Phillies: Five position players to watch in spring training
Kingery’s counterpart in the battle for third base is the fifth-year vet from the Dominican Republic. What’s incredible to believe is that Franco had a relatively decent year offensively in 2018, hitting .270 with 22 HR and only 62 strike-outs in 433 AB. In fact, his average, OBP, SLG and OPS were the highest of his career when playing more than 130 games, remarkable considering he dwelled in the bottom half of the lineup for most of the season.
Franco’s plate discipline even improved, lowering his strikeout percentage by over two percent. I think that, offensively, Franco is a solid .260-.280 hitter, who’s going to get you 20-25 home runs, and around 75 RBIs every year. His offense is not his problem.
Franco’s fielding consistency is what cost him playing time towards the end of the year. In 27 fewer games, he committed as many errors as he did in 2017 (15). His fielding percentage (.949) had him ranked 16th out of 19 third basemen who played at least 100 games, when the overall league average was .958.
While fielding has never been his strongest asset, he’s had a flair for the dramatic, making impossible plays and spectacular throws. Yet, on routine plays, he still makes little league mistakes and does things that leave fans burying their face in their hands.
In order for Franco to take control of the hot corner, the major upgrade he needs to show is defense. According to The Philly Inquirer, Franco has trimmed some of his extra poundage from last year, so that may improve his range a bit. But, where I want to see the improvement is in his defensive instincts.
Realistically, I don’t see Franco as a Gold Glove third baseman, nor do the Phillies need him to be. If he can be reliable, even-keeled, and composed, and cut down on the foolish errors, his offense will force the staff to keep him in the lineup.