Kohl Franklin, Your Table is Ready

Kohl Franklin has not spent the past two and a half years working to throw the baseball harder.

He first worked to add weight. He then worked to add muscle. He worked to add mobility. And, most of all, he worked to get healthy. Velocity was never the principal objective. But it’s sure been a byproduct.

“I was just trying to do my best to strengthen everything around the spots I injured,” Kohl told me on the phone from Arizona last week while packing for South Bend, where he’ll open his High-A season today. “I guess the outcome was I added a bit to my velocity.”

We’ll have to excuse the understatement. In his first live batting practice during Spring Training, Franklin came out to the mound feeling good. He thought he was throwing hard, into the mid 90s perhaps, but it was only after he came off the mound that Kohl heard from Brennen Davis, Cole Roederer, Nick Padilla and Ryan Jensen that he’d actually sat 97-99 mph.

“You never really know what to expect with somebody coming back, finally getting the adrenaline back and facing hitters,” Brennen Davis told me about that live BP. “We didn’t think it was real at first. And then he did it again. It was awesome to be able to tell him.”

Subsequent outings only confirmed that Franklin had indeed graduated from “projectable” into a blue-chip prospect with big league stuff. Keith Law caught Franklin during Spring Training and said that his preseason ranking of Franklin at #15 felt “thirteen spots too low” (a sentiment that I feel the same about). And a scout, speaking to Baseball America, was perhaps even more effusive:

He’s super juiced up in Cubs camp. He’s like 96-99 with a firm fastball and an above-average changeup and above-average breaking ball. I stuffed him. I stuffed him super high. With the lost season and then obviously the injury (last year), he hasn’t really gotten a pathway in pro ball to consistent innings, but he’s super interesting. It’s a good delivery, good arm, athletic body and it’s real stuff. He’s really high for me. He’s the story right now of Cubs camp. He’s easily the best pitching prospect in their organization. He has some of the biggest stuff I’ve seen on the back fields this year.

In his second-to-last outing of the spring, against the Giants organization, Franklin was at his best. He commanded an upper 90s fastball, topped 100 twice, had great feel for the plus changeup that’s long been his hallmark pitch at 85-88 mph and mixed in a now-plus curveball at 82-84 mph. The breakout has been the talk of the Cubs organization, and for Franklin, such a re-affirming month after a long stretch away from the game.

https://twitter.com/kohlrf/status/1510018791824052225

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to get back out there, it’s hard for me to put into words how happy I am that I can go out and start competing again in front of people.”

The 2021 calendar year was a very tough one on Franklin. Three months before Spring Training started, Franklin tore his oblique and ninth rib while playing long-toss with a friend. When he got to Mesa and completed the on-board testing that each player does, team doctors flagged Franklin’s EKG. Ultimately, Franklin was diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White (WPW) Syndrome, which Cubs fans might be familiar with after Brad Wieck’s history. Franklin wore a heart monitor for two months, and after involving a number of doctors and tests, it was ultimately determined that he wouldn’t need the same procedure that Wieck first had in 2020.

“This was also during the time that I’m ramping up, trying to throw and stuff, and it was just tough on me to stay focused with everything else going on,” Franklin said. “But everything was going good, the results were good.”

Two outings before Franklin was due to break camp and head to South Bend, he felt a sharp pinch while playing catch. A quick MRI confirmed that Franklin had a Grade 2 subscap strain in his shoulder, ending his season before it began. Instead of that long-awaited trip to High-A, Franklin would spend the summer with a host of other Cubs pitching prospects rehabbing in Arizona. While the Cubs have researched what they could be doing to decrease pitching injuries, the only benefit to the large number of simultaneous injuries was a really healthy atmosphere at the team’s rehab facility.

“When you’re hurt you always have a pretty bad mindset about how you go about your business during the day, and so having guys with positive mindsets that would come in and change moods it was huge to be around,” Franklin said.

Kohl also has his own baseball network from being around the game for so long. His father is an MLB agent, and Franklin said that he heard from established MLB pitchers like Adrian Houser, Archie Bradley, and Dylan Bundy during his rehab.

“It was a breath of fresh air when they would text me and tell me they were thinking about me and tell me to keep killing the process,” Franklin said. “It helped a ton.”

Now healthy and at the top of his game, Franklin restarts his quest to join those pitchers in the big leagues. The Cubs will surely have an innings limit on Franklin, though no one is yet revealing the specifics. While there’s been talk of adding a slider in the past, 2022 is simply about getting reps. The curveball, which was rebuilt following the 2019 season to be a power pitch, needs more experience against professional hitters.

https://twitter.com/kohlrf/status/1488687975185543169

After watching Brennen Davis win the Futures Game MVP (and then flying to Denver to celebrate with him, as Davis told us on The Bain Campaign), Franklin admits that he’d love to pitch in the Futures Game. He’ll be eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 Draft, which the Cubs will almost surely avoid by adding him to the 40-man roster after the season. This puts the big leagues on the radar for mid-2023, which would suggest an incredibly aggressive track this year, but don’t bet against it.

“He’s definitely elevated his game. He used to be a guy that commanded, threw a hard fastball, and had a wipeout changeup,” Davis said. “But now when you have upper nines in the tank? That makes you something really special.”

written by

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.

more cubs news

Brewers Pitcher Jakob Junis Taken Off Field in an Ambulance After Being Struck by BP Ball

A very scary scene in Pittsburgh, where Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jakob Junis, currently on the IL with a shoulder impingement, took a batting practice ball off the neck and went down. Junis was apparently on the ground for a long...

