The most pressing question when it comes to top shortstop prospect Nick Franklin and prized pitching prospect Danny Hultzen is when they will be called up to the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers from Double-A Jackson, Tenn.
But that’s something Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik isn’t going to make public any time soon. To make an educated guess, it seems likely they will be called up after the first half the Southern League season ends on June 18.
The Jackson Generals have a 31/2 game lead over the Huntsville Stars in the Northern Division, and because the Mariners are big on minor league success it seems likely they will keep Franklin and Hultzen there to clinch the first-half championship.
Lost in the Hultzen hype has been Franklin’s outstanding start. He is hitting .331 (60-for-181) with a 16 doubles, four triples, four homers and 25 RBI. The switch-hitter has a .402 on-base percentage and a .530 slugging percentage. Over his past 16 games, Franklin is hitting .407 (11-for-27) with two doubles, two triples, two homers and six RBI.
But what’s interesting is the dramatic difference between Franklin’s statistics from both sides of the plate.
Hitting right-handed, he’s batting .163 (7-for-43) with a .213 on-base percentage and .233 slugging percentage. But batting left-handed, he’s hitting .382 (52-for-136) with a .458 OBP and a .625 slugging percentage. He has 13 doubles, all four of his triples and all four of his home runs from the left side.
And it has become something of a consistent disparity during his brief career. Swinging right-handed, he’s hitting .216 (32-for-148) with a .273 OBP and .304 slugging percentage with five doubles, a triple and two homers. Batting left-handed, he’s hitting .329 (126-for-383) with a .404 OBP and a .514 slugging percentage with 24 doubles, 10 triples and nine homers.
That’s pretty striking. It has also led some scouts and baseball insiders to suggest that Franklin should just scrap switch-hitting and swing from the left side.
Would Zduriencik consider such a move?
“You talk about everything, but it’s not something we are going to do,” Zduriencik said. “It’s too small of a sample size to make that decision.”
In any discussions about switch-hitting, Zduriencik calls on the knowledge of special advisor Ted Simmons, who was a pretty good switch- hitter during his playing days.
“Teddy has all kinds of theories on this,” Zduriencik said. “But he’s a big believer in that it takes time. The thing is you have to just put a little more work to that other side. It’s almost like you are two different people with two different swings.”
Simmons hit .332 in 1975, when he finished second to Bill Madlock for the National League batting title. Simmons hit .331 from the right side that season and .333 from the left side.
It took years for Simmons to achieve that symmetry. The Mariners plan on giving Franklin every chance to figure it out.
“You just can’t give up that advantage of always having the ball come in on you,” Zduriencik said. “It’s such an advantage. Nick will figure out. He works too hard not to figure it out.”
Manager Eric Wedge said staff ace Felix Hernandez will start Tuesday’s game against the San Diego Padres. There was some thought that Hernandez, who is battling a sore back, would start Sunday against the Dodgers. However with a day off Monday, Wedge decided to give Hernandez a few extra days.
“He feels good,” Wedge said. “He feels really good.’’
Blake Beavan will start Sunday against the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley.
Left-hander Jason Vargas (7-4, 3.64 ERA) will start for Seattle in the 4:15 p.m. game today against the Dodgers, who will counter with reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (4-3, 2.55), also a left-hander. The game is on Channel 13 and 710-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 @RyanDivish