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The Phillies called up third baseman Mikael Franco from the AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs on Friday. The move was unsurprising in its timing–after exactly 40 days in the minor leagues this season, the team will retain an extra year of contract control of Franco, who will now be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season.
With Cody Asche being demoted to AAA this week to get some work in left field, it is clear that the Phillies view Franco as their third baseman of the future. Phans everywhere hope that Franco can improve on his abysmal numbers during his September call-up to the big leagues last season (.179 BA, .404 OPS in 58 plate appearances), and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic.
Franco did not start his career as a major prospect, being signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. Over six seasons in the minors he has hit .280 and belted 70 homers with a .785 OPS, but his best numbers have come this season.
Franco leads the International League in doubles (12) and total bases (76) while hitting .355 with 4 home runs and an OPS of .923. For comparison, Freddy Galvis is the only everyday player on the Phils’ roster with an OPS over .800.
Defensively, Franco has been continuously improving, and he flashed several web-gem quality plays during his time in the big leagues last season. Speed is not one of his strengths, going just 9/14 in stolen base attempts during his minor league career, although he is 2/2 this season.
The Phillies desperately hope that Franco can provide some pop to a lineup that is among the worst offensively in baseball. Barring injury, the 3B spot appears to be Franco’s to lose, and he should get plenty of work throughout the remainder of the season.
Franco is expected to start vs. Chase Anderson (0-1, 2.97 ERA) and the Diamondbacks on Friday as the Phillies seek their first three-game win streak of the season.