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Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera: A crucial second half awaits

At the end of the 2015 season, the Phillies seemed to have a couple of cornerstone players to build around. Odubel Herrera, a Rule 5 selection in the offseason prior, and Maikel Franco, who signed as an amateur free agent in 2010, both showcased their talents to the city. Herrera, who never played above double-A ball, hit a cool .297 with a .344 OBP in his rookie campaign and was a staple at the top of Pete Mackanin’s lineup card. Franco was a .280 hitter with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in just 80 games as a run producer in the meat of the order.

Franco’s 2016 started strong, while Herrera was hot, hitting in the .330s into May and walking 34 times the first two months. He was the lone all star representative for the Phillies. But since then, both Herrera and Franco have been different players.

Franco has gone from mediocre – which he was last year – to bad this year. A .224/.280/.390 slash line with 13 home runs and 47 RBI is not what we envisioned for the third baseman. Thanks to two grand slams, Franco’s numbers would be even worse. The 24-year-old’s approach to the plate has been in serious question. It’s gotten so bad that Gary Matthews, while being an honorary base changer, barked out criticism of Franco for weakly grounding out on a first-pitch breaking ball. A pitch that Sarge and the coaching staff has repeatedly told him to lay off of. Franco’s response: “Yeah, I know.” He knows, but he keeps doing it.

Herrera’s plate discipline has also been under fire. “Wild and out of control,” hitting coach Matt Stairs said of his center fielder’s approach at the dish. The 25-year-old has swung at 40 percent of pitches he’s seen out of the strike zone; the league average is under 30 percent. He’s also averaging a strikeout a game. He’s walked just 17 times in 87 games this year, whereas last year he had 43 walks in his first 83 games. It’s not as if Stairs told him his swing has been out of control over the last week or so. This has been an issue all season, and Herrera knows it, but he keeps on swinging. The mental errors on the basepaths further compound the center fielder’s disappointing season at the plate.

Now that these guys have been called out, let’s see if they can adjust (and, to be fair, Herrera is stroking .320/.346/.551 since June 1, but with 35 strikeouts to six walks). The second half might tell us all we need to know about Herrera and Franco: whether they have it or not. They know what to do. Will they follow through?

Would their days be numbered? That would be up to General Manager Matt Klentak, who would have a tough decision on his hands. You don’t want to get rid of all-star caliber potential, but when is enough, enough? The two got off to the right foot over the weekend in Milwaukee. 

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