Two careers, two very similar players.
Mike Moustakas will be a Brewer in 2019 while Maikel Franco will be a Phillie.
There had been talk all winter about how if Manny Machado didn’t come to Philly, the Phightin’s should go after Moose to supplant Franco at 3rd base. Moose has better defense and could easily hit 30 HR in the friendly confines of Citizen’s Bank Park. It wouldn’t have cost much either as he signed with Milwaukee for $10 million.
But losing Moose is no great tragedy. Instead, it is the launch pad for Franco’s career. Yes, Franco has had parts of 5 years experience in the MLB and 3 full seasons. So you ask, “Why should we expect anything more from him?”. This is an excellent question and yes, I shall answer it for you.
We need not look farther than the aforementioned Mike Moustakas. Moose broke into the bigs at 22 with the Royals, he showed some promise slashing .263/.309/.367 in 89 games. He became the starting 3rd baseman of, what at the time, felt like an ever rebuilding Royals club. From 2012-2014 (aged 23-25 seasons) Moose slashed a disappointing .230/.285/.381. In 2015 at age 26, Moose became an All-Star slashing .284/.348/.470 and leading the Royals to their first World Series win in 30 years. At age 28, he would be selected to his 2nd All-Star Game and set the Royals all-time homer record with 38 bombs.
This career projection mirrors closely with that of our own Maikel Franco. Franco was first called up for a cup of coffee in 2014 as a 21-year-old hyped up prospect in the middle of a rebuild. In 58 AB, he straight up stank with an OPS of .404. The following season he started off in AAA and lit the International League on fire with a .923 OPS, garnering a second call up. This time he ran with it, hitting .280 with 14 bombs in 80 games. He settled in the starting 3rd base role from there. And he was meh, .250/.299/.431 from who was supposed to be the first piece of the rebuild.
Here he is now entering his age 26 season. The age of Moose’s breakout season.
Most importantly, here’s why Franco can do it. From June 23rd to August 26th, Franco kicked it into a gear we hadn’t seen since 2015. He slashed an en Fuego .313/.358/.566. He would slow down due to fatigue in September, but he still finished with a .270 batting average on the season. That was the highest mark on the team for any player with over 100 AB (Wilson Ramos had 89 AB).
In addition, 2019 will be the first year that all the eyes won’t be beating down on Franco. Since his call up, Franco had been hailed as the first big league piece of the rebuild. The pressure was on him right away. Then there was pressure from a young Cody Ashe (rebuilds are fun!). Then there was pressure to lead the team in homers. While at La Salle University on our show Sports Talk Philly, we routinely predicted whether or not Franco could hit over 25 or 30 for that matter. Pressure. And in 2018, talk began of whether or not Franco would ever be here in 2019. He fought through that pressure with vigor as we previously discussed.
In 2019, Franco could very well be the worst starter on the Phillies roster. This would be with the probable *knock on wood* addition of Bryce Harper in the outfield. Franco would essentially become the Pedro Feliz of the “New Phillies”. Feliz only hit .259/.306/.393 in 2008-09 with 26 HR. Franco is way more than that.
Without any pressure, Franco could definitely become the Moustakas of 2015 or even better.
Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports