You know the drill by now. Two names that land back-to-back on Bret’s dynasty list for the position get thrown under the microscope—this time from a dynasty perspective. Today we’ll entertain quasi-starting options Marcus Semien and Nick Franklin. It’s worth noting that Semien will pick up shortstop eligibility relatively quickly, but for now he’s a second-sacker.
In 412 plate appearances Nick Franklin has produced a .213/.289/.358 slash line which from here on out can be referred to as “sucking out loud.” Semien’s paltry .240 batting average seems positively Altuvian by comparison. Despite all odds though, Franklin is likely to be the better hitter going forward. Semien has a strong approach, but carries contact issues. Both have struggled mightily in the majors in terms of striking out, despite stronger contact rates in the minors. Still, in terms of how their swings are geared, Franklin has a better chance of putting the ball in play more often.
Fresh off complimenting Semien’s approach, I think we have a good idea of how this category is going to turn out. We shouldn’t dismiss Franklin though. Both these players have posted multiple double-digit walk rates throughout their minor league careers. It’s hard not to give the edge to the guy who just recorded an eight percent figure at the major-league level.
While his .200-plus ISO at Triple-A is going to lead people/projections to believe that there’s more power than there really is, Semien does boast moderate power to go with his on-base skills. He’s also routinely posted mid-teens home run totals routinely, whereas Franklin has struggled to clear the double-digit plateau at times. He had a massive home run outburst in 2010, but otherwise hasn’t topped 11 home runs in a season. Not that minor league numbers tell us everything, of course. Franklin’s swing can lack leverage at times. He can make hard contact thanks to strong wrists and good hands, but he doesn’t always involve his lower half enough to generate over-the-fence power.
Runs Batted In
As is often the case with contextual factors, they’re hard to predict long-term. Especially so in the case of these two, as they’re fairly evenly matched, and even Semien’s power advantage doesn’t guarantee him a more prominent spot in a lineup. Since he does have a slight advantage though, he makes a more likely five- or six-hitter, and one who is more likely to cash in runners ahead with extra-base hits. Let’s roll with him for now, but know that it truly does depend on where they hit. Let’s also note that Semien’s presence on the A’s seems more likely to result in runs, as the Rays tend to struggle scoring runs.
While Semien is more likely to take advantage of the opportunity to drive in runs from the lower-middle of an order, he’s in an organization that will respect his ability to get on base as well, and that means a decent chance of hitting near the top of the lineup too. Franklin has his uses, especially if he can put his ample tools together, but there’s a solid chance he ends up hitting at the bottom of a lineup going forward too. If that’s the case, Semien could be posting better numbers in both context-heavy stats.
Both guys run enough to accrue low double-digits in stolen bases, with Franklin running a little more often but a little less efficiently. Honestly, it’s a tossup between the two and pretending to divine an answer (as I’ve done above) seems even less useful here than before.
Semien doesn’t have a notable injury of record, and Franklin hasn’t missed more than some time here or there since 2011. Neither poses a serious threat in this regard.
Despite the slate more than favoring Semien here, Franklin does carry the higher ceiling. As a switch-hitter, he potentially poses a threat no matter who is pitching, whereas Semien has shown a predilection for feasting on southpaws the last few years. It should be noted he hit everyone well in 2013, but hit lefties better, and showed a marked difference in 2014. Franklin has struggled as a left-handed hitter though, and keeping two swings in tact can be tough, so there’s downside there as well. All of this is to say, Franklin carries a slightly higher overall upside as a potential impact in three categories (average, runs, RBI) and a solid contributor in home runs and stolen bases. Semien is more likely to contribute in small doses to runs, RBI, and stolen bases while being a little more than that in home runs (given the position) while being a net neutral or worse in average. Pure upside still goes to Franklin, but combining risk and upside, Semien is the better play.
Estimated Time to Impact
Both are at or near the major-league level. At this point, they should be regarded relatively equally here.
Semien comes out the clear winner 6-1-3. The contextual stats could easily slide the other direction though, which would make it a significantly closer battle. If you believe Franklin can add a little loft or incorporate his lower half more often, you could even push them into a tie in terms of power. There are a lot of ifs in that scenario though. Semien has plenty of downside, too, so don’t read this as meaning he’s a safe value. These guys are closer than the overall record would indicate.
And the winner is… Marcus Semien
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now