Has Pete Mackanin added more pressure to the Phillies young third baseman?
Philadelphia’s PR script for 2017 has been that Maikel Franco put too much pressure on himself last season, and with protection, in the lineup, he’ll thrive.
Michael Saunders’ arrival appeared to be a godsend for the Phillies third baseman, who struggled to hit consistently despite smacking 25 home runs last year.
Yet while the Phillies preach working their prospects and young stars into the game manager Pete Mackanin continues to bat the 24-year-old Franco in the heart of the lineup.
Through 16 games Franco has hit in the four-hole 15 times, with the lone exception coming as the number three hitter last week against Washington.
Every baseball fan knows the prototypical formula for a winning lineup: leadoff hitters consistently get on base and have speed, second and third hitters hit for average, four and five supply the power, and six through eight are typically average hitters.
If we as the fans know this, a lifelong baseball player like Franco does as well.
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Ryan Howard defined the four-hole hitter role in Philadelphia with his 40+ home run seasons. It’s apparent the young Franco wants to hit like Howard, and in the right position, he absolutely could.
However, this team needs to recognize that the hard-swinging Franco should slide into the five hole behind Michael Saunders and alleviate the pressure on Franco.
We can talk exit velocity (the most useless stat in history) being outstanding for Franco, but that doesn’t matter when the ball hits leather instead of grass or plastic seats.
It’s clear he can’t handle the pressure of being the power hitter in a major league lineup, at least not yet. He’s a career .183 hitter when behind in the count and .158 when facing two strikes.
Time will help Franco, but placing him in the high-pressure situation this early in his career will not. Allow him to mature as a hitter before inserting him into a slot where he expects to hit a home run every time he swings.
For the love of Pete, Pete, move Franco for his own good.