With the end of the International League regular season Monday, Lehigh Valley’s Maikel Franco is expected to be promoted and could start for the Phillies on Tuesday against the Braves and lefthander Mike Minor at Turner Field.
Franco, who signed with the Phillies as an 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic and exploded onto the prospect scene in 2013—when he hit 31 homers at Double-A Reading—rebounded to finish what had been a disappointing season. After posting a .649 OPS before the Triple-A All-Star Game, Franco slashed .309/.326/.551 in the final 46 games with 10 homers.
According to philly.com, Franco worked with Charlie Manuel, the former Phillies manager and Indians hitting instructor, at the end of June. Coincidentally, Franco hit .343 in July, his best average of any month of the season.
Despite his offensive struggles in the first half, scouts remain bullish on Franco thanks to his average-to-plus raw power and especially his defense. Scouts praise Franco’s actions at third and first base despite his slow feet and average range and have tagged his arm as plus-plus.
He’d have far more value to the Phillies as a third baseman, especially since they are paying Ryan Howard $25 million through 2016 to play first base.
Franco is aggressive at the plate, but has a long swing. Scouts peg him as a below-average hitter for average and he’ll have to adjust against better competition to tap into that raw power.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Franco, just 22, is likely to get at-bats at first and third when the Phillies face a lefthander and should have a place in the lineup at either spot or DH when Philadelphia visits Oakland Sept. 19-21.
The righthanded hitter doesn’t walk much (30 in 551 plate appearances), but he also makes decent contact (81 whiffs) despite a long swing. Expect some strikeouts, some power and a low batting average, especially in his first pass at major league pitching.
It’s unclear if the Phillies will have Franco in the major league lineup in 2015. If he returns to the minors for two months next season, he won’t be eligible to be a free agent until 2021.