Throughout the year, Crashburn Alley will be accepting guest posts. If you would like to contribute, submit your entries to CrashburnAlley [at] gmail [dot] com.
Today’s guest post is from Ben Skalina. You can follow him on Twitter @TweetaSkalina.
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The Best Phillies Prospect You Haven’t Heard of Yet: Maikel Franco
Who is this guy? Franco was signed in January 2010 out of the Dominican Republic, and played most of 2011 as an 18-year-old third baseman with Williamsport in the New York-Penn League.
What did he do? Franco showed advanced plate discipline against older players, posting a nearly even strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.9% BB, 13.1% K) over 229 PAs in Williamsport. Bumped up to Lakewood in the Sally league for a brief 17-game stint, Franco struggled mightily and was returned to the NYPL. He also showed a nice line drive stroke with the Cutters, mashing 20% of his contact for line drives.
His .287/.367/.411 line in Williamsport was 24 percent better than league average, and scouting reports indicate he should be able to hold down third base going forward. At any rate, The NYPL is a difficult hitting environment, due in large part to the recently-drafted college pitchers who dominate the level. For Franco to hold his own against savvy pitchers three or more years his senior portends well for his future.
What are his red flags? No prospect (except for Bryce Harper) is perfect, and Franco is no different. His .124 ISO with Williamsport was low for a corner position, and he’ll need to hit for more power going forward to be viewed as a legitimate prospect. Additionally, his inability to hit of anything in his short Lakewood experience (.123/.149/.200) raises some eyebrows. Franco does not profile as a premium athlete (0 career SB), so he’ll need to hit his way through the system and be wary of gaining extra weight.
What’s next? Franco should head to Lakewood for a full season as the Blueclaws’ third baseman, where he’ll play most of the season as a 19-year-old. If Franco can continue to display good plate discipline while increasing his power output he could challenge Sebastian Valle at this time next year as the Phils’ top hitting prospect.
What could he be? Franco currently looks like he could develop into a league-average third baseman, hovering between 2 and 3 Wins Above Replacement annually. If his power develops, and you squint really hard, some 20-home run seasons could be out there, too.
Why care? With the loss of Carlos Rivero, Franco is the Fightins’ most realistic third base prospect. He was rated the number 4 prospect in the NYPL by Baseball America, and Marc Hulet had him 6th in his Phillies Top 15 at Fangraphs.
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Thanks to Ben for profiling a lesser-known prospect. If you enjoyed his work, you can follow him on Twitter @TweetaSkalina.