CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt has a simple message for the 24-year-old who now plays his old position for the Phillies."If I was mentoring Maikel Franco right now, I would say, 'Son, we're going to be the MVP. And nothing is going to stop us
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt has a simple message for the 24-year-old who now plays his old position for the Phillies.
"If I was mentoring Maikel Franco right now, I would say, 'Son, we're going to be the MVP. And nothing is going to stop us but an injury,'" Schmidt said Friday morning at Spectrum Field, where he was beginning a weekend stint as a special guest instructor.
That's how highly the best player in franchise history thinks of Franco. And it's why he admits he thought the youngster could have -- should have -- done better than batting .255 with 25 homers, 88 RBIs and a .733 OPS last season.
"I was disappointed. I had a lot higher expectations for Maikel," Schmidt said.
He wasn't alone. The bar was set high for Franco in 2016. So high that it was easy to forget how young he still is and that 2016 was his first full season in the big leagues. Schmidt even admitted he'd overlooked that and laughed slightly as he recalled that he was 23 in 1973, his first full season, and batted .196 with 18 homers, 52 RBIs and a .697 OPS.
The next year, however, Schmidt hit 36 homers, drove in 116 runs, made the All-Star team and attracted some MVP support.
Schmidt believes that Franco, who was scratched from Friday's lineup after undergoing a root canal, has the talent to take a similar dramatic step forward. It will all come down to his approach and discipline at the plate.
"The area that [Franco] has to develop better is game-planning at home plate and understanding there is a guy in the batter's box behind him, and that a walk with men on second and third is a possibility," Schmidt said. "His desire to drive in those two runs or getting three with a home run swing leads to those at-bats where you give an at-bat away, because you don't have the right game plan.
"It's not mechanics and it's not physical. It's [about] not wasting an at-bat starting your swing before the pitcher lets go of the ball because you are over-anxious. The over-anxious part of hitting is one of those areas where [Franco] has to improve. For me, it was a major problem early, so that's why I can relate to him so much."
Working as a weekend television analyst for regular-season home games has given Schmidt the opportunity to keep tabs on the youngster's progress.
"Sometimes Maikel looks like, 'Where's his mind?' I'm not saying this disrespectfully. It's normal. Not everyone is like Pete Rose. He knew what happened in every at-bat for every player on the team during the game. He's sitting on the top step of the dugout screaming at the other team. Not everyone is like that. Your mind can wander, and I think sometimes his does a little bit."
Speaking of Rose, he's eligible to be inducted onto the Phillies' Wall of Fame for the first time this year, and he is considered a good bet to be honored when the votes are counted.
"I think that's fantastic," Schmidt said. "With all due respect to the other guys [under consideration], Pete is in his mid-70s now. I think it would be a wonderful thing for Pete to receive that honor. I think he had a great impact on us winning that  World [Series] championship. He helped all the guys around him get better, especially me. I think that his stay in Philadelphia helped the team and the city. I think he should definitely be on the Phillies' Wall of Fame."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.