Story By Drew Amman:
Christian Franklin had two hits in each of Arkansas’ two games in the 2019 College World Series to close the year hitting .274. This season, his average was .381 when the season was canceled after sixteen games.
“Christian, I think he was honestly a totally different player. Which freshman year, he was already a great player. But this year I feel like he just looked way more mature out there with his at-bats. And his defense was unreal. He’s always had great defense. Just him as a hitter, he’s probably one of the best sophomores in the country, honestly, from what I saw or from other sophomores too, so that was impressive. Definitely happy for him because he works hard and he definitely earned every bit of it,” Outfielder Heston Kjerstad said.
Franklin homered three times this season, drove in eleven runs and scored a team-best 21 times in his sophomore year. Arkansas’ left fielder in 2019, Franklin move to centerfield this season after the Diamondbacks drafted Dominic Fletcher with the 75th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Franklin did not commit an error in 2020.
“He’s definitely one of the hardest workers we’ve got and it was great to see him have that success. You know it’s tough when you lose a guy like Fletcher last year, that tracks down every ball and has great ABs. For him to step in and do what he did and the way he was doing it, it was great to have on the team and it was awesome to be a part of,” Catcher Casey Opitz said.
As for whether Franklin exceeded Dave Van Horn’s expectations in 2020?
“I guess if you would have asked me you know last year at the end of the season …. I thought he exceeded it with how much better he got. But then when he got back in the fall and we started working out and we started…we could see the development had really started to take place. Between his confidence from playing as a freshman, he had a really good summer. Played on a really good team. He was one of the best players on that team and they won the championship in California. Coming back you could see his defensive skills were better, but you could really just see a lot better offensive player. So I would say once fall ball was over, we knew what we thought he could do and he was doing it. So a little of both. It just depends on the timing,” Van Horn said.
Franklin was 24 for 63 at the plate in 2020 finishing with four doubles, one triple, and a slugging percentage of .619.
“He definitely made a jump, and most kids do. That’s what I see, I’ve seen over the years, is that the biggest jump guys will usually make is between their freshman and sophomore years. And it’s usually because they have the skills, they’re getting stronger, now mentally they think they’ve arrived and they’re confident,” DVH notes.
An Overland Park, Kansas native, Franklin finished a double shy of the cycle in Arkansas’ win over South Alabama March 8th.