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.

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22 comments

  1. David

    September 24, 2014 02:41 PM

    Phils have #9 pick – Astros automatically get #2 pick, in addition to this year’s pick, for failure to sign Aiken

    • Dante

      September 24, 2014 03:10 PM

      Right, but the fact that their pick is compensation from this past draft means 11 spots are protected, not 10. Isn’t this what the Mets were complaining about when they wanted to sign Bourn?

    • Adam Dembowitz

      September 24, 2014 03:27 PM

      Good spot. I forgot about the Aiken disaster. If that somehow gets worked out, we’ll move up one. If not, the top 11 are protected I believe.

      • Jack

        September 24, 2014 10:49 PM

        I don’t think the top 11 are. Didn’t the Mets appeal to have their 11th pick protected when the Pirates didn’t sign Appel and lose?

      • ASK

        September 25, 2014 07:18 AM

        @ Jack,

        I’m pretty sure that MLB changed the rule the year after the Mets appealed. They didn’t change it mid-season to the Mets benefit.

      • Jack

        September 26, 2014 07:44 PM

        @ASK,

        Yeah apparently they changed it to the 10 teams with the worst record not top 10 picks. Thanks, wasn’t aware of that until now.

  2. Chris S.

    September 24, 2014 03:07 PM

    I can’t agree more you. Maikel Franco should be playing everyday and I’m afraid that what happened with Dom Brown is about to happen all over again with Franco. The front office and the manager of this team is maddening!

  3. Bob

    September 24, 2014 03:38 PM

    Last nights lineup in an away game . . .

    1. Revere – injured foot; needs surgery
    2. Chooch – age 35; injured shoulder; needs rest
    3. Utley – age 35; degenerative knee condition; has played in 150/157 games
    4. Howard – age 34; myriad of health issues over the years; mandate is to get to 100 RBIs before he can be substituted for a younger player; has played in 148/157 games
    5. Byrd – age 37; played in 150/157 games
    6. Brown
    7. Asche
    8. Galvis – only playing because J-roll was hurt playing in a meaningless game

    Pitching – Cole Hames – threw over 100 pitches in a meaningless game; had shoulder problems earlier in the year.

    I don’t understand why Hernandez, Ruf, Franco, Rupp, and even Sizemore aren’t playing. This isn’t even a home game, so you can’t sell me that fans won’t show up to see the younger players play. Who cares if Miami fans show up?

    The baseball season is long and these older players haven’t been getting days off like they should. They’ve all tailed off as the season has progressed, which is no surprise based on their over-use. There are guys on this team who are injured yet they’re still playing in a pointless away game. To be in optimal condition, the players, particularly when they get older, need days off to rest to maintain peak performance. And there’s absolutely no excuse as to playing injured players when there’s no shot at the playoffs.

    We’re also not collecting data on our younger players to assess whether they can even be pieces off the bench. We’re not giving Garcia, Gonzales, and Jimenez long looks and valuable experience. By playing older veteran players with a wealth of statistical data and large sample sizes at the expense of younger players who we still need data on, the Phillies have once again shown themselves to be behind the curve and have no real plan for the future.

    • bubba0101

      September 25, 2014 12:24 PM

      I agree 100%. I would have gone over 100% if it were physically possible. I dont understand the direction of the team. Play everyone as hard as possible so they break down earlier next year?

  4. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    September 24, 2014 03:53 PM

    I don’t know… It seems to me that he’s received a decent amount of playing time considering that they also need to get at-bats for Cody Asche, who is a young asset. Maybe not as much of an asset as Franco, but if it’s pretty much settled that Franco is the 3B of the future (I think he will be) the remaining question is: can Cody Asche hit enough to play left or field enough to play second? Or, can he demonstrate enough at the plate to make himself an attractive trade chip in the offseason for one of the many teams needing an upgrade at 3B? And last but not least–if it’s likely that Asche will probably start next year as the starting 3B, due to the Super Two arbitration issues, does it really serve the team’s interests to send him the message that he’s merely warming the seat for Franco? What would benching him outright do for his confidence?

    Now if your argument is that Franco should be taking ABs from Howard, you got no big argument from me, but that means taking ABs from Ruf, who is another guy whose future role is yet to be determined. So I have some sympathy for Sandberg here.

    • Chris

      September 24, 2014 07:09 PM

      I think Ruf’s future has been pretty much decided. Not that he wont have a role, but it doesnt look like he is an every day player. He may play 1B against LHP next year to spell Brown or Howard.

      As for Franco, I really dont want him at 1B. Plug him at 3rd and let him grow. His potential at 3rd is greater than it is at 1B. I rather see them trade Howard, look at a guy like Cuddyer for a 1 year deal, and then draft a 1B next year or hope Rhys Hoskins grows into a future 1B.

