2015 Phillies Report Card: Maikel Franco

Those of us who really dig deep into Phillies prospects every year have been in on Maikel Franco for a long time. He exploded onto the national scene with a huge 2013 that included half seasons in Clearwater and Reading, but anyone paying attention in 2012 saw the signs of that leap forward. Franco had a dismal first half of the year at Low-A Lakewood, then turned it on and finished strong. The same thing happened in 2014, as Franco struggled mightily early at Lehigh Valley before mashing his way through the second half of that season, (though he mostly crashed throughout a September callup).

In 2015, he returned to Lehigh Valley and picked up where he left off, OPSing .923 – just about in line with his breakout 2013 season total of .926. Franco was finally recalled on May 15, which, coincidentally I’m sure, ensures he won’t reach Super 2 Arbitration status* by the end of 2017 season. Definitely a coincidence. (Y’all should see the naughty gesture I just made). He didn’t disappoint in his first extended look in the majors, as he put up .360 wOBA and a 128 wRC+ for the year. He OPSed .840 and cracked 14 home runs in an injury-shortened 335 PA season, but possibly more impressive was his patience at the plate. He drew exactly half as many walks as he took strikeouts, and at a decent rate. Franco’s not been big on walks in the high minors, he put up no higher than a 5.4% walk rate in any AA or higher season or partial season. And so his 2015 MLB walk rate of 7.8% is a nice step forward, if he can sustain it.

*(A correction here: it’s the extra year of club control that was at issue here, not Super 2 status – thanks to commenter Timber for bringing that up).

To my eyes, Franco played adequate but far from stellar defense, (metrics are still in small sample range, but they did not like his defense very much at all). He made a few throws that compare favorably to just about anyone in the league, but his range is suspect. We’ll see if the condition of the big league roster going forward allows for leeway, but if there’s a decent replacement for him at third base at any point, be it from free agency or from within, I won’t be surprised to see a move to first made immediately.

Franco’s biggest moment of the year came in a visit to Yankee Stadium, where over two games in late June, he was 6-10 with a double, three homers, five runs scored and ten driven in. Not since the great John Mayberry Jr. has a Phillie so announced himself in The Bronx. (FTR, I did not get through writing that sentence with a straight face). And as was widely mentioned then and confirmed by the player to New York media, Franco almost signed with The Bombers in 2010, but they fell $5k short of the Phils’ $100k offer. Either amount would seem like a steal now, after seeing the value Franco has provided and remains likely to provide going forward.

When reviewing Franco’s 2014 and deciding where to rank him and Aaron Nola, I really fixated on that successful second half. I was one of the only people to publish a Phils’ Top Prospect list with Maikel Franco ahead of Aaron Nola, (fair chance there were others, but notably Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, who had Franco at #41 in his BA Prospect Handbook Top 50, but left Nola off completely). After Franco’s rookie campaign, and even if Nola eventually trumps Franco in value and I am proven “wrong”, it’s clear that Franco deserved to be in the conversation behind J.P. Crawford, and he deserves to be in the conversation when discussing the cornerstones of any successful future Phillies team.

Also, his hair is fucking boss.

Grade: A

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10 comments

  1. Romus

    November 03, 2015 08:40 AM

    So far in his short career, not bad production for a guy with an ‘arm-bar swing’ 🙂

  2. TheMick

    November 03, 2015 09:31 AM

    Even though Franco didn’t get the call until May 15th his numbers were strong enough for serious consideration as ROY before he went down in August. On 8/11, Franco’s last day before hitting the DL he was slashing .277/.340/.490 with 13 HR’s in 326 PA’s. At the same time Bryant was slashing .252/.363/.444 with 15 HR’s in 446 PA’s. Though Bryant got hot after 8/11 (.956 OPS) and should win ROY going away it’s impossible to know how Franco would have fared the final couple months had he stayed healthy.

    Imo there’s no doubt Franco’s one of the cornerstone’s of the future Phils. Whether he stays at 3B or is moved to 1B he’ll be a legitimate middle of the order stick for years to come. Once high OBP players like Crawford and Williams get the call Franco should have plenty of RBI opps with those two and possibly Herrera hitting in front of him. I’m a little concerned about Herrera going through a sophomore jinx mainly because of his high BAbip (.387), which was 2nd highest among qualified hitters last year. My hope is that Herrera’s continued development will make up for what’s expected to be a year where not as many batted balls fall in for hits. Regardless, Franco’s ability to drive the ball coupled with a strong BB/K ratio will make him a dangerous hitter. His BB/K ratio was much better than rookies Bryant, Duffy, Kang, Lindor, Bour, Grichuk etc. He was just below Correa (.51 to .50) and Pederson (.54 to .50). His BB/K was also better than many established stars like Cruz, Reynolds, Gordon, Abreu, Bogaerts, Tulo, Kendrick, Belt, Cain, Cano, Cabrera and a host of others. Franco’s ability to stay patient at the plate and put the ball in play will be huge pluses for him as he moves forward.

    This was a well deserved A. Franco was one of the lone bright spots on baseball’s worst team. I expect he’ll continue getting better due in large part to his plate discipline, ability to make contact and raw power.

    • Romus

      November 03, 2015 10:31 AM

      At some point down the road, hope to see JPC and Franco batting one-two in the order at probably 3rd and 4th in the lineup or 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

  3. Timber

    November 03, 2015 10:17 AM

    I believe the May 15 call up had to do with ensuring an extra year of team control, not avoiding Super 2 status.

    • Brad Engler

      November 03, 2015 10:41 AM

      Yeah, you’re right. Super 2 is later. Thanks.

    • bubba0101

      November 03, 2015 01:07 PM

      What other fan base knows that much about the players on their team? But yet we are all a bunch of idiots who throw snowballs at Santa according to the rest of the country. Good work Timber on keeping these guys honest.

      • TommyDigital

        November 03, 2015 01:19 PM

        To be fair we are the only fanbase that has ever booed a player.

  4. Big Snack

    November 03, 2015 10:51 AM

    Love Franco; only thing keeping me sane last season. But, does anyone else have that fear that he’s going to gaining substantial weight after he becomes established and a bit more physically mature. He looks like the type in danger of eating himself out of the game (or at least 3B). Hope he has a good personal trainer & personal chef. In fact, if I were the Phillies, I’d retain & pay for such services for Franco asap – get him to develop good life habits while he’s still somewhat of a puppy.

  5. Francisco (FC)

    November 03, 2015 03:08 PM

    OPSing .923

    We need a verb for OPS. For AVG we have hitting, for SLG we have slugging. Does anyone else read OPSing in their heads as: Oh-Pissing?

    • Shawn

      November 03, 2015 03:49 PM

      I will now, thanks for that.

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