There was some debate in the blogosphere last week about where 3B/1B Maikel Franco should start 2015. Our own “Kram” weighs in.
This is a 22-year-old kid that struggles with pitch recognition and has only spent a season and a half playing above A-ball. Might it do him some good to spend the first few months in AAA where he’s able to focus on skill-building and not performance?
Then, Phillies Minor League writer Matt Winkleman, from Phillies Minor Thoughts tweeted:
I have to say that I agree with much of what they’re saying. Specific to the IronPigs, though, and in relation to the Phillies’ opening day roster, consider:
- There’s no reason to give away Ryan Howard for nothing. Everyone accepts that the Phillies are going to have to pay Ryan Howard, regardless of which team he plays for. It came out this morning that Howard can be traded to the following teams without his consent (via contract stipulations, or whatnot): Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners, Royals, Rays, Orioles, Angels and Rangers. If the Phillies are going to have to pick up the tab anyway, why not wait for one of those teams–or perhaps another AL team with a DH need and Ryan’s permission–to offer something–anything–in trade. There’s no rush, and no money to save. Howard hasn’t been good lately, but I’d be careful about thinking Ruf or Franco or McGuiness will be even that good–at least initially. As far as I’m concerned, Howard should stay put until he can be moved for at least something of semi-value prospect-wise. It can be done. Just look at the return an aging Jim Thome brought or even what Roberto Hernandez brought last season.
- Franco and Asche both have options remaining. If you want to make it an open competition in Spring Training, then so be it. Either player can be stashed with the IronPigs until needed or until a spot opens up.
- Franco should play 3B, until he can’t. While the positional flexibility is good for young Maikel, from a lineup standpoint he’s more valuable playing the hot corner. I thought he did very well there last season with the ‘Pigs, and that he acquitted himself well during his time with the Phillies. The next competitive Phillies team will be better if Franco is playing 3B.
- Maikel shouldn’t sit. I know it’s been a long winter already, and Franco has been playing winter ball right along. However, there may be still things to work on at AAA–and if there aren’t then he can continue his progress on the bigger stage. But in any case, it won’t do anyone any good if he’s on the bench for any significant stretch of time. Also, throwing a young player into a “pinch hitter” role off the bench won’t really help his development either. He needs the regular at-bats either in the MLB or with the IronPigs.
- Can we forget about Asche to LF or Asche to 2B? Look, our buddy Cody isn’t chopped liver; we know he can play some ball. Further, he might continue to improve offensively, incrementally, with regular MLB at-bats; remember he missed some time with injury last season–even if the “experts” consider his glove only “replacement-level” at 3B. If the Phillies really thought that he’d be an option in LF–or to back-up 2B–I think they’d have him in winter ball someplace working on it. I suppose we’ll know more when Spring Training starts, though. Rule 5 newcomer Odubel Herrera should get some play in LF, as should Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore. Dom Brown should be in RF with the trade of Marlon Byrd last week. Revere and Herrera may share time in CF.
- I kind of doubt the trade possibility, but it remains. I suppose if a team needs an MLB-ready 3B due to injury or emergency, they’d be willing to give up an appropriately commensurate prospect for Asche. But that’s not necessarily something I’d be looking for if I’m the Phillies.
- Franco not a big fan of the cold. Maikel was young for AAA when last year began, but we kept hearing on the IronPigs beat that he wasn’t terribly comfortable playing in the cold weather of Pennsylvania April. Certainly, he could have been adjusting to the level, but that narrative kept appearing. This season starts a little later, and we could be in for a milder April for all I know; however, if Franco is to struggle in the cold, why risk his confidence on the big stage straight away?
- I don’t think the clock has started. To Matt’s point above, and in consideration of the Phillies’ plans to be competitive in 2017 or so, and remembering Franco’s age, it may make some contractual sense to keep Franco in the minors for a short time in order to extend his contractual obligation. It’s what the Pirates did with Gregory Polanco last season.
So where does all this put us?
Franco to the Phillies shouldn’t be a slam-dunk. If he earns the starting 3B job, then so be it. However, if Asche is playing that spot well, there’s no reason Maikel can’t spend a month–or two–in AAA putting some polish on his game. Alternately, depending on the bench spots Sandberg wants to have in Philly, a month of Asche in Allentown before something opens up in Philly, wouldn’t be the end of the world for anyone either. Except maybe Angie, who rumor has it, doesn’t enjoy Black Forest Deli.
Congrats, though, to Cody and Angie on their upcoming nuptials!
See you at the park,