Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

Maikel Franco isn’t making this easy on the Phillies…or maybe he is

Maikel Franco is in the midst of a scorching-hot mont of July. (Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons)

Maikel Franco stepped to the plate at Great American Ballpark in the top of the fifth inning Thursday night having already watched Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana and Nick Williams launch home runs. So Franco joined the party, launching his 16th home run of the season. The next time the 25-year-old came to the plate, in the seventh inning, he hit his 17th home run of the season.

Franco has joined and started a lot of parties over the last month plus. Since J.P. Crawford was placed on the disabled list with a broken hand on June 20, Franco is hitting .344 with eight home runs and 16 RBIs. Dating back to last September, Franco, who will turn 26 next month, is hitting .273 with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs in 384 at-bats.

A month ago, Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals felt like he would be an immediate upgrade over Franco. But Moustakas, a two-time All-Star, is slashing .249/.309/.468 with 20 home runs, 62 RBIs and 1.7 offensive WAR. Franco is slashing .273/.317/.490 with 17 home runs, 52 RBIs and a 3.0 offensive WAR in 2018. At best, Moustakas would be a lateral move right now. When you consider that he’s nearly four years older than Franco, would require a trade return to acquire and is a free-agent at the conclusion of the season, that type of trade wouldn’t make much sense at this juncture.

In that sense, Franco has made things easier on general manager Matt Klentak. Though the possibility exists that he regresses in the final two months of the season, for the time being he’s lessened the pressure on the front-office to make an impact addition to the left side of the infield.

The interesting angle here is how Franco’s performance will affect his long-term standing with the team. He remains under team control through 2021. If he continues to perform like he has over the past month – or even just since last September – the Phillies will be forced to reevaluate whether he fits into their plans beyond 2018. The Phillies played 13 times between June 8 and June 20. In four of those games, he appeared only as a pinch-hitter. In five of those games, Franco altogether didn’t plan. It’s safe to say that six weeks ago, the Phillies were prepared to move on from Franco after the 2018 season, if not prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

This offseason, the Phillies are widely expected to pursue Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado. With Cesar Hernandez still under contract for 2019, Scott Kingery could still find himself competing for time on the left side of the infield. Crawford is a natural shortstop, who defensive metrics in a small sample size at the major league have been better at third base. And then there’s Franco.

Figuring out how (or if) Franco fits into the equation for 2019 and beyond is certainly a harder discussion than it was in May or June. So Franco hasn’t made this decision easy for the Phillies. Perhaps that’s a good problem to have.

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  1. Craig Glessner

    July 27, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    How about this infield next year Hoskins, Kingery, Machado, and Franco. Herrera, Williams and another outfielder we get from trading Santana or Cesar Hernandez. For the contract we have on Franco why would you pay Moustakis or anyone else way more when that money could go to extending Nola or Hoskins or help in signing Machado. I’ve been defending Franco all year and I think the last month speaks for itself he is as good as any other third baseman with maybe the exception of Arrenado. At the very least he has earned another year as the starting third baseman. GEAUX PHILLIES

    • Matthew Veasey

      July 28, 2018 at 9:36 am

      I am completely behind thaat idea, Craig. I would deal BOTH Santana and Hernandez. However, since Santana was the first real big free agent for this regime, my guess is they would not be willing to dump him after just one year. Hoskins should be the first baseman, but probably doesn’t get there until his age 28 season in 2021. Hoskins cannot become a free agent until after the 2023 season.

  2. pamikeydc

    July 27, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Craig I agree that he’s been the best (or one of the) in the past month.

    And Mr Kelly, as you said, YES this IS a good problem to have!

  3. czontixhldr

    July 28, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Let’s add some additional truth to this:

    Since June 20 when Franco started hitting the Phillies are 18 – 12. Is he the sole reason? Of course not. But Franco hitting well adds another dimension to the Phils’ lineup and lessens the burden on other guys to carry the offense.

    The guys that really carry the team when they hit – and hit for power – are Herrera and Hoskins.

    When Herrera homers in a game the Phillies are 11 – 6. When Hoskins homers they are 13 – 6.

    Yep, it’s anecdotal, but those two guys need help, and Franco has helped. Since the June 20 date Tim mentioned in the article, the Phillies are 20 – 12.

    • czontixhldr

      July 28, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Oops – they are 18 – 12 in games Franco played, 20 – 12 overall. Sorry about the lack of clarity.

    • Ken Bland

      July 28, 2018 at 8:14 pm

      Phils are 10-3 when Nick Williams homers in a game. 11-4 when Carlos Santana goes deep.

  4. Ken Bland

    August 3, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Follow up to the posting date of this article includes a game winning 3 run homer by Franco a few days later in a walk off against Miami. Let alone among a few other positives. It’s reached a point where if you wanna pinch yourself to see if the Franco of late is real, you still can, but not as hard is necessary.

    However, if you want to hold a level of objectivity, it’s still premature to assume Franco will be the Opening Day 3rd baseman in 2019. Better to stick with the near certainty that when he resumes playing, JP Crawford won’t see the amount of time he did pre-injury as the Phils chase the post season.

    Why the hesitation on Franco?

    A stumbling block to committing to him anywhere from medium term on is arbitration. He’s eligible next year, and as he wasn’t overly rewarded in this, his first year, a continuation of the last month may look for him to try to make up for last winter’s 2.9 mil agreement to avoid arb. Maybe, anyway. Seems like arbitration would put him a touch over 5.5 mil for 2019, a hardly educated guess on my part, but one that feels like it will be damned close. Do I hear 6 million? 5mil seems low.

    Do you believe Franco has honored this seemingly long tradition of late bloomers amongst third basemen? If it were still before arbitration, maybe. But it would seem well advised to keep an open mind toward possibly trading him this winter. That doesn’t mean you actively dump him, you just try to see how much value he’s increased with what the past month has brought on, let alone a decent finish to augment that.

    • czontixhldr

      August 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      I agree. It’s too early to know whether this is the “New Mikey”.

      Small Sample Size Alert, but I find this amusing – since Machado was traded and his first game on July 20, this is what they have done:

      Machado: 15 G, 71 PA, 11 BB, 17 K, 4 XBH, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .250/.366/.400, 1 GDP, 2 SB, 0 CS

      Franco: 13 G, 55 PA, 2 BB, 8 K, 7 XBH, 5 HR, 9 RBI, .321/.345/.642, 3 GDP, 0 SB, 0 CS

      Manny has gotten on base more by walking a bunch, and stolen a couple of bases, but other than that Maikel has held his own with the bat.

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