We’ve all seen Maikel Franco’s struggles and yesterday afternoon, the Phillies announced a couple of rather surprising roster transactions:
The headline here, of course, is third baseman Maikel Franco being demoted to Triple-AAA after spending six consecutive seasons in the senior circuit. Franco has been apart of the Phils big league roster since he was 21, so it’s a bit shocking to see him sent back to the minors at this point in his career.
Alternatively, the Dominican slugger wasn’t exactly doing himself any favors at the plate this season. After a streaky campaign last season, Franco has been inconsistent and pedestrian at the plate once again. In his last 26 games, he’s batting .218 and has suffered through a huge drop in power.
A .231/.296/.405 slash line simply doesn’t cut it in a major league lineup. It still came as a shock to most when the Phillies announced that they had optioned Franco to AAA to activate Brad Miller from the IL.
The start of the Maikel Franco era at third base goes back to May 15, 2015. Franco couldn’t be contained at AAA, slashing .355/.384/.539. That first season of the Franco era would be the best season for the Dominican native. He hit .280 with a .840 OPS.
One of Franco’s most encouraging outings came on June 22-23 in Yankee Stadium. In his first 2 games at Yankee Stadium, Franco went 6-8 with 3 homers and 10 RBI. Only he and Alfonso Soriano had ever had back-to-back 5 RBI days in Yankee Stadium.
Franco would have other moments to add to the highlight reel. Last year, Franco’s walkoff home run against the Marlins would keep the Phillies in first with a 60-48. His slow walk out of the box and huge bat flip would be burned into the minds of Phillies fans.
On July 14th of this season, Franco would help the Phillies salvage the series against the Washington Nationals. He would take Matt Grace deep to walk it off against the Nats.
That would also be the last time that Franco was hitting at or above .240. In his time as the Phillies everyday third baseman (2015-2019), Franco hit exactly 100 home runs. His slash line, only a mediocre .251/.305/.436. The large expectations of being the first piece of the Phillies rebuild have almost collapsed upon Franco’s shoulders.
He was sent down in favor of Sean Rodriguez who, unlike Franco, can hit lefties. In 97 plate appearances, Franco hit .197 with a .639 OPS against lefties. In 41 plate appearances, Rodriguez has hit .306 with an OPS of .974.
Franco is limited to the hot corner while in fielder Brad Miller can be plugged in all over the field. His limited positional diversity, coupled with his struggles at the plate, made him an incredibly poor fit off the bench for an injury-plagued team that needs all hands on deck at the moment.
Franco will most likely be seen again in September when rosters expand, but this marks the end of his tenure at 3rd.
Scott Kingery will now see the bulk of third base action and top prospect Alec Bohm looks set to take the reigns after next year’s Spring Training.
Aside from a lackluster month of July, Kingery has performed well at the plate, batting .270 through 311 plate appearances. The talented, young prospect has completely reinvented himself offensively and seems like a much more confident, patient, and productive hitter than he did when he batted well below the league average at .226 as a rookie.
Kingery to third base makes sense to me as he needs to be playing one position.With Adam Hasely heating up and acquiring Corey Dickerson, to continue with Kingery in the outfield didn’t make sense. However, I don’t believe he projects long term as a third baseman with Alec Bohm being the future.
He may not be the defender Franco is at the hot corner, but he has been decent enough to hold down the fort for the duration of the season and his balanced offense should make up for his defensive shortcomings. The Phillies desperately need him to continue to make strides at the plate and will rely on him to lengthen their lineup a bit with the playoffs on the horizon.
Franco could benefit from getting down in AAA and regaining confidence at the plate. Roman Quinn, Phil Gosselin, and Nick Williams are hitting .400 or better in AAA. Maybe Franco benefits from this and develops a better approach at the plate and becomes a valuable trade piece. Regardless the Phillies just dropped a series to the lowly White Sox. They need to figure it out.
Hopefully, Franco is able to clear his head and experience a resurgence at the plate with the IronPigs and his trip to the minors isn’t a lengthy one. For now, though, the win-hungry Phillies made the right call to maximize their playoff odds.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Written by Jalyn Smoot & Alec Kostival
Alec Kostival graduated from La Salle University with a degree in communication with a focus in mass media and journalism. He covered high school sports for the Chestnut Hill Local. He has interned with the Reading Fightin Phils and the Philadelphia Eagles.