Philadelphia Phillies Maikel Franco: Breakout Candidate?

Even though the last couple of seasons have been tough to watch for Phillies fans, they do have some impressive young players on the cusp of becoming full time fixtures in the big leagues. One player who already looks poised to breakout is, Maikel Franco.

Franco signed with the Phillies in 2010 as an amateur free agent and steadily rose through the ranks becoming one of the top prospects in all of baseball. His raw talent was clear in the minors as he posted gaudy offensive lines, making him look destined to man the hot corner for the Phillies for years to come.

He got his first cup of coffee in 2014 and it did not go to well, as he managed to post a .159 AVG with three homers over a 16 game September call up. Even though he did not make the desired impression that fans may have wanted during that brief stint, he would go pn to encourage them with his performance in 2015.

Franco did not get called up until mid-May last season as the Phillies wanted to delay his free agency clock by a year. He did not do too well in May, as he was trying to get his feet under him, but he would go on to have a stellar June that piqued fantasy owner’s interests.

Franco’s June stat line, .352/8 HR/24 RBI/1.039 OPS, ranked amongst the best third basemen in the league and he showed us a glimpse of how much damage he can do when he gets hot. Unfortunately, the was the best we would see from Franco for the rest of the season as he would only go on to hit four more homers and drive in 18 RBI over the rest of the season.

While he did struggle in July, he was also getting pitched around as he would go on to amass 12 walks that month as pitchers recognized that he was one of the few Phillies offensive threats. But, his season was more so derailed by a fractured wrist suffered by a hit by pitch in the middle of August. Thus ending a pretty solid, .280/14 HR/50 RBI/1 SB/34 R/.840 OPS, rookie season.

In terms of looking ahead to next season, there are some clear signs of optimism in terms of him only improving his value. For one, he handled RHP well last posting a, .294/9 HR/36 RBI/.844 OPS, against them. While he did struggle against lefties, .232/5 HR/14 RBI/.825 OPS, that line came in only 83 plate appearances so one would have to figure that would he improve on that production over a season’s worth of at bats.

Even though his swing does get too long at times, he did only post a 15.5% K rate last season and posted a 8% BB rate. While I would like to see his contact rate jump into 80%, it was 77% last season, that type of eye at the plate is a welcome sign for his value going forward. Hopefully by just increasing his contact by 3%, he can utilize his raw power even more.

Now the only thing that may constitute as a red flag, is the fact that he had a 47% GB rate last season. His LD% rate was 18% and his FB% came in at 34.8%. I do not have to tell anyone how small Citizen’s Bank Park plays, so Franco will have to cut his GB% rate down into the lower 40%, which would then boost both his LD% and FB% and allow him to fully get the most out of his power.

While that is easy to say behind a computer, I fully think that Franco can do it based on the fact that he posted a near 50% medium speed off the bat rate in 2015. His Hard% was 28.5% and his Soft% was only 22.1%, so it is clear that most of the time Fracno puts the bat on the ball, it will be with some force.

With the Phillies lineup being pretty uninspiring around Franco, his counting stats do take a hit. I am a fan of Odubel Herrera and if Cesar Hernandez can continue to be the scrappy hitter he is, Franco could have a chance to crack 80 RBI. He has a great home ballpark and has shown enough in the minors and during last season that he can be a legit power threat in the bigs.

One other statistical advantage that Franco has going for him, was that his .280 AVG in 2015 was only buoyed by a .297 BABIP. There is clearly room for that to grow, but that will depend on if Franco can stop hitting so many ground balls. With third base being so deep this year, Franco will also come at the low price of probably being your CI or UTIL next season, which is a huge steal.

Make him a high value target this spring.

2016 Early Projections: .280/25 HR/75 RBI/60 R/.800 OPS