Christian Franklin is the 52nd ranked prospect, according to MLB.com, and he does a lot of good on the diamond. He is a power over hit player, who fields well, runs well, and throws well. While his ranking suggests he is a late-second round pick, his upside is good enough that he can sneak into the first round. If he does that, he joins Andrew Benintendi and Heston Kjerstad as the three most recent first-round picks out of the University of Arkansas.
Franklin had an excellent college career. His slashline is .288/.402/.499. He is a but undersized, standing at 5’11 and weighing 195 pounds. Still, Franklin fits the mold of a MLB player in 2021 in that he defends well, runs the bases well, draws walks, and has some power even though he may not hit for average consistently.
Franklin’s power is the better aspect of his offense. Scouts grade it a 55/80, and he collected 53 extra-base hits in college – including 22 home runs. In 2021, he averaged a home run every six at bats. When he connects, he hits the ball hard with high exit velocities.
Still, the best aspects of his game are his speed and defense. His speed is also a 55/80 while his defense and arm are both 60/80. He has good range in centerfield and his instinct helps make him a plus defender. Franklin should have no issues staying in center field, but his arm is stronger than most at the position so a switch to a corner outfield position wouldn’t be an issue if necessary.
His combination of speed, power, and defense are a great appeal to scouts. If he can hit enough to play everyday, some scouts believe he can develop into a 20-20 player while patrolling centerfield.
As noted, his power tool is more advanced than his hit tool. Scouts grade his bat to ball skills a slightly-below-average 45/80. Franklin’s power should make up for the lackluster hitting, but he is sure to have holes in his swing exploited by opposing pitchers at the next level.
In his freshman season at Arkansas, he struck out 66 times in 64 games. Although he was able to improve on that rate, he has not improved enough to guarantee he will hit at the MLB level. If he can, he will be an everyday player. If he cannot, he will develop into more of a fourth outfielder thanks to his defensive abilities and speed.
If Christian Franklin reaches his upside, he can play a style of baseball similar to that of Minnesota Twins’ outfielder Byron Buxton. Expect Franklin to draw more walks than Buxton, but both men hit for power better than they hit for average. Additionally, they both possess the tools to excel on the bases and in centerfield.
Buxton has been limited by injuries throughout his career, but he has shown what he is capable of when healthy. The team that drafts Christian Franklin is sure to get a player similar to the healthy version of Buxton but with better plate discipline.
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