Aggressive Franco provides spark for Phils
Rookie third baseman brings power, promise to Philadelphia's lineup
It appears that right-handed-hitting Maikel Franco has supplanted Cody Asche at third base for the Phillies. Asche has assumed a new role in the outfield.
Franco received a brief big league look last season, appearing in 16 games and hitting only .179. But the strong 6-foot-1, 215-pound native of the Dominican Republic is having much better offensive results so far this season.
Franco looks like he belongs in the Major Leagues. He is hitting for both power and average, and he is driving in runs. Franco is a major part of the Phils' future.
Signed as an international free agent in 2010, Franco completed parts of six Minor League seasons in the Phillies' development program. He has a .280 batting average in 2,355 Minor League plate appearances. Franco was enjoying his best season, hitting .355 with 12 doubles, a triple and four home runs at Triple-A Lehigh Valley before his May promotion to Philadelphia.
Franco feasts on fastballs. He has the power to let the pitcher's velocity combine with his upper-body strength to drive the ball. Franco has strong hands that form an important part of his hitting mechanics.
Using a slight uppercut swing, Franco uses the barrel of the bat well, creating enough lift to put the ball out of most Major League parks.
Franco can scuffle against slower breaking balls due to the long load and setup he uses as his timing mechanism. By the time he is ready, the breaking ball or offspeed pitch can be past his wheelhouse. Even so, Franco's swing is incredibly fast.
As Franco likes to extend his hands to attack fastballs in the middle of the plate or even a bit outside, he has also shown some vulnerability to pitches in on his hands.
An aggressive middle-of-the-order hitter, Franco doesn't like to walk. Throughout his career, he has shown low strikeout totals for a player of his strength and a low walk rate as well. That career strikeout and walk trend will likely continue as a big league hitter.
Franco can play both corner infield positions. He is a bit sluggish and doesn't have the best ground-ball instincts at third base. Franco may be challenged coming in on slow ground balls hit in front of him.
Franco's offense is ahead of his defense. He has a strong, accurate and reliable arm.
Franco's best tool is his power. He could ultimately hit between 25 and 30 home runs in his home park.
Franco's aggressive approach at the plate could cut into his batting average, making his hit tool rather average.
Franco's arm strength is an asset that can help him remain at third base. Due to the strength of his arm, he can afford to take a bit of extra time to settle himself prior to throwing.
Anytime a player can hit with the type of power Franco projects, it can help in a hitter-friendly park. Franco's hands can burst through a fastball. He recognizes pitches fairly well and can cover the center and outside of the plate as well as high and low fastballs. Franco's eye-hand coordination is a plus.
Franco recognizes breaking balls but has difficulty making solid contact against those pitches. He will have to adjust to big league pitchers that avoid throwing him fastballs and count on him swinging aggressively at offspeed breaking pitches. Franco has worked hard to overcome a "hitch" in his swing.
Franco isn't very fast. Stolen bases will not likely be among the qualities he brings to his game.
Former Phils manager Charlie Manuel has worked with Franco. Manuel is a terrific hitting coach, and it is not a coincidence that Franco has improved markedly following Manuel's assistance.
For now, Franco can be content playing third base. In the future, however, he may be converted to first base when Ryan Howard departs. An improving defensive infielder, Franco can play both corners adequately.
Franco in a word