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September 2, 2014

The Call-Up

Maikel Franco

by Mark Anderson and Bret Sayre

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The Situation: Despite the shine of a Labor Day no-hitter, the Phillies season has quickly slipped away, so as a result it is time to see what the kids can do. Ranked as the Phillies top prospect entering the season, Franco has overcome a miserable start to the season and is now hitting .257 with 16 home runs and 32 doubles.

Background: Franco has been on the radar since signing as a teenager, but his breakout came as a 19-year old in the South Atlantic League in 2012, as he posted a .280 average, 32 doubles, 14 home runs and drove in 84. Franco’s arrival continued with a monster 2013 season that started with a .299/.349/.576 line in 65 games at High-A. He followed that up with an even more impressive .339/.363/.563 line in his first taste of the upper levels in the second half. After hitting just .209 through the first three months of the 2014 campaign, Franco has righted the ship with a .324 average and a .579 slugging percentage since the start of July.

Scouting Report: Franco likes to swing and swing hard. He is an aggressive hitter who steps into the box with an intent to swing early and often. He doesn’t wait around to recognize pitches or find one he can drive, but his exceptional hand-eye coordination allows him to barrel balls even when his timing is off. Despite good bat speed, Franco can get long to and through the zone, and the noise in his swing will always leave him vulnerable to swing-and-miss issues.

When he’s on, Franco can show true plus raw power, though most of it plays to the pull side. His batting practice displays can draw a crowd and he has found a way to translate that pop to game situations as he has matured. If he can find a way to make consistent contact and hit .260-.270, the power could play to the 30-double, 20-home run level.

I’ve always been a sucker for Franco’s glove at the hot corner. The first time I saw him as a 16-year old he showed me soft hands and a very powerful right arm. The arm strength is still there, but the hands lack consistency, and his range approaches the bottom of the scouting scale. Franco will be given a chance to stick on the left side of the infield, where his bat would be a strength in the Phillies lineup, but in the end, his body might force him across the diamond to first base.

Franco’s offensive game has always had the potential to carry him to a significant big-league role, despite the obvious concerns over the loud swing and aggressive approach. Even if he comes up short of his ultimate projection of an average hit tool and plus power, he could still be a quality major-league bat.

Immediate Big-League Future: Over the next few weeks, big-league pitchers are going to have a chance to exploit Franco’s style and complicated swing. He will find some success at the plate because he is extremely talented in the batter’s box and he has a knack for finding the barrel of the bat. Franco is going to be at the extreme ends of hit and miss this fall, but the exposure to pitching at the highest level should give him things to work on this winter in preparation for his real trial in 2015. —Mark Anderson

Fantasy Impact: There was a strong wave of prospects who were drafted in deeper leagues at the beginning of the season in anticipation of elevation to the majors in short order. And as we see every year, plenty of those names still haven't arrived. However, score one for the good guys here as Franco will finally get at least a glimpse of what life is like at the hot corner (and possibly the not-so-hot corner against left-handed pitching) in the City of Brotherly Love.

The 22-year old, who just celebrated a birthday last week, is very unlikely to play every day in September, as he'll still be contending with the intensely mediocre Cody Asche (he of the 91 OPS+ in both of his major-league seasons) for playing time at third base. However, even with around 10 starts, he could still accumulate more value than you think, since he'd likely find most of that time coming against southpaws (who the Phillies face in four of the next 10 games). The value will only increase in daily leagues where these matchups can be exploited best. Additionally, Citizens Bank Park, and its 135 park factor for RH home runs, is a perfect match for Franco's power potential in both the short and long terms. In other words, if he hit .300 with 3-4 homers in 40-50 at-bats the rest of the way, it would not be surprising.

In NL-only leagues, Franco is the guy worth spending on with Jorge Soler and Dilson Herrera both having been snagged this week. If you need power and have some chances to take, Franco should be worth at least 75-80 percent of your remaining FAAB. I'd advise picking him up in any daily transaction leagues deeper than 14-team mixed if you have a spot on your bench for someone you can plug in a few days per week. In dynasty leagues, he's a no-brainer pickup, as even though his stock has declined this year, it's really only due to a very weak start to the season (as Mark mentioned above). This is a hitter who has the potential to hit for an average that won't kill you (think .260) with 25-30 home run power in that ballpark. —Bret Sayre

Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mark's other articles. You can contact Mark by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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