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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

Topic: nick franklin

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February 26, 2013 at 8:41 AM

Modern players, including several Mariners, relying on more than just teams in seeking improvement

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Some of you may have already read my story in today’s paper about how several Mariners are continuing an MLB-wide trend of going outside their teams for more personalized skills training and conditioning. Much of this is driven by player agents, who recognize the fact that a healthy, productive player at the top of his game is going to command a bigger salary than the struggling player who isn’t being all he can be.

And when those players make more money, the agents themselves do. So, it’s in their best interests to work as a team with their player/client in order to strive for on-field production. That’s also, naturally, the end goal of the team itself, which invests millions every year in players and their development. With higher-end draft picks, the millions are invested the day the player signs. Then millions more once they go on to become a major league piece with a little service time. Even with low-cost players, if a young one doesn’t pan out, or a rebuilding plan fails, it can cost teams untold millions in lost revenue opportunities.

So, needless to say the stakes here are very high. And everybody wants a say in what type of training a player is going to be doing. Everybody wants their input into the development process. Where it gets complicated — and you see the potential for some real head-butting between teams and agents for control of the process — is once the players head home for the winter. As Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik correctly states in the story, no team has the resources to supervise every single player each and every day when they are scattered across the country and even the world.

Teams can pick and choose, maybe send a trainer to make a personal visit to a very special player’s home. But the resources just aren’t there. In the end, in many cases, the agents themselves have known the players since they were teenagers, have a vested interest in their individual development (as opposed to an interest in the entire team) and when you break it all down, they are probably best-positioned to be making the on-the-ground decisions regarding a player’s day-to-day well-being in the off-season.

It’s all great until somebody disagrees. And it happens, believe me. I once saw a former MLB power-hitter take his game to the next level when he stopped listening to what his manager wanted him to do when it came to being a pull-hitter. That manager — a very good hitter in his day and a former hitting coach as well — kept on that player until he wasn’t the manager any more. In comes a new manager and hitting coach, out goes the pull-hitting approach and what do you know? The hitter becomes a star and goes on to pull down eight-figures per year.

Like I said, this happens more often than you think in baseball, where the boss is still the boss and players are required to listen. This manager happened to be very good at what he did, but like all humans, he could be wrong from time to time. Mostly, he got it right, but that player and his agent — one of the biggest in the game at the time — weren’t so much concerned with the manager’s record on guiding the other 24 guys. It’s every man for himself in this rough-and-tumble business of professional — not high school, or Little League, or American Legion, but professional — baseball, where life isn’t always fair and players do get messed around with in the name of the greater good.

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Comments | More in spring training | Topics: Jack Zduriencik, michael saunders, nick franklin

February 17, 2013 at 11:35 PM

Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin chowing down with 6,500-calorie-per-day diet in bid to hit the baseball further

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Last I saw Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin, he was at the Arizona Fall League last October. When I ran into him in the clubhouse on Sunday, he looked quite different. Actually, I’d noticed him looking much heavier on Saturday when I saw him doing agility drills post-Mariners-workout (video above), so I decided to ask him what’s-what.

Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin takes part in agility drills at spring training in Peoria, AZ.

Franklin told me he’s gained 34 pounds since September by putting himself through a 6,500-calorie-per-day diet. You can read more about it here in our story for Monday’s newspaper.

His diet is a couch potato’s fantasy. Lunch and dinner every day at Carrabba’s, Chipotle’s or The Corner Bakery. Breakfast is six scrambled eggs and not just the whites. Plus a high-caloric shake. If he has no time to cook, just hop on over to Chick Fil A.

Nick Franklin in hungrier times. Photo Credit: AP

Franklin was tired of a 6-foot-1, 162-pound frame that he says was collapsing on him last August. He now weighs 196 pounds and wants to be at 200 when the season begins.

I spoke with his personal performance coach, Jeff Higuera, by phone from Florida and he told me Franklin was a good candidate for the weight gain because of his age and the fact his body, muscles and hormones were primed for a big weight gain in any event. He also said Franklin is the most powerful baseball player he’s ever worked with and has a gym work ethic second to none. That part is encouraging, because the diet, well…let’s just say it’s something most men would love to call their own.

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Comments | More in spring training | Topics: calories, diet, Jeff Higuera

January 7, 2013 at 4:06 PM

A primer for any Mariners trade discussion that happens in coming weeks

Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin has been the subject of trade rumors all winter long after strong Arizona Fall League showing. Photo Credit: AP

We’re now almost a week into the New Year and still have not seen resolution to the Mariners’ ongoing quest to add a bat. It was a week ago today on New Year’s Eve that word first broke the Mariners might be in on a trade for Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since then, nary a word. The rumor-du-jour of the past few days is that the Mariners are trying to deal for outfielder Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks. That’s still generating buzz as of today. I can tell you that in conversations with a source last week, I was told that the Mariners continue to shop for a corner outfield/power bat on the trade front and that this is taking priority over any free agent quest for now.

Makes sense. Until the Mariners determine what they can actually get via trade — and whether or not a pitcher will also come with that bat — it’s tough to make a call on who to spend the free agent money on.

The trick here will to not be fooled into waiting too long for the market to play out. We saw a bit of that last year when the Mariners hung in on Prince Fielder — waiting to see whether his market would drop to much lower levels — then ran out of time to sign anybody else.

Anyhow, if the Mariners do make a deal, it could very well involve one of their top prospects. Some of you might know something about those, while others may not. One of the better primers I’ve seen out there on the team’s top-5 prospects was just put out right here by local writer Rick Randall.

His list has:

1. Taijuan Walker

2. Mike Zunino

3. Danny Hultzen

4. Nick Franklin

5. James Paxton

I have no problem with the list. In fact, I get a little bemused when I see lists that have already bumped Big 3 member James Paxton out of the top-5 despite the fact he did little last season to merit such a drop. If we were to go off command issues as a docking point, Danny Hultzen could be ousted as well. Paxton could very well be the most major league ready of any of the Big 3 depending on what he does this spring. Bottom line: a few starts in the Arizona Fall League won’t make or break his career. Nor do they erase what he did in the second half of last season in AA. We’ll learn more this spring, but he’s still in my top-5 list and Randall’s as well.

Now, we can quibble with the order of some of the prospects — I wonder about Taijuan Walker at No. 1 since he’s yet to pitch an inning of Class AAA ball — but most lists have him in the top-2 and he’s definitely being hyped about as high as the hype machine can possiblly go. His youth (age 19 last season) has everything to do with it, since Paxton and others had better AA numbers. The higher the perceived upside, the better the rankings usually go.

And when you’re playing the prospects game, it’s as much about hype and hope as it is about facts.

Some of what I liked about the list is that it’s more up-to-date on recent developments than other top-10 or top-5 compilations involving the Mariners. Many of those were done by national publications that miss a lot of the local intricacies. On Randall’s list, you see mentioned up-top the ongoing debate about whether Nick Franklin really has a future as a major league shortstop. Based on what I’ve heard, I’d be very suprised if he did — especially here in Seattle.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Randall points out. But it limits Franklin’s possibilities with the Mariners and if we’re discussing trade bait, that element certainly must come into play here.

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Comments | More in trades | Topics: Jack Zduriencik, Mike Zunino, nick franklin