When they look around the massive room, and see the names above the lockers - Chase Utley and Ryan Howard toward the front, Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins toward the back - it's only natural for their eyes to get even bigger as their major league dreams appear that much closer to reality.
The Phillies invited eight of their minor leaguers into Philadelphia this week for their annual big league orientation. The week includes listening to big leaguers (Chase Utley was in town this week, too, you know), a trip to MLB Network and Comcast SportsNet's studios and a media session inside the Phillies clubhouse to wrap the three-day experience.
Maikel Franco, the Phillies top prospect, was among them. And after leading all of the minor leagues with 308 total bases in 2013, Franco feels he's on the cusp of making the jump to the major leagues.
"I want to keep it up," said Franco, who hit 320 with 31 home runs and 103 RBI in 134 games between single-A Clearwater and double-A Reading last season. "I want to continue it, play the game hard, play it right and see what happens."
In September, Franco said he would come into major league camp in 2014 ready to win a big league job. Phillies management wants him to report to Clearwater with that mindset intact.
But the reality is Franco, who only turned 21 in August, is unlikely to break camp with the Phillies. And he could even begin the 2014 season where the 2013 season ended, at Double-A Reading.
Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development, was asked if Franco had enough at-bats last season to warrant beginning the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
"I think in a perfect world he probably gets some more (at Double-A)," Jordan said.
Jordan compared Franco with Cody Asche, the very player he'll be competing with at third base this spring.
Two years ago, Asche split the 2012 season between Double-A Reading (68 games/289 at-bats) and Class A Clearwater (62G/270 AB). He began the 2013 season at Triple-A and joined the Phillies in late July.
Franco, meanwhile, played in 65 games (289 at-bats) at Clearwater last year before making the jump to Reading (69 games/292 at-bats).
"They’ve had the same path both years," Jordan said. "I can see him going back to Double-A to start, but again, we’ll make those decisions in March. We don’t have to make it today. We don’t have to make it today."
Franco is expected to take regular reps at both third base and first base this spring.
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