When Should the Phillies Promote Maikel Franco?

Philadelphia Phillies infield prospect Maikel Franco clubbed another home run Wednesday afternoon, adding to a red hot month of July, where the Dominican Republic native is hitting .344/.366/.604 for a .971 OPS. He’s hit three homers over his past ten games and four in July, almost half of his season total of nine homers on the campaign. Franco’s current hot streak is extremely encouraging after an abysmal June slash line of.162/.196/.238 where he had just six extra base hits in 105 at bats.

Many fans have called for his immediate promotion to Philadelphia, but it’s crucial to identify where he is and where he needs to go prior to a call-up to the show. He’s only set to turn 22 late in August and doesn’t even have 800 plate appearances above Advanced Single A. He has yet to hit a home run to the right of center field this season and still has problem on breaking balls. Below is an excerpt from Crashburn Alley’s profile of Franco from last year.

“What I think this might lead to is a little rough patch at Triple-A where pitchers can exploit the poor approach/secondary struggle combination. I think it’d be good for Franco, personally, to be forced to make those adjustments. He’s already learned to deal with failure. He had a .196 OBP in the first half of 2012 at Lakewood, dealt with that failure, and became one of the top two prospects in the system. That shows he has the ability to take instruction and evolve if he need be.” –Crashburn Alley (Eric Logenhagen)

You can’t fault people for being excited about a guy that I believe has 25 homer potential at the major league level. His approach needs some work. Franco’s bat speed is above average which allows him to make up for other mishaps. He has a deep load, but throughout his swing he’s able to generate power with the lower half of his body that can make up for other elements of his path to the ball.

His aggressiveness at the dish needs improvement as well as his pitch selection and recognition. Often, Franco will take a swing at the first fastball he gets in the zone, whether it’s on the black or in a zone where he can produce hard contact on the ball.

His improvements have been noticeable lately, including in his first at bat against the Rochester Red Wings on Wednesday afternoon. In his first at bat Franco took fastballs in his first two pitches to start at a 1-1 count, then recognized a Trevor May off-speed pitch and stayed on the ball and just missed a home run to left field by about ten feet on a well hit line drive.

He clubbed a 0-2 mistake by May in his second at bat to left as well that was caught at the warning track and was frozen on a comeback fastball to the outside part of the plate in his third at bat. After walking in his fourth plate appearance, Franco came up huge for Lehigh Valley in the ninth, with another July homerun to give the Ironpigs a ninth inning lead. After taking ball one, he misjudged a slider that out of the zone that he committed early to. As video showed during the at bat, he collected himself after that pitch, and then absolutely demolished a 1-1 slider to left, almost hitting the battered baseball out of the ballpark in Rochester.

He’s improved on balls on the inner half of the plate, but still needs improvement on off-speed pitches that run low in the zone and to the outer part of the plate. Franco should only be a September promotion candidate this season in Philadelphia. He’ll get a substantial chance to earn a spot on the MLB roster in spring training next season, which could be at third or first base.

Francochart

There’s a lot to be excited about with Mikael Franco. It’s important for people in the organization to wait. Franco needs to near master the Triple A level before becoming an everyday player at the major league level. The team has some huge decisions to make over the next few months, but Franco could make one decision a lot easier with his improved play.

Author: Matthew Speck

Matthew is based in Central Pennsylvania and hopes to capture Phillies prospects information effectively for the fans. He covers high school sports for the Lebanon Daily News along with the Washington Capitals organization for The Hockey Writers.