The writing is on the left field wall. Phillies third baseman Cody Asche has been sent to Triple-A with a new position in his future. Like a mama bird regurgitating the contents of its stomach to provide its hungry babies with the sustenance they so desperately need, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. gave Phillies fans the confirmation that Franco was getting “closer and closer”. How close? This weekend the Phillies will pass the point at which Franco can be called up while still remaining under team control through the 2021 season, so we could be talking a matter of days and not weeks. I’ve always been partial to Franco in fantasy and it’s not just my South Jersey roots. I traded for him in an experts dynasty league last summer during his first half struggles. Then I ranked him #1 in my Phillies Top 10 this offseason and #13 overall in my Top 50 Prospects. Franco has also occupied the #2 slot in the Prospect Power Rankings in each of the past two editions. So what’s all the fuss about and how do we value Franco moving forward now that he’s on the verge of a promotion to the big leagues?
|2015 Prospect List||Ranking|
Minor League Statistics
Back in 2010, Franco was signed by the Phillies as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic. Fast forward four years, and he was already making his major league debut. The results weren’t fantastic in his first tour through the majors. Franco hit .179/.190/.214 with 13 strikeouts and one walk in 58 MLB plate appearances last year. Did you hear that? That’s the sound of a child in the Philadelphia area crying everytime someone types out that triple-slash line. There’s reason to believe Franco won’t be the same hitter when he returns to the majors this time around. Give the Phillies credit for not rushing him into a starting role this spring and instead letting him marinate in Triple-A.
The biggest change has been in his approach. So while we already knew about his power, coaches now see him maturing as a hitter in general. That’s a very big positive for a 22-year-old with such high expectations on a team grasping for things to be positive about. Here’s an example of the change in approach from a recent article by Tom Housenick:
“…this thinking man’s approach has been more the norm this year, a year after he struggled to hit his weight before the first week of May was over. It also isn’t the overanxious rookie trying to prove himself this spring training in big league camp.
Franco is confident in his ability to hit all pitches to all fields and trusting his instincts.
“He’s a little more selective, not chasing questionable pitches early in the count,” IronPigs hitting coach Sal Rende said. “That’s what he did last year.”
This is an improved version of Franco. Being more selective will not only help him avoid being exposed every day by major league pitching, but it will also help him tap into the raw power he possesses. Knowing he can shorten up and settle for a single in certain counts rather than swinging for the moon every pitch is going to be key to his survival in the big league jungle. It could also be the difference between a guy who hits .250 and .270.
Just the fact that he’s approaching every at bat differently and thinking his way through them is a positive sign, even if it doesn’t produce big stats right away. Franco’s minor league career has been a roller coaster ride in terms of production, but his winter league and early 2015 performances have shown he’s back on the upswing.
Everything I said in the offseason preview still holds true. Franco is a solid defensive third baseman who has 25-homer pop in his bat. That power should be aided by Citizens Bank Park, and while he’ll go through the normal rookie growing pains, I think a lot of folks fell asleep on Franco last year and coming into this one as a fantasy prospect. As both a fantasy owner and a Phillies fan, this could be a fun weekend.
What’s the Move?
Franco should be long gone in keeper and dynasty leagues. In redrafts, I’d absolutely add him if you need a bat. There won’t be much going on around Franco in the Phillies’ lineup, but for fantasy purposes I tend to look at lineup position and talent and not so much at the supporting cast. If his adjustments carry over to the majors and Franco can stay patient, he could hit .260-.270 with 10-15 bombs the rest of the way. That’ll come in handy in pretty much everything outside of 4-teamers.