With just over half of the MLB season in the rear view mirror, you should have a pretty good idea of where your fantasy team stands at the moment. The seasonal sample size is sufficient to properly evaluate the majority of the everyday players, and now is a good time to try to swing a deal to strengthen any weaknesses and make a push for the league title. The players on the extreme ends of the talent/production spectrum are fairly easy to identify. Who doesn’t want Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw on their fake teams? At the same time, it might be better to leave a lineup slot empty than to use either Alexei Ramirez or Yonder Alonso at any given time. Those are the easy decisions. The tough ones involve the players who are hovering somewhere in the middle, teetering on the edge of breakout or bust. Philadelphia Phillies 23-year-old third baseman Maikel Franco is such a player. After leading the Grapefruit League in homers and RBIs this spring, Franco looked as appetizing to fantasy players as an authentic Philly cheesesteak wiz wit. The first couple of months of the regular season weren’t all fresh Amoroso rolls and grilled onions for the second year player though. Through June 19th (263 plate appearances), Franco was sporting a .236/.281/.409 triple slash line with 19 runs, 11 homers, 33 RBIs, and zero steals. Not exactly the type of production that his owners had in mind. However, in his last 15 games and 66 PAs since then, Franco has slashed .375/.470/.786 with 14 runs, 6 homers, and 16 RBIs. So who is the real Franco? The mediocre three category liability that opened the season or the Miguel Cabrera clone of the last few weeks?
Let’s take a look at Franco’s profile to determine what can be expected from him over the remainder of the 2016 season. Here are a few observations:
• Considering his age and experience level, his plate discipline is very good. I know, I know. Kind of hedging my bets here, but Franco’s 7.6% BB% is right around league average and his 31.0% O-Swing% is the lowest rate of his young career. His 18.2% K% is well below the MLB average (21.0%), and his 12.9% SwStr% is lower than that of established sluggers with respectable averages such as Carlos Gonzalez, Kris Bryant, and Nelson Cruz. Speaking of slugging, another thing that’s certainly worth mentioning about Franco is that…
• He has excellent power. Franco’s .218 ISO is comparable to players such as Cabrera as Paul Goldschmidt and higher than that of players like George Springer and Ryan Braun. While his 289.12 ft average flyball distance isn’t quite in the elite range, it’s in the Cruz/Springer area and superior to that of other notable sluggers such as Anthony Rizzo, Bryce Harper, and Edwin Encarnacion. That power should play well over the warm summer months considering the fact that…
• His home ballpark is one of the most homer-friendly parks in MLB. Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park has finished in the top 6 in MLB in terms of park factor for home runs each season since 2013 (according to ESPN). Over the last three seasons, it has also had the highest HR index for right-handed hitters, which Franco obviously is.
Bottom line: This one’s pretty short and sweet since there’s not a whole lot more to discuss regarding Franco. He’s not going to steal many (or possibly any) bases due to his lack of speed, nor will he post gaudy run totals thanks to the lack of quality hitters protecting him in the Phillies lineup. However, he can take a walk and his contact skills and power are certainly above average. While his batting average is likely to be kept in check by his still-too-high groundball rate (43.8% GB%) and his propensity to pop the ball up (18.3% IFFB%), Franco just might produce the quietest .270/30/90 season of any player this season. With just over one full MLB season under his belt and still seven weeks away from celebrating his 24th birthday, Franco still possesses plenty of upside as well.