On the latest Patreon edition of Hittin’ Season, a discussion on Maikel Franco’s tenuous future with the Phils.
The Sunday night edition of “Hittin’ Season” is hosted by John Stolnis, Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher, recapping the Phillies’ weekend series every Sunday night. This week, the gang talks about the Milwaukee Brewers series, why Manny Machado will NOT be coming here at the trade deadline, and whether the team is ready to move on from Maikel Franco, as it appears they are. The podcast is available only for Patreon members of “Hittin’ Season,” so become a Patreon member here to get every “Hittin’ Season” and “Continued Success” podcast in full!”
One of the big storylines coming into the 2018 season was the future of Maikel Franco. With J.P. Crawford’s outstanding play at the hot corner last season and a free agency period this winter that includes third base options Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson, the clock for Franco to prove he could be part of the team’s long-term plans officially began ticking on Opening Day.
After more than two months, it appears Franco’s time has run out.
With Crawford back from a month-long stay on the disabled list, the Phillies informed Franco his playing time would be diminished. Clearly, the team wants to take a long look at Scott Kingery, who they signed to a six-year contract just before the season, as well as Crawford, who is one of their top prospects.
Franco, meanwhile, is in his 4th year with the team, and has shown very little improvement since his outstanding rookie campaign in 2015.
With so many young players on the Phillies, they simply haven’t gotten enough game action to make a decision on their true talent or long-term future with any degree of certainty. Crawford, Kingery, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Jorge Alfaro are all in their first full seasons of big league ball, and the team is going to give these players every opportunity to prove themselves.
But Franco is one of the players on whom the team has plenty of data. He’s played 458 career games, amassed 1851 plate appearances, and has a career slash line of .247/.299/.425. His walk rate has not improved, he’s still hitting way too many ground balls (a career-high 51.2% this season), and his hard-hit rate (according to Fangraphs) of 27.8% is a career-low.
In spring training, there was hope a new closed stance would help prevent his hips from flying open and trying to pull everything, but that hasn’t happened.
Clayton Kershaw’s slider made Maikel Franco lose his helmet. pic.twitter.com/4n0HnPK4QK
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) June 1, 2018
Yes, that at-bat came against Clayton Kershaw, but it was in the one game Kershaw pitched between DL stints this year, a game in which Kershaw’s fastball was topping out at 90 mph. This still photo from a game against the Braves back on May 21 provides a pretty clear snapshot.
Maikel Franco’s front hip is trying to flee into the 3rd base dugout before his swing begins. pic.twitter.com/JGqbgV2Skp
— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) May 21, 2018
It appeared, for a brief time this year, that the closed stance may have resulted in a breakthrough. After a 3-for-5 performance against the San Francisco Giants on May 9, he was hitting .292/.325/.540 with an OPS of .865.
Those are the kinds of numbers that can convince a team to wait a little longer on a 25-year-old. But in the 25 games since, covering 82 PAs, Franco is hitting .182/.232/.234 with a .465 OPS and just one homer and one double during that stretch.
This has happened too many times in his career, and with some sexier options presumably at the Phillies’ feet in a few months, it’s time for the team to, at least mentally, move on from Franco.
Could this backfire spectacularly? It’s always dangerous to give up on a player as young as Franco. After all, he’s just 203 days older than Hoskins. But in this case, four years of MLB experience trumps the age.
By sidelining him over the last four games in favor of younger players, it appears the Phils are ready to move on, and that is the right decision.