With September 1st just five days away, the Phillies will have to make some decisions on which players will join them with the big club when rosters are expanded. We'll likely see returns from Cesar Hernandez, perhaps Cameron Rupp and others and might even get a look at Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. The biggest question mark though is that of 22-year-old top prospect, Maikel Franco.
Most know the story of Franco's season. He started his year in Lehigh Valley hitting just .172 in the month of April before hitting .282 in May. July is when he really caught fire though, hitting .343 with nine doubles, two triples, four homers and 23 RBI's. With Franco's primary position currently being occupied by Cody Asche, Phillies General Manager wasn't sure if a September call-up would be beneficial for him, since everyday playing time may not exist. (via Phillies.com)
"The biggest thing for him is playing time, and making sure this is the right thing, the right atmosphere and the right time -- not atmosphere as much as playing time," Amaro said. We'd like to assess some other things. There are a lot of different factors. We still have time to make a decision on it."
Different factors. As mentioned before, one of those factors is likely the presence of Cody Asche. Though there have been rumors the Phillies would like to get him playing time in the outfield, nothing has been confirmed so Asche's spot at third seems solidified for the most part this season. It is his first full-time season and you don't necessarily benefit from sitting him either. Though he may just be hitting .247, there is no doubting that he is still a developing player. Losing at-bats for him would make no sense in the grand scheme of things.
First base is also an option for Franco. Except for the part of their being a "log jam" at the position. Ryan Howard has the job and from what we have seen this season, it is his to keep. Darin Ruf hasn't been given any looks there recently, despite Ryan's continuing struggles at the plate. He's started 26 of 27 games since his short bench stint. Since then, Howard has hit .219 with a .314 OBP, 4 home runs and a .697 OPS in 27 games. It would be nice to see Franco get the call-up and play some time over at first, but that also seems unlikely because of the way the Phils have handled Ryan Howard.
Ruben Amaro has said that he doesn't want to bring Franco up and have him sit around. While there is debate about getting him playing time every day, he does have a point. At the end of the season, with the meaningless games ahead, do you really want to bring one of your top prospects into the atmosphere the Phillies are currently experiencing? Sitting on the bench to watch it? Despite the recent stretch of success, the Phillies have been mediocre or worse for most of the season. Getting at-bats every game would be the only real reason to bring him up, otherwise, I don't think the Phillies or Franco benefit at all from his presence off the bench.
All that being said though, Franco's numbers would likely warrant a call-up anywhere else. Especially as of late. So far during the second half of the season, Franco is slashing .312/.323/.558. He's hit nine homers and driven in 29 runs while also collecting nine doubles and a triple. Over his last ten games, one that includes hitting for the cycle, Franco is hitting .400 (16-for-40) with four homers and nine RBI's. He's struck out only six times over those 40 at-bats. Through the month of August, Franco is hitting .313 (30-for-96), helping raise his average to .256 on the year, much better than where it sat in the low .200's earlier this season. He entered the month of July hitting .209 with 5 home runs and a .585 OPS in his first 78 games this season. (via Philly.com Sports)
"He’s hot," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "The 31 doubles (this season) kind of pops out. In the minor leagues, that’s a power number. At the major leagues, that’s a power number. He has as chance with this hot streak to really end on a good note from where the hole that he was in for probably 2 ½ months of the season. Really shows how far that he’s come in a month and a half."
There are plenty of points to make when it comes to bringing him up in September or not. Playing time seems to be the one that makes most sense though, so if the Phils can't find a spot for him every day, look for Maikel Franco to end his year when the IronPigs do on September 1st in Scranton Wilkes/Barre. When Spring Training hits in February though, look for Franco to get a long look at a starting spot on next year's team
Brandon Apter, Publishing Editor for Phillidelphia.com