Franco hits 2 HRs, leads spring with 6

Phillies third baseman leads MLB in spring RBIs, too

March 14th, 2016

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco looks ready for Opening Day.

Franco homered twice against Orioles right-hander Yovani Gallardo in Tuesday's 8-7 loss in a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium. He has six home runs and 14 RBIs this spring, the most in MLB. He had no homers his previous two Spring Trainings.

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"I tried too much," Franco said about his previous springs. "Now I feel comfortable at the plate. I know I'll be in the lineup every single day. That's made me more patient, more relaxed."

"He seems like he's got a pretty good idea at the plate and takes advantage of mistakes," Gallardo said.

But does Franco's spring success mean anything?

John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions once found a correlation between Spring Training power numbers and regular-season power numbers. At one time, he found 60 percent of hitters that boosted their career slugging percentage (minimum 200 career at-bats) by 200 or more points in Spring Training (minimum 40 at-bats) experienced an increase in power that season.

Dewan has found his formula to be less successful in recent seasons, but it once correctly predicted big seasons for Pat Burrell and Placido Polanco in 2005, Ryan Howard in 2006, Chase Utley and Greg Dobbs in 2007, Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz in 2009, Ruiz in 2012 and Domonic Brown in 2013. Of the four Phillies who fell short between 2005-13, two were not everyday players (Eric Bruntlett in 2009 and Pete Orr in 2011) and one got injured midway through the season (Jim Thome in 2005).

Jimmy Rollins fell 18 points short of his career slugging percentage in 2009.

So while it is far from a sure bet, it is worth noting that Franco has a career .453 slugging percentage in 360 career at-bats in the regular season and a .967 slugging percentage in 31 at-bats (nine at-bats short of the threshold) this spring.

That is a 514-point increase.

Perhaps it translates into another step forward in Franco's career. He began to enter the conversation for National League Rookie of the Year, until he broke his left wrist in August.

"I'm just trying to be healthy this year," Franco said. "I know if I'm healthy something good is going to happen."


Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he sees Franco as somebody capable of challenging the National League's best in home runs. That said, Mackanin believes Franco needs to improve his defense. He said it has gotten "sloppy" at times.

"We don't want him to get carried away with that and forget about his defense," Mackanin said about Franco's six homers.