Any fan looking for a reason to check out the Phillies in the post Ryne Sandberg era should look no further than Maikel Franco.
“He’s a beast,” Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez said. “He’s the real thing. He’s a guy the Phillies can build around.”
Franco is the piece the Phillies hope can lead them to their next prosperous run. There were questions about the solidly built 6-foot-1 third baseman’s patience at the plate but he’s been more selective than anyone anticipated since being called up mid-May.
“Most young guys come up here and they’re just hacking,” Yankees starter CC Sabathia told the New York Daily News. “He’s got a good approach at the plate and I think that’s what’s paying off for him.”
Franco, who belted a three-run homer off Sabathia, is a candidate for NL player of the month in June, his first full month in the majors. Following Sunday’s doubleheader against the Nationals, Franco is hitting .374 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in June (25 games).
Quite a bit of that production is from a historic performance at Yankee Stadium. During the first two games of a series last week against the Yankees, Franco went 6-8 with three homers and ten RBI. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no player has ever driven in five runs in consecutive games against the Yankees.
“It was amazing,” Franco said. “I was just trying to get the bat on the ball and help us win. It was very special to have that happen in Yankee Stadium.”
And Franco, who is 22, is producing at a very young age. To put it in perspective, only three players over the last nine years, 22 or younger have had as many homers and RBI as Franco this month. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton are the three players, who accomplished such a feat. Nice company for Franco.
The question some Phillies fans have is if Franco is for real or if he is in the midst of a six-week stretch like Domonic Brown had two years ago.
“Franco is the real deal,” a NL scout said. “I might have been conservative during spring training when I said he is somewhere between (Edwin) Encarnacion and (Adrian) Beltre. He looks like he is a very special player. Franco makes contact and if he develops a better handle of the strike zone and makes pitchers throw balls that he can hit, well, the sky is the limit for him.”
Franco grew up in the Dominican Republic idolizing Beltre.
“To me, he was always such a great player,” Franco said. “That’s who I want to be like. But I really just want to be the best player that I can be.”