Well, you knew this one was coming. If you heard me once expound on the greatness of Maikel Franco, you’ve heard me expound on his greatness dozens of times and I have to say, I need to expound on how much I love this Word of the Day calendar. It’s expounding my vocabulary! I used it wrong there, didn’t I? Let’s backtrack to the most basic common knowledge we have about baseball players. They all spit. Okay, Random Italicized Voice, let’s fast forward a bit. Hitters sleep with a wOBA? Now you’ve lost me. Good, stop following me, you creeper! Players usually take a few years to get comfortable. Guys don’t usually peak their first full years. Last year, Maikel Franco had a line of 67/25/88/.255/1 as a 23-year-old in his first full season. Okay, so there were so many homers last year that David Eckstein would’ve hit 30 homers if he was still playing. Fair enough, but you can’t possibly think Franco was a disappointment with 25 homers in his first full season. On our Player Rater, Maikel Franco was ranked 154th overall. Better than Marcell Ozuna, Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter, Craig Kimbrel and Joc Pederson. Sure, bit apples and oranges, but orange you glad I told you? Okay, for that, I’m going into the pun penalty box for three minutes. *sits in penalty box, smiles showing missing front tooth* Okay, I’m back! So, what can we expect from Maikel Franco for 2017 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
The Phils were dead last for runs scored last year; 39 runs behind even the Braves. The Phils couldn’t get any runs with a glass of tap water from Tijuana and a shot of Visine. Yet, Franco still nearly had 90 RBIs. The next closest RBI total on the Phils last year was Freddy Galvis with 67. Franco on simply a mediocre team last year, say, the Twins, he would’ve had 105 RBIs. Of course, we don’t know if the Phils are going to be better this year, but they look more mediocre to me than downright dreadful. I won’t project Maikel for 105 RBIs, but 95 RBIs feels conservative with just the mildest of upticks. Though, with only a mild uptick, at least one Kardashian would be a porn star by now, and that hasn’t happened, so I guess there’s a little risk. Next up, power. He hit 25 homers with a 14.7% HR/FB%, which feels low. He’s a power hitter; hit a few bombs last year and averaged 402+ feet on his homers. It’s solid, he’s not hitting a ton of wall-scrappers. Citizens Flank doesn’t just have the most accommodating fans (if a player wants to get puked on), but it also allows homers. Franco also doesn’t strike out a ton, but he does swing the bat. Bit similar to Jonathan Schoop or Adam Jones, but Franco makes more contact. That sounds great, but contact can have its drawbacks. If you swing at everything and make contact, you’re not going to make the best contact. His Hard Contact Rate was only 30.7%, about the same as Bogaerts and Ian Desmond. His lack of good contact really shows itself in his infield fly ball rate of 17.1%. Infield fly balls are about the worst kind of contact. It’s not the end of story though, Bautista and Bogaerts had worst infield fly ball rates. There’s nothing that says Franco shouldn’t be as good as he was last year, so there’s little downside. Then, you throw in he’s only 24 years old, starting his 2nd full major league season. Natural progression alone tells me he’s going to be as good or better. Do I think he can hit 39 HRs and .285? No, not likely. Do I think he can get to 32 homers and .280? I think that’s optimistic, but not crazy. For 2017, I’ll give Maikel Franco projections of 79/30/95/.277/2 in 591 ABs.