    • crow

      September 25, 2014 09:09 AM

      Spot on. I was about to post pretty much the same thing. It’s one thing to agree with the article’s premise in theory, another to put it into practice. You can add that getting Ruf more AB’s in left field pushes Brown to the bench, and he is yet another guy that the club is presumably still making up its mind about. And any way you cut it, Howard and Byrd are going to be here next year. If you basically just shut them down to make room for younger guys you are creating unhappy veterans who are making a lot of money and stewing about their treatment. Sandberg’s been trying to spread the love, and as a result everybody is a little unhappy. Ah, the life of a manager on a fading ballclub . . .

  5. larry

    September 24, 2014 08:50 PM

    is there an arbitration/salary issue to this? i don’t know so I am asking

    • zengreaser

      September 24, 2014 10:59 PM

      No, Franco is accruing service days even while on the bench so sitting him isn’t saving the front office any cash. I think ACA hit it on the head with his Asche comment. The club is most likely trying to increase Asche’s trade value; he certainly has played enough this year that they would know already if he had the bat for LF or the glove for 2B. Even so, it’s foolish not to be playing Franco every day.

  6. Pat

    September 24, 2014 09:32 PM

    Franco isn’t being yanked around. He’s starting when there’s a left-hander pitching and getting the occasional spot starts against right-handers. It’s pretty straightforward. To say he’s being benched because he goes 0-3 is nuts.

    Franco isn’t ready yet. The Phillies knew this before they called him up. He’s just getting additional ABs because the minor league season is over.

    • glovesdroppa

      September 24, 2014 11:09 PM

      I agree with Pat there’s not a ton of incentive playing him everyday, though I would like to see him get a tad more AB’s. I’m convinced management is forcing Sandberg to trot these jabronies making all the money out there every single day.

    • ASK

      September 25, 2014 07:17 AM

      The question is, if you are going to call up your best prospect and allow his service time to begin, why wouldn’t you play him almost every day and give him a chance to learn more, adjust to pitchers, have pitchers adjust to him, etc.? If it is to try to get Ryan Howard to 100 RBI’s, that’s plain stupid. Developing young players at the MLB level when the season is lost shouldn’t be about coddling them into facing only (or mostly) opposite-handed pitchers. It should be about having them get as much playing time and experience as possible.

  7. bubba0101

    September 25, 2014 12:19 PM

    They did the same damn thing to Dom Brown and it drove everyone including Dom Brown nuts. It quite possibly induced irreparable damage to Brown. I understand if they may not be completely sold on him at third, so let him play first base some. This guy isnt Ozzie Smith or Andrelton Simmons. We are in need of his bat, so get him the extra 50% of at bats, and oh by the way, sit Howard to give him an extra month of rest like the old guys on the team need. Or play Asche in the outfield to see if he can play a ball off the bat and take a correct angle which would already be an upgrade over anyone thats currently in our outfield. How does this make sense to people who casually follow this site with entirely other day jobs but Phillies management or front office cant seem to grasp the concept? That’s a serious question by the way. What am I missing? I dont know how people run MLB rosters, but its not like its a secret.

    • Andrew Cleveland Alexander

      September 25, 2014 04:17 PM

      There’s a big difference between giving a prospect a glimpse of the big leagues in September and their treatment of Brown, which is a whole other story. The way they are handling Franco thus far just seems like the usual way a prospect is broken into the big leagues. I’m not sure why this is controversial, really. He’s getting a look, next year (so long as he continues his encouraging progress in the second half at AAA) he’ll be back for good.

      • Bubba0101

        September 25, 2014 09:34 PM

        If he’s getting a look then why is he sitting for 6 days in a row? That’s not a look. That’s just cruel. And what they did to Dom brown started out very similarly. You can’t deny the resemblance. And I know it is really really early in Franco’s career but it still doesn’t make sense.

      • ASK

        September 26, 2014 07:14 AM

        @ ACA,

        While I agree with you (and disagree with Bubba) that this situation is not similar to Dom’s situation because the Phils were in contention when they were breaking in Dom, I disagree with your claim that this “just seems like the usual way a prospect is broken into the big leagues.” Teams that are out of contention seem much more inclined – the Cubs approach with Javier Baez and Jorge Soler and the Red Sox approach with Mookie Betts, the Astros approach with George Springer and Jon Singleton come to mind immediately – to get the prospect significant playing time, not spot start him.

  8. Thatguy

    October 01, 2014 06:02 PM

    I disagree here. Asche is also young, which some people forget, and while he certainly hasn’t been a Mike Schmidt defensively (or offensively), he hasn’t been terrible for his first full year. Franco has done literally nothing offensively to spark my interest. Yes he’s been very strong defensively, however he needs to work on his swing. He overswings and constantly grounds out to 3B on weak, choppy hits. Now, if we were to switch Asche to LF and play Franco at third next year I’d be fine, but Asche could be a good player for the future as well.

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