Philadelphia Phillies: Previewing Maikel Franco’s 2016 Season

I’d imagine Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco would share the feelings of eternal high-school football sensation Boobie Miles if asked whether or not the buzz surrounding his expected success in 2016 is being driven by hype more than actual substance.

“Hype? What hype? Nah, see, ‘hype’ is something that’s not real…I’m all real” – Friday Night Lights

Whether or not you see true MVP-caliber potential surrounding Franco or not isn’t the argument that should be made about him heading into and during the 2016 season. What should be noted about Franco is that he’s the best position player in Philadelphia, and there’s absolutely no debating that statement.

For years, Ryan Howard was the team’s perennial power hitter, sending bombs into every corner of Citizen’s Bank Park with ease, leaving fans speechless as to how he did it with seemingly such little effort. Since Howard’s power decline began roughly three season ago, the team has clearly lacked a true power presence in the lineup.

Enter Maikel Franco. Franco launched 14 balls into the seats last season, while appearing in only 80 games as he battled various injuries throughout the season, most notably a hand injury that derailed the latter-half of his 2015 campaign. Even after suffering the hand injury, Franco returned to the lineup in the final weeks of the season, and continued to show his ability to hit the long ball, and get on base consistently, while still driving in runs.

If you’re wondering exactly what type of impact Franco is capable of bringing to the Phillies in 2016, think Kris Bryant and his impact on the Cubs last season, who found themselves in the NLCS with an All-Star rookie third baseman leading the way. Bryant posted a .275 batting average with 99 RBIs last season, appearing in 151 games, 71 more than Franco. The Phillies’ third baseman can have that type of impact over a full season.

Don’t expect Franco’s injury history to become a bother to his future success. Between 2010-2014, Franco played full seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system, and only saw time on the disabled list in extended fashion during the 2015 campaign. A hand contusion certainly isn’t going to stop Franco from sending fan mail into the second deck behind left field in 2016.

What about Franco in the field? Fielding is the one area Franco has the most to work on during the upcoming season. Third base is a critical position for any team, and the Phillies are no different. He’s got the arm strength to make the tough outs from across the diamond, it’s merely a matter of consistency with Franco, who’s only played less than half a season of big-league defense.

If you’re a fantasy player, Franco should rank highly on your list for power-hitting third baseman. Bryant ranked fourth at the close of the 2015 season for all third baseman, and Franco could have surpassed those numbers at the plate had he too played a full season like Bryant. Expect Franco to easily hover around the top-five offensively for third baseman, and could possibly be a fantasy top-ten power hitter for your entire league. Simply put, Franco has the juice, and it’s going to be exciting to see him let it rip this coming season.

You love projections. Heck, we all do. Here’s a sample of how Maikel Franco’s 2016 campaign should look if he plays a full season for the Phillies.

Games: 160

At-Bats: 610

Home Runs: 29

RBI: 104

Batting Average: .284

You may look at the batting average and feel it’s a bit low, but considering Franco will be hitting for power, based on his expected slot in the lineup, he’s going to miss a lot of small-ball opportunities along the way, leading to a higher strikeout count. You learn to live with a lower batting average at the end of the season if said player is tallying over 100 RBI and hovering around the 30 home run mark.

For years, Ryan Howard was the man to watch in the middle of the Phillies’ lineup. The Big Piece is still around — for one more year — and the next big thing in Philadelphia is ready to make the jump up from top prospect to superstar. Expect big things from Maikel Franco in his second season with the Phillies.

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