Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Phillies undecided on Franco call up

After a slow start to the 2014 season, top hitting prospect Maikel Franco has hit .330 with 9 home runs over the last two months. Does it warrant a look in the big league lineup in September?

Phillies undecided on Franco call up

Phillies prospect Maikel Franco. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies prospect Maikel Franco. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Six weeks ago, Maikel Franco arrived in a clubhouse full of the best prospects in baseball and was upbeat. Playing in his second straight All-Star Futures Game, this one at Target Field in Minneapolis, Franco said he was looking forward, and not backward.

Franco, who turns 22 Tuesday, had gotten off to a very slow start in his first full season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He entered the month of July hitting .209 with 5 home runs and a .585 OPS in his first 78 games in 2014.

But entering Monday, Franco has managed to get those numbers up to .256 with 14 home runs and a .716 OPS in 125 games this year. That's because in the 47 games he's played since the begining of July, the power-hitting third baseman has batted .330 with a .926 OPS and 27 extra-base hits.

Franco hit for the cycle on Saturday.

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"He’s hot," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "The 31 doubles (this season) kind of pops out. In the minor leagues, that’s a power number. At the major leagues, that’s a power number. He has as chance with this hot streak to really end on a good note from where the hole that he was in for probably 2 ½ months of the season. Really shows how far that he’s come in a month and a half."

So he has put on a big enough surge to warrant a spot in the Phillies lineup next week? A week from Monday, on Sept. 1, all major league rosters can expand from 25 to as many as 40 players.

"We haven’t made a final decision on it, but we’re still discussing it internally," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. 

The Phillies are currently committed to Cody Asche at third base. Asche is in his first full big league season.

Another opening, however, could come at first base. But Ryan Howard has started 26 out of 27 games since his three-game benching a month ago.

"The biggest thing for him is playing time, and making sure this is the right thing, the right atmosphere and the right time - not atmosphere as much as playing time," Amaro said of Franco. "To bring him up here just to sit around. We’d like to assess some other things. There are a lot of different factors. We still have time to make a decision on it."

Since sitting out three straight games a month ago, Howard has hit .219 with a .314 OBP, 4 home runs and a .697 OPS in 27 games. 

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