Is it time for the Phillies to give up on Maikel Franco?
by Scott Butler 8/27/17

Maikel Franco

With Rhys Hoskins setting new MLB records every game, it’s hard not to notice the contrast between him and Maikel Franco.

Hoskins comes to the plate with a plan and works the count, with a controlled swing designed to simply hit the barrel of the bat. Then there is Maikel Franco, who sees two pitches or less 32 percent of the time and pulls off everything, with a swing designed to hit balls into the third deck.

“He’s not making an adjustment,” Pete Mackanin said on Thursday. “We keep working on it, he just hasn’t been able to make the adjustment. It’s not like he’s not trying. He does a lot of cage work, he’s just not adjusting. He’s still pulling off the ball.”

It is truly baffling what is happening with Franco. Normally, when a hitter continues to employ a poor approach like Franco has, he is just an un-coachable player who refuses to listen to any advice. But in this case, Franco seems to have bought in to Matt Stairs’ approach and continues to work hard to implement it. Yet for some reason, when the clock reads 7:05, it all goes away.

For a player in his fourth season with 372 games and over 1,500 plate appearances under his belt, it might be time to wonder if Franco will ever figure it out. With all of the position shifting going on at Lehigh Valley with J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery, it’s possible the Phillies front office has already come to a conclusion.

If Franco was showing these same habits at 28, it would be a much easier decision to give up on him. But Franco just celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday, making him just 203 days older than Rhys Hoskins. At the age of 17, Hoskins was a junior at Jesuit High School in Carmichael, CA, while Franco was playing professionally for the Phillies organization in the Gulf Coast League. It's easy to forget just how young Franco is.

More important than the actual age, though, is the amount of experience against higher levels of competition. In terms of experience, perhaps Franco is at the same level as a rookie like Hoskins. Is inexperience a fair argument for Franco? Let’s do a comparison with Hoskins to find out.

Franco went straight to the minor leagues from the Dominican Republic in 2010 at the age of 17, while Hoskins' first taste of professional baseball came as a 21-year-old in 2014. Franco was undoubtedly facing stiffer competition in the Gulf Coast League than Hoskins was at Sacramento State, but it’s a close enough equivalent for our purposes here. Starting with their age 17 seasons, below is a breakdown of the number of plate appearances for each player.

Maikel Franco

2,355 minor league PA’s

1,531 MLB PA’s

425 winter ball PA’s

4,311 total plate appearances

Rhys Hoskins

236 high school PA’s

700 college PA’s

1,904 minor league PA’s

64 MLB PA’s

274 winter ball PA’s

3,178 total plate appearances

According to those numbers, Franco has 1,133 more “professional” plate appearances than Hoskins does. That puts Franco roughly two full seasons ahead of Hoskins.

The point here is not to compare Franco and Hoskins. Rather, it is to point out that a lack of experience is no longer a valid argument for continuing to expect Franco to turn things around.

As the pace starts to pick up on this rebuild, the Phillies are running out of time to make certain decisions. After this season, J.P. Crawford must be added to the 40-man roster. After next season, Freddy Galvis can become a free agent and Scott Kingery must be promoted to the big leagues. Cesar Hernandez is under team control for another three seasons, but those other timetables might force a quicker decision.

The Phillies have five players right now competing for three positions, so at some point a decision must be made on two of them. If they decide that Crawford and Kingery are part of their future, it means there is one position left for Franco, Hernandez, and Galvis.

Andy MacPhail said from day one that his philosophy is to grow pitching and buy hitting, but the way things are going, the Phillies are heading in the completely opposite direction. However, with a surplus of middle infielders, the Phillies could bolster their rotation through trades.

That’s where Franco’s status becomes so important. The Phillies wouldn’t get anything if they traded him right now straight up. But he works wonderfully into a bigger trade package. The Phillies could trade Cesar Hernandez as a young, proven hitter with three more guaranteed years, plus Franco with potential upside, and Tommy Joseph as a nice third piece. And that scenario allows them to hold onto Galvis and move Crawford to third.

However this plays out, it is impossible to ignore Franco's disappointing results over the past two season: he has batted .240 with an average of 25 homers over a full season (43 total). As the walls continue to cave in around him with Crawford, Kingery, Galvis, and Hernandez all producing, Franco might just have 34 games left to prove he should be part of the future.

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