Phillies top-five most improved players during 2018 season
I and many other people were ready to give up on Maikel Franco coming into the year. After a strong rookie year in 2015, he managed only a .242/.294/.418 line and 86 OPS+ the next two years. His 2017 season was extremely disappointing and left many longing for Manny Machado.
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Rumors that Philadelphia was in the hunt for Machado at the trade deadline must have lit a fire under Franco’s butt because he has been one of the team’s best hitters for the last two-plus months. Since June 23, Franco has a .295/.338/.525 line, 13 home runs, and 31 runs batted in.
Overall this year, Franco has taken a major step forward. He has an OPS+ and wRC+ above 100 (league-average) for the first time since 2015. He has a .268/.311/.468 line, which is a drastic improvement compared to last year. Franco improved his home run to fly ball rate to 17.7%, 18th-best in the NL among hitters with 450 or more plate appearances.
For the time being, Franco has secured himself a roster spot in 2019. Machado would play shortstop if he signed with the Phillies, but neither Scott Kingery nor J.P. Crawford has done enough to dislodge Franco at third. He already improved this year; if he continues to improve next year, he will hold down third base for far longer.
Hopefully, these players continue to build upon what they have done this year moving forward. In addition, some of the struggling players this year should take a step forward in 2019 and wind up on next year’s version of this list.