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Phillies Player Review: Maikel Franco

Yippee! I get to write about one of the Phillies players who were actually good last year! Hip hip hooray!

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

You are right to be excited about Maikel Franco.

When the rookie made his 2015 debut on May 15 this year, expectations were high for the young third baseman who quietly and successfully nudged Cody Asche to left field for the remainder of the season. The masses were starved for a success story in a season that everyone could see was going to be a long, soulless slog.

So when Franco came up, there was at least one reason to watch the Phillies on a nightly basis. That's what Maikel Franco did this year. He gave fans a reason to turn on the damn game.

And until he was ripped away from us on August 8 against the evil, vile, malicious Arizona Diamondbacks after taking a fastball to the wrist, it was a great ride.

In 335 plate appearances, Franco hit .280/.343/.497 with 14 homers, 50 RBIs and 45 runs scored. He added 22 doubles and a triple and played a passable, if unspectacular, defensive third base. He was certainly better than Asche for crying out loud.

I mean, who doesn't like watching stuff like this?

Franco did make it back for the last couple games of the season, and just to ally any fears that his wrist would be a problem in the off-season, did this in the Phils' penultimate contest against the Marlins, witnessed live by about 62 diehards.

It was simply a terrific season for the rookie.

But perhaps the most impressive part of his maturation was not the home runs, the RBIs or the doubles. During the course of the season, Franco seemed to improve his plate discipline, resulting in a few more walks and a higher on-base percentage, and also showed a willingness to try and hit the ball the other way, something Matt Winkelman noticed he had been doing in the minors shortly before his call-up.

His 7.8% walk percentage was higher than in any season except for 2011, when he walked in 10.9% of 229 PAs in high-A ball. He consistently worked deeper counts as the season progressed, which should bode well for him in 2016 as he takes that work and combines it with a greater familiarity with Major League pitching.

And while Franco wouldn't have been able to overtake Kris Bryant in the NL Rookie of the Year race (Bryant's 6.5 fWAR is far and away higher than any other rookie), Franco was in the conversation as a potential top-five NL rookie until he was injured.

Among MLB rookies with at least 300 plate appearances, his fWAR of 1.5 was 18th, and among National League rookies was 12th. But he was sixth among NL rookies in on base percentage (.343), second in slugging percentage (.497), third in wOBA (.360), fourth in wRC+ (128) and tied for sixth in home runs (14).

Again, he did all this in just 80 games, essentially half a season.

Franco is expected to play about a month's worth of winter ball and will come into spring training as the team's third baseman and No. 3 hitter.

So yeah, on Maikel Franco, you can dream.