When Maikel Franco was tearing the cover off the ball last year in the minors, Phillies fans were enamored. Hungry for a right-handed hitter with some pop, Franco was on the fast track to the Majors.
Even after a slow start to the season this year, his red-hot second half forced the Phils to call him up in September. From July 2 through the end of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs' season, he hit .324 with 11 HRs, 17 doubles and 47 RBIs.
In 14 games this month with the Phils, Franco has accumulated 50 plate appearances and is performing as one would expect a raw 22-year-old rookie would perform, slashing .167/.180/.208. He has eight hits (six singles and two doubles) in those 50 PAs, with 12 strikeouts and just one walk.
This should not come as a surprise. It will take Franco a while to adjust to Major League pitching. What has been a surprise is the excellent defense he has provided, both at third base and at first in the early going.
Guys, it's video time.
We should call these diving stops at third the "Maikel Franco Special." Because as you'll see below, he kind of does it a lot.
Franco displayed a nice arm in those plays, and here ranges almost to the coach's box at third to make a strong throw to Ryan Howard.
This next play is the type of catch that was Mike Schmidt's bread-and-butter as an elite defensive third baseman. Franco does a fantastic job knowing where the wall is as he ranges far down the left field line to haul in this foul pop.
Hey MLB, don't try to do any of that squeeze crap on Maikel.
He can also turn two quite nicely.
And Franco's excellent glove is not only relegated to third base. Here he is making a couple excellent plays at first.
Maybe I'm nuts, but has Franco already made more great defensive plays in just 14 games than Cody Asche has all season long?
Fangraphs has Franco's defensive value at 1.1 with one defensive run saved already this season. Baseball Reference's dWAR for him stands at 0.2, a pretty impressive number when you consider that is tied for 6th-best on the Phillies this season (trailing Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins, Wil Nieves, Chase Utley and Jayson Nix).
Hey, it's still very early in his career, and he's going to need to hit in order to be an everyday Major Leaguer. But while the bat will be a work in progress for a while, it's quite apparent the glove is Major League ready, and better than most of us were expecting.
Just a little good news in a season that hasn't seen a whole lot of it.