Jesse Franklin V entered the year coming off of what was an essentially missed 2022 season due to injury, the second time in a three-year period he missed either all or almost all of a season.
The Atlanta Braves took Franklin in the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft out of Michigan, giving him a $497,500 signing bonus. The outfielder was seen as a potential late first-round pick heading into that spring, but an off-field injury and then the pandemic-related minor league shutdown cost him all of 2020.
Preseason report card
Franklin ranked 16th in our preseason Top 25 prospect list after an injury which required Tommy John surgery limited him to just 15 games in 2022. His ranking was due in part to a successful run in High-A Rome in 2021, followed by a stint in the Arizona Fall League. He was seen as a power bat who runs well and is solid in an outfield corner spot, though his surgery threatened to push him to left field.
What we saw in 2023
As expected Franklin went to Double-A, the place he played his 15 games in 2022, and played 94 games after starting the season in May. He hit .232/.315/.419 with 15 homers and 21 steals. Franklin received 387 plate appearances, where he struck out 115 times and walked 32 times. Defensively he continued to play all three outfield spots, but was primarily a left fielder — after playing primarily in right pre-Tommy John Surgery.
It would be fair to say it was a disappointing season for the left-handed hitting outfielder as he posted just a 95 wRC+ while striking out in nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances. There was no slow start due to recovery, either, as his monthly performance was consistently mediocre aside from a better line in July.
Franklin did hit 15 homers and steal 21 bases in 94 games, and was much better against right-handed pitchers. Against right-handers he hit .249/.322/.473 versus a .190/.299/.290 mark against lefties.
Franklin should be contending for a spot in Triple-A to open the 2024 season considering he will be entering his age-25 season, which is a weird divergence of age and experience considering he was limited to just 15 combined games in 2020 and 2022. Still with the high strikeout rate, more of a left field defensive profile, and struggles against left-handers, his big league future is looking more like a potential platoon bat than a future starter, though he’ll have to play even better to warrant that kind of look as a platoon strong-sider.