I had an overall pretty good year. I'm looking forward to next year and where that takes me," he said. "I'm trying to have fun [in the AFL], see some pitches, get some good ones to hit and on defense move around short and second, get a feel for both sides of the infield. I want to go day in and day out with enthusiasm."
Franklin, who has primarily played shortstop during his pro career, appeared at second fairly often this year after playing there sparingly in 2011. He said, by now, he feels about equally comfortable at both positions.
On Monday, San Diego's Jeudy Valdez went 3-for-5 with a triple, two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI out of the leadoff spot for the Javelinas. Cody Asche, a third baseman for Philadelphia, also went 3-for-5 out of the two-hole, knocking a double and driving in two runs.
The Mariners' No. 5 prospect, James Paxton, turned in his second straight strong AFL outing, scattering a run on three hits and a walk while fanning five over three innings to earn his first victory. The left-hander has allowed one run in six frames in the fall.
No. 6 Cubs prospect Matt Szczur went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run out of the leadoff spot for the Solar Sox. Tropeano, despite allowing the home run to Franklin, struck out three and didn't issue any walks in two innings of work.