A Brief Written History of Maikel Franco

News broke this morning, from basically every beat writer who was awake, that the Phillies have called up third baseman Maikel Franco from AAA to start at the hot corner tonight and with any luck, long into the future. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given the recent demotion of incumbent Cody Asche to log innings in left field, and Franco’s torrid pace at Lehigh Valley thus far. He was slashing .350/.372/.540/.912 with a .418 wOBA and a 166 wRC+. All that, and he was two years younger than anyone else in the Top Ten in OPS in the International League, and the fifth youngest position player in that league overall.

franco at the plateYou may ask yourself, how did he get here? Well, Franco was signed for $100k out of the Dom Rep in the 2009-2010 signing period, and had a pretty uneventful age 17 season in the GCL in 2010. He was double-jumped to Low-A Lakewood to start 2011, with pretty horrendous results – a 161 wOBA and a wRC+ -9, (negative nine, yikes), before being wisely allowed to play out the dog days a level down with Williamsport. That WIL campaign was the last time he’s held a walk rate of 7.0% or higher, so don’t expect him to add much to his offense with his eyes. In 2012, Franco played the South Atlantic League at a still-very-young 19 years old, and held his own after a slow start. He finished the year with 14 home runs in what is traditionally a pitcher’s environment, and a 112 wRC+

2013 saw Franco breakout nationally. He split his time evenly between Hi-A Clearwater and AA Reading, and OPSed .925 and .926 respectively, with 31 combined homers and over 100 RBI, (if that sort of thing floats your boat). He was featured in many Top 100 prospect lists that offseason, and entered 2014 with expectations he would fail to meet for much of the year at AAA. His first half at Lehigh Valley was dreadful, and some continued to question whether his swing was too long, or whether he had good enough pitch recognition to make his fine bat speed play at the next level. As he did two years earlier, Franco turned it on as the weather warmed up, and he finished just a hair off the league average with a 97 wRC+, with 16 HR in 556 PAs. He was rewarded for his successful second half with a September call-up to Philadelphia, where he struggled in 58 PAs.

franco smooth

Pretty smooth looking young man, right there. (via the player’s Twitter).

This year, Franco’s been swinging a hot stick at AAA as mentioned above. He’s also stolen two bases, which is absolutely absurd for a guy who has only ever been called more than a 20 grade runner by people who don’t own stopwatches. Reportedly he’s a little faster once he’s underway, but then again, aren’t we all. Ok, I’m not. I tire quickly. But I’m considerably older than him, so I’m ok with it.

So what should we expect from Franco tonight and throughout the season? I’m expecting a slow start, as has been his M.O. at a couple of his recent promotion stops. But he has seen this level of pitching, and he’s been hitting well coming into it, so who knows? He could come out hitting. As for his defense, “better than Cody Asche” is certainly apt, if not a terribly high bar at this point in Asche’s development. I’ve seen a couple of very nice plays by Franco that have made me think he’s got the arm and the body control to make a play out of most any ball he gets too, but his range is limited by his foot speed.

Either way, I’m pretty excited to see how the young man handles himself. He will he be the 13th youngest player to see the big leagues this year, so I’m not expecting him to take every failure like a seasoned veteran, but with any luck, his next success won’t be too far down the road.

For a full scouting opinion on Franco, I recommend checking out his PhilliesMinorThoughts.com profile page.

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19 comments

  1. Adam

    May 15, 2015 11:23 AM

    Was the Talking Heads reference on purpose?

    • Carmine

      May 15, 2015 12:29 PM

      And the days go by…..

    • Brad Engler

      May 15, 2015 03:31 PM

      All music references you can infer from my writing are on purpose.

  2. SJ Haack

    May 15, 2015 12:24 PM

    Hello it’s me the baseball statistics pedant. Please do not put the OPS on the end of the triple slash, or SABR agents will come for you.

    • Brad Engler

      May 15, 2015 03:31 PM

      It’s a quadruple slash. I didn’t say triple ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Major Malfunction

    May 15, 2015 12:49 PM

    Fantastic. Some exciting news for a change.

    Speaking of calling players up from the minors, I would reckon we ain’t going to see Brown for quite awhile. The now 27 year old prospect is having a stupendous rehab assignment in AAA.

    He’s hitting .222/.278/.273 in AAA after 108 at bats. No HRs. A TWO SEVEN THREE slugging percentage…..in AAA?!?! Just WOW. WTH happen to him?