Nico Hoerner is Back to Being Nico Hoerner

On April 9, I took an early look at Nico Hoerner's apparently evolving approach at the plate, which featured a lot more patience and a lot more big hacks. Effectively, it seemed like he was trying for a little more...

MLBits: Spencer Strider Speaks (His and Other Pitcher Arm Injuries), Shohei Ohtani’s Latest Milestone, More

There's been much debate about pitcher arm injuries lately, much of it sparked by Spencer Strider's season-ending Tommy John surgery, and Strider spoke to the media for the first time since the injury on Friday. Spencer Strider on pitcher arm...

Chicago Cubs Sign Lefty Pitching Prospect Mitchell Tyranski

A new signing popped up on the Chicago Cubs' transaction log: lefty Mitchell Tyranski. Tyranski, 26, put up a 3.83 ERA over 42.1 innings at High-A last year in the Dodgers organization, striking out 47 and walking 21. Were you...

The Cubs Have TWO of the Early Front-Runners for NL Rookie of the Year

We already dove deep into Shota Imanaga's latest impressive start against the Marlins yesterday. And there's been no shortage of love for Michael Busch this season either. But I do want to take this time to illustrate just how good...

My Expectations and Realistic Hope for the Cubs VERY Tough Upcoming Schedule

Even though Sunday ended in a loss for the Chicago Cubs, we did get some good news in the form of positive injury updates. Ian Happ (hamstring) was available off the bench and could be good to go tomorrow, when...

Aaron Boone Just Got Ejected Despite Saying Literally Nothing

I know that sometimes there is a history between an umpire and a manager. I know that sometimes a manager can subtly get under the skin of an umpire without doing much that we can see or hear. And I...

Cubs Farm Report | April 22, 2024: Weekend Wrap

Let's get caught up on all of the action down on the farm in today's Cubs Farm Report. Cubs Farm Report | April 22, 2024 Triple-A Iowa Cubs (13-8) The Cubs were swept in a doubleheader by the Louisville Bats...

Looking at the Positives, Bellinger and Morel Streaking (in Opposite Directions), and Other Cubs Bullets

What started as a small convo for the bullets ballooned into a deeper dive on Kyle Hendricks, what's going wrong, and where the Cubs go from here. So if you're looking for the Hendricks discussion, that was earlier today. Despite...

Latest 2024 MLB Mock Draft Lands the Cubs a Top Prospect Out of Wake Forest

Baseball America today released its updated (version 2.0) 2024 MLB mock draft. With more of the amateur season taking place, we are starting to see more of the top tier become firmly crystalized with eight names, none of whom are...

Latest News

Yankees vs. Athletics: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

Marcus Stroman will take the ball for the New York Yankees (15-8) when they host starter Paul Blackburn and the Oakland Athletics (9-14) on Tuesday, with first pitch at 7:05 PM ET.The article below will give you everything you need...

Phillies vs. Reds: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

In a series opener on Tuesday, Trea Turner and the Philadelphia Phillies (14-8) take on Elly De La Cruz and the Cincinnati Reds (12-9), with first pitch scheduled for 6:40 PM ET at Great American Ball Park.The article below will...

How to Watch Brewers vs. Pirates: Live Stream or on TV

Wade Miley will take the mound for the Milwaukee Brewers (14-6) when they visit starter Bailey Falter and the Pittsburgh Pirates (11-11) on Tuesday, with first pitch at 6:40 PM ET.Keep reading to find out all the details on how...

Dodgers vs. Nationals: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

The Los Angeles Dodgers (13-11), with James Paxton on the mound, visit the Washington Nationals (10-11) who will start Patrick Corbin, at 6:45 PM ET on Tuesday.Keep scrolling to find out all the details on how to watch Los Angeles...

How to Watch Rays vs. Tigers: Live Stream or on TV

The Tampa Bay Rays (12-11), led by Amed Rosario, host Riley Greene and the Detroit Tigers (12-10) at 6:50 PM ET on Tuesday in a series opener.Keep reading to find out all the details on how to watch Tampa Bay...

Cleveland Guardians vs. Boston Red Sox Series April 23-25: Odds, Starting Pitchers & Predictions

The Cleveland Guardians will be hosting the Boston Red Sox for a three-game series, with the first matchup getting underway at 6:10 PM ET on Tuesday, April 23.Guardians vs. Red Sox Series Info Red Sox @ Guardians Time: Tuesday, April...

Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Series April 23-25: Odds, Starting Pitchers & Predictions

The Washington Nationals are hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series, with the first matchup getting underway at 6:45 PM ET on Tuesday, April 23.Nationals vs. Dodgers Series Info Dodgers @ Nationals Time: Tuesday, April 23 at 6:45...

Red Sox vs. Guardians: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

On Tuesday, in a series opener at Progressive Field, Tanner Houck starts for the Boston Red Sox (13-10) versus Ben Lively and the Cleveland Guardians (16-6), with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM ET.Keep reading to find out how to...

Buffalo Sabres Hire Lindy Ruff as Head Coach… Again

Did somebody throw a couple bucks in the juke box and hit the theme song from "Welcome Back, Kotter"? Because Lindy Ruff is the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres -- again. https://twitter.com/BuffaloSabres/status/1782517265956573577 Ruff, 64, was the head coach of...

Understanding Foursomes vs Fourball in Team Golf

If you're running into this article, it must be the Zurich Classic or, even better, the Ryder Cup. You've undoubtedly Googled "fourball vs foursomes" for the 6th straight year to try and remember what the difference is. In the realm...

more cubs news