For the second straight year we are looking for a bounceback season from Maikel Franco. Instead of improving in 2017, things got only worse. Franco managed a .230/.281/.409 line with 24 home runs and 76 runs batted in. His 76 wRC+ and -0.5 fWAR were both league-worst among qualified third baseman.
Franco’s issue wasn’t striking out or not walking enough; he had a 6.6 percent walk rate and 15.2 percent strikeout rate. Both were actually improvements compared to 2016. However, his ground-ball rate was slightly above league-average at 45.4 percent and his line-drive rate was well below-average at 17.9 percent. Franco doesn’t have the speed to run out ground balls and relying on fly balls will lead to a lot of outs.
The Phillies are still willing to give Franco another chance this season, but that chance may not last for long. Scott Kingery is waiting in the wings to be called up to the majors, and the team is preparing him to play all over the diamond, including third base. J.P. Crawford took time away from Franco when he was called up last year, and if Franco continues to struggle, he could lose time to Kingery.
If Franco still can’t figure things out after this season, better options will be there in the offseason. Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will both be free agents, and Philadelphia will likely take a run at each of them. Both would certainly be upgrades, even at a significantly higher salary. Franco will need a major bounceback to try and compete with either of these players.