Watched a lot of Phillies prospect baseball so far this year and no player has caught my attention more than Clearwater Threshers third baseman Maikel Franco. He has all the tools to be an All Star major league third baseman some day. I have been especially been impressed with his defense at third in the first 37 innings I have seen him play to start the Florida State League season. His plus arm, range to his right backhanding balls down the line and especially barehanding the ball and throwing out runners have been memorable. And oh! Can he hit with the bases loaded.
The Phillies may have only two players on the Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list but I would not trade Franco for any of the other 98. It was his defense that first caught my attention this season. In the four games I saw him play so far he has fielded the ball four times barehanded on high chopping charge plays. Of those chances he missed the ball only once, was late on a throw to first once and picked up two assists on throws to the plate and to first to get the runners. His range going to his right behind behind third base appears to be his strong point. He is excellent at backhanding throws and using his strong arm to get the runner at first. On one play to his right he made a throw from his knees after getting in front of the ball to get the runner at first. While up on the edge of the infield grass he showed quick reflect action is gloving a hard hit ground ball hit to his right.
Much like last season at Lakewood, Franco is off to a slow start at the bat with the bases empty. Getting him up with men on base is another story. Last night in Daytona with a runner on base he hit his first homer of the season. But even more so he is one of the best at hitting with the bases loaded. In Dunedin Baseball Betsy and I saw him in a bases loaded situation clear them on a two-nothing count by driving the next pitch for a gap double to left. Last night against the D-Cubs again with the base loaded again, he doubled to drive in two more runs with the third runner thrown out at the plate.
Hard to believe Franco is only at baseball age 20 this season. After the first week of the Florida State League season he is already tied for the league lead in RBIs with seven after six games. To me at this point in the season he is my No. 1 Phillies major league prospect because you know it when you see him play that Maikel Franco is the real deal and he will only get better as the season goes on.