Franco Adjustments Paying Off


Cole Hamels has been dominating Phillies-related headlines for the last week, including here at TBOH, and for good reason. The 31-year-old is coming off arguably the best performance of his career in last Saturday’s no-hitter against the Cubs, and he is one of the top commodities with the trade deadline now just two days away.

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Hamels will likely be gone by the deadline. Trade talks are heating up between the Phillies’ front office and those of interested teams. The Phils have given those interested until today to submit final bids.

However, one player who will definitely be here after that 4pm Friday deadline comes and goes is 22-year-old 3rd baseman Maikel Franco, who represents a key piece to the Phillies’ future.

Franco has had an impressive rookie season to say the least. Since his call-up in mid-May, Franco is batting .285 with 11 home runs, 38 RBIs, and an .839 OPS. If it weren’t for the likes of Kris Bryant and Matt Duffy, Franco would very well be in the conversation for National League Rookie of the Year. He could still force his way deeper into that conversation with a strong finish.

After a fantastic month of June where he won National League ‘Rookie of the Month’ honors, Franco had struggled in July, batting .254 with zero home runs and only three RBIs. But then he began to find himself again in last weekend’s series at Wrigley Field.

Over the three games, Franco recorded four hits in 13 at-bats. More importantly was the fact that each of his four hits went for extra-bases: three doubles and one home run.

The extra-base hits were Franco’s first since July 6th at Los Angeles, and the home run was his first since June 23rd at Yankee Stadium. Pitchers adjusted to the rookie third baseman following his hot start. His performance during the Cubs series, however, is clearly an example of Franco beginning to adjust himself to their adjustments.

His home run last Sunday was on a first-pitch, 93 MPH fastball that tailed back over the middle of the plate. Franco took the aggressive approach, and it paid off big time when he deposited the ball over the ivy-covered wall in left field.

Two at-bats later, after working the count to two balls and two strikes, Franco drilled a  fastball on the outside corner of the plate to right field, recording his fourth extra-base hit over his last eight at-bats to that point.

Franco displayed an impressive approach at the plate over the weekend, and was attempting to carry a hot bat with him across the international border during this quick 2-game series in Toronto. However, last night he took an 0-4 collar with 3 strikeouts, showing there will always continue to be work to do against Major League pitchers and coaching staffs.

The Phillies, now 9-1 since the All-Star Break, hope to keep their streak going  against a Blue Jays team whose offense ranks at the top of MLB, and which just got a lot better with the acquisition of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. He should be in uniform for tonight’s series finale.

If the Phillies hope to keep up with the Jays’ high-powered offense, it would certainly help to have Franco continue the same approach at the plate that he did in Chicago, and continue to adjust when he sees pitchers approaching him with a new game plan. The R.A. Dickey knuckleball that he will see tonight should make for an interesting lesson for the young hitter.