For the past 13 years, since the departure of Scott Rolen, the position of third base for the Phillies was utilized year after year with an assortment of different players, mainly with defensive focus. What the position lacked was a young, high-average and power-hitter.
Since May 15, that void seems to be filled with the emerging Maikel Franco.
A true candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, Franco looks to become the fifth Phillie to win the award. Rolen accomplished the feat in 1996, a player who led the third basemen for the next eight years.
The 22-year-old Franco is the bright spot on a dreary, incompetent and sometimes ignominious Phillies team. A team that owns baseball’s worst record (it was 25-47 prior to Tuesday night's game vs. the Yankees).
Since being called up to the Phils in May, Franco is batting .312 with nine home runs and 24 RBI. The bulk of these numbers are from a red hot June highlighted by Franco’s Monday night debut at Yankee Stadium which consisted of four hits, two of which were bombs over the left field fence. He also tallied five RBI.
Franco’s play is convincing the organization and fan base that he may be the real deal and he is beginning to emerge as the team’s top position player.
The offensive numbers speak for themselves, but Franco also has been exploiting his stellar defense at the hot corner. To go along with his juggernaut hitting Monday night, a diving stop ending with a strong lengthy throw to first base added to his best Major League game thus far.
The possibility of Franco representing the Phillies at the All-Star game looms as well, especially if Cole Hamels and Jonathon Papelbon are shipped off before the mid-summer classic.
It is still early in the season and other top rookies such as Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs or Joc Pederson can give Franco a run for his money. However, if Franco can continue to repeat performances as he did in the Bronx, there is no question it should be an exciting summer to watch him compete for the award.
An All-Star game appearance and a Rookie of the Year award -- seems like a sight of a promising future and the potential piece to build around. Which is good news as the Phillies also boast young high-ceiling prospects such as Ken Giles, Aaron Nola and J.P. Crawford.
In the meantime, we watch in anguish, as the present bottom-dwelling Phillies continue to squander.
But at least for now there is a sign of sheer optimism in the team’s power hitting third basemen.