Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Maikel Franco may or may not be changing positions

Maikel Franco. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)
Maikel Franco. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)

Maikel Franco burned through the Phillies farm system last season; in half the year with the Clearwater Threshers, he scraped against .300 for 65 games, keeping his OPS around an eye-popping .925. He adjusted to his promotion to Reading for 69 games by bouncing his BA up to .339 and maintaining almost identical OPS numbers, knocking in 103 Threshers and Fightins with 31 home runs along the way. His output earned him a trip to Philadelphia after the minors had closed for the year to accept his Paul Owens Award for best position player of the team’s younglings.

Intriguing young hitters can be a tough find in the Phillies’ organization, but Franco had gotten some attention. As a third baseman, however, his future seemed uncertain, with the slightly older Cody Asche reaching the bigs prior to Franco, and both playing the same position. A choice seemed to be down the road for the Phillies, and the sooner they made it, the sooner they could start to prepare for their future in the hot corner. Or, the sooner they could be able to trade him to a wider range of teams.

It seems the Phillies may be ready to try something. Only they may not want you to know about it yet.

Yesterday, Maikel Franco said under his own free will that he would be taking more reps at first base than third this season, a position he has only played in eight games in the past.

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  • "They (the Phillies) told me, 'You'll play more first base than third base [this year].' I said 'OK, I'll take it.'"'

    --Maikel Franco

    For what it's worth, Jim Callis, a senior writer at MLB.com and MLB Pipeline, says that if Franco were to be moved to a full time first base position, he would instantly become the best prospect at that position.

    MLB Pipeline recently ranked first base prospects across baseball, putting former Phillies farmhand Jonathan Singleton at the top (who was included in the trade to the Astros in exchange for Hunter Pence). Callis said Franco would surpass even Singleton.

    MLB Pipeline currently has Franco listed as the #6 best third base prospect.

    Quite the change, and a slight show of the Phillies’ hand – if they can have both Franco and Asche, they wouldn’t be forced to make a decision! 

    Then director of player development Joe Jordan stepped in and tried to water that news down, in possible hope that no current first baseman signed to a long contract would feel spurned.

    ...Jordan said Franco would play both positions this season.

    "I think it's important for us that we do that. We're not looking for him to take over Ryan Howard's position. We're looking for an option if we need it. He's going to be very proficient at first base. It's just a matter of getting more experienced."

    --Joe Jordan, via Bob Brookover

    That makes Franco’s statement barely seem like news at all; in fact, unless Jordan is running interference, there seems to be a sizeable misunderstanding in play here. Franco thinks his career is moving to the other side of the infield, Jordan thinks his third base prospect is just getting a few more shots at expanding his resume.

    Oh, here comes Ruben Amaro. He’ll clear all this up.

    "It's not the case, he's not gonna be primarily first base. He's a third baseman, he may get some work at first base, but he's primarily a third baseman."

    --Ruben Amaro

    And Amaro puts a nice reversal on things, so that you aren't confused when Franco starts at third, but there are no eyebrows raised if he makes a start at first, either.

    The Phillies either have a new first baseman whom they forgot to keep quiet, or they may still have a third baseman who will see some time at first and misunderstood what they were telling him.

    The point is, Franco will probably be traded for Jeff Francoeur midseason anyway.

    Justin Klugh Philly.com Sports
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