Maikel Franco had another outstanding night at the plate last night against the Yankees, going 2 for 3 with a double and a three-run homer. With that performance, Franco became the only Phillies rookie and the first Phillie since RBIs became official in 1920 to record back-to-back five RBI games. In the month of June, Franco is now hitting .415/.461/.805 with eight doubles and eight homers, leading the Majors in batting average while ranking fifth in on-base percentage, third in slugging, second in OPS (first in NL), second in wOBA (first in NL), and first in fWAR.
June has been a historic month for Franco and he now finds himself in the June leaderboards surrounded by talent with the names of Harper, Votto, Cabrera, Stanton, and Pujols. Franco now leads all NL Rookies with at least 150 PA in batting average, is tied for second in homers, and is rocketing up the fun-to-count RBI list in fifth with nearly just 2/3rds the amount of games played as leader Kris Bryant.
The crazy part is, even if Franco continues at this pace, it wouldn’t be the best season by a Phillies’ 22-year old rookie hitter but it would place him in some pretty impressive company.
The Phillies have had quite a few impressive seasons by 22-year old rookies over the years. There are a few reasons for this: generally, if you’re a 22-year old position player getting regular playing time in the Major Leagues, you’re a blue chip prospect and your chances, and expectations, for success are higher. Additionally, with those expectations come additional chances. While a team might cut bait quicker with a 26-year old who is receiving his first Major League shot, a team will generally give more chances to fail or succeed to a top prospect.
With that said, the role call of 22-year old Phillies’ rookies of the years can start and end with one name: Dick Allen. Allen was a 22-year old rookie third baseman who blasted out of the gates in 1964 with a .426/.438/.915 line and five homers in 11 games played. In a month with a fuller schedule of games, Allen hit .357/.438/.563 with eight doubles, three triples, and three homers across 30 July 1964 contests. Allen would finish the year leading the league in triples, total bases, and strike outs with a .318/.382/.557 line, finishing seventh in the NL MVP voting despite ranking third among all NL hitters in fWAR while picking up much deserved NL Rookie of the Year honors.
Allen’s 1964 was one of the all-time great rookie seasons for any player in baseball history but is just one of a handful of names that had very good rookie seasons at age 22 for the Phillies. Elmer Flick, a top-flight outfielder that got away from the Phils and ranked #38 on our countdown of the greatest Phillies ever, hit .302/.430/.448 with eight homers and 23 homers to kick off a Hall of Fame career in 1898. First baseman Don Hurst, who ranked #84 on the Phillies Nation 100, hit .285/.391/.508 with 19 homers inside the friendly confines of the Baker Bowl in 1928.
As for more modern Phillies, Larry Hisle hit 20 homers and stole 18 bags in 1969 as a 22-year old rookie while hitting .266/.338/.459 and Jimmy Rollins became a 22-year old All-Star rookie in 2002 while leading the National League in triples (12) and steals (46) while hitting 29 doubles and 14 homers. And as long as we’re talking about players with small sample sizes in Franco, Alex Johnson‘s 1965 line of .294/.337/.443 was pretty good for a 22-year old rookie in 280 PA for a future batting champion.
Franco obviously has a long way to go to reach the finish line in 2015 but he has placed himself in outstanding company in two of the top 10 players in franchise history, the oldest living Hall of Famer inducted ever, a pair of All-Stars, and a slugging first baseman. Not a bad start at all and a continuation of a pretty solid group of 22-year old rookies the Phillies have produced.