A Glimpse of Maikel Franco
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Phillies are bad. They’ve been bad for quite a while, and as the calendar flipped from August to September, they were…still bad. So when rosters expanded this month and top prospect Maikel Franco was summoned to the big leagues, it made sense to expect the Phillies to give Franco a good, long look at third base.
Yeah, not so much. In 20 games this month, Franco has 48 at bats (for those wondering, that’s 50 plate appearances; he’s not the most patient guy at the plate). The franchise that has so little in the way of young, projectable talent, and so little to play for as the season winds down, has given its best young position player not named J.P. Crawford a whopping total of 50 plate appearances this month.
Taking a look at Franco’s game log, the thing that stands out the most to me isn’t the one walk, or the 12 strikeouts, it’s the lack of consistency. It’s the six games in which he didn’t play at all, and the two games in which he received exactly one plate appearance. Maybe this is nitpicking; shoot me. There’s barely a glimmer of shine on this Phillies team, after all.
Here’s what I would do if I had my way: plug in Maikel Franco at third base every single day. The benefits of giving him that consistency, and of gathering as much information as possible, are obvious. No, an extra 18 or 24 at bats won’t make the small sample size less meaningless. It burns me though that the Phillies promoted a top prospect — who started the season awfully and was finally hitting in August — and let him sit on the bench for Cody Asche or whoever. What message is the team sending to Franco? Hey kid, you had an 0 for 3, so you’re sitting down. Maybe that’s not why he’s sitting, and maybe they’re communicating with him really well, but maybe he’s at the plate (already) thinking that if he doesn’t get a hit or hit a bomb, he might not play the next day. That’s no way to operate your shiny new toy.
Franco’s September is another damning example of the Phillies’ approach to their young talent, and how it seemingly hasn’t changed in over a decade. When young guys are promoted, in a very old-school style that’s consistent with the direction of the franchise overall, they’re told to watch and wait and earn their playing time. That’s really not helpful to a young player. If you want him to learn and improve, there’s only so much of that he can do from the bench.
I’m not saying that Maikel Franco would be helping the team win more games if he played more often (though his defense has been really good, as our friends at The Good Phight wrote earlier this week). I don’t WANT the team to win more games. Right now, the Phillies are in line for the 8th pick in the draft. As long as they’re in the top 10, I’m happy, but I’d love to sneak into a higher spot if possible. This isn’t about winning games, not for me anyway. I want to know as much as I can about Maikel Franco, and I want him to know that he can show up to the ballpark every day and play.