    • Chris S.

      May 15, 2015 01:14 PM

      He is obviously playing his way out of the Phillies organization so he can go somewhere he is appreciated. How many times have the Phillies started his career only to halt it immediately after signs of struggle? At some point that had to affect his development. Even this year there is no reason for him to be at AAA other than the Phillies want to destroy any value he may have. It isn’t like the Phillies have their long term option in RF right now in Francoeur or Sizemore. They might as well see what Brown can do for them.

      • Romus

        May 15, 2015 01:50 PM

        Chris S.,
        ‘They might as well see what Brown can do for them’…perhaps he will deliver! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Keystone

    May 15, 2015 01:56 PM

    I have to say I’m kind of excited about this. Mostly because there hasn’t been much in the way of Phillies baseball to be excited about in a few years. Also it’d be good to see the defense sure up on the left side. On that note if Galvis continues to hit with the glove he has at shortstop, when its finally Crawfords turn to come up will Galvis move to second?

    I know the track record for Galvis says that there is some serious regression due but if he hits a consistent .270 instead of the .353 he’s hitting now does he stick as a starter?

    Back on April 27th I compared his stats to Jimmy’s this season and noted how extremely small the sample size was. That was 18 games in or 1/9th of the season now its been another 18 games since and he’s still hitting.

    Still a small sample size I know but so were 2012, 2013 and 2014 for Freddy.

    Jimmy Rollins: .175/.261/.301 3SB 3CS -0.1bWAR, -0.2fWAR
    Freddy Galvis: .353/.403/.412 3SB 0CS 1.3bWAR, 1.7fWAR

    If he keeps this up maybe Franco at 3rd, Crawford at SS and Galvis at 2nd is worth exploring.

    • Brad Engler

      May 15, 2015 03:42 PM

      I’ve considered this before, and I’m ok with Galvis at second. Frankly, I would be ok with JP at second if I thought it wasn’t an unnecessary bump in his road up to the bigs. Freddy’s so gifted defensively and has played second for a long enough stretch in the past that I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to move him around the corner.

    • Timber

      May 15, 2015 05:07 PM

      Galvis’ production seems sustainable. He altered his swing/approach to make more contact at the expense of the mediocre power he had. His K rate has drastically dropped as a result, and his line drive rate has also gone up. Maintaining a .350 clip is probably unlikely, but a consistent .290-.300 is not out of the question. With his level of defense at a premium position, that’s a valuable player.

      I’ve said this before, but I could see Galvis sticking as a starter on the next competitive Phillies team.

  5. Greg

    May 15, 2015 03:30 PM

    Man, it seems like it’s been forever that the Phils had an even semi-heralded prospect called up this young. Usually in their early-mid 20s before getting the call. Obviously a result of their drafts, but still feels unfamiliar.

    • Matt Winkelman

      May 15, 2015 04:01 PM

      Only real prospects called up after age 24 was Carlos Ruiz. Utley and Howard were 24. Everyone else was younger.

      • Romus

        May 15, 2015 05:50 PM

        There is continual miss assertion and misrepresentation that the Phillies delayed Howard’s arrival to the majors.

      • Steve

        May 16, 2015 07:16 AM

        Greg said early to mid 20’s, i would say 24 falls into that range.

  6. bubba0101

    May 15, 2015 04:15 PM

    I really think he needs to use his eyes to succeed in the bigs. He may be able to hit the ball well but once they get a book on him he wont see a pitch over the plate. Just look at what happened to Ryan Howard, and hes ok at walks. I hope the best for Maikel and he’ll be a breath of fresh air but he cant just go up there and swing freely like its the minors. That only worked for Vlad Guerrero.

    • Major Malfunction

      May 16, 2015 07:09 AM

      If a last nights game is any indication, he’s in trouble. He’s first pitch swinging every AB. Struck out on 3 pitches including a 3rd strike changeup. Maybe he’s just excited, but he needs to take pitches at the MLB level.

      • Facts

        May 16, 2015 02:31 PM

        at least he squared up the ball twice – last year it seemed every ball he hit was a jam shot, sqibber, or flare.

      • DB9

        May 17, 2015 09:49 PM

        If today’s game is any indication, then he is an All Star. Hit a HR, crushed a triple off the top of wall 405 feet deep in Left Center and made a diving catch to maintain the shutout.

        Don’t read too much into small samples. The jump from AAA to the MLB is a big one, he will need an adjustment period, be patient.

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