Expectations were high for the slugger entering 2016. Maikel Franco had a solid first half, hitting .269 with 18 homers, but he slumped after the All-Star break. Things were especially bad for Franco in August, when he hit just .224 with three homers. Franco had a tougher time against right-handed pitchers last season. While he did hit 17 of his homers against righties, he also managed just a .698 OPS against same-handed pitching as opposed to the .844 OPS he had against righties in 2015. Franco was also a bit unlucky last season, as he saw his BABIP drop from .298 in 2015 to .273. Although he did see a dip in his walk rate and a tick up in his strikeout rate, neither change is all that alarming at this stage. It is important to remember Franco is just 24 years old, and as he continues to refine his game, he should deliver improved numbers. Franco projects as the Phillies' cleanup hitter this season.
Franco is working with hitting coach Matt Stairs to try and be more relaxed at the plate, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Franco hit nearly 80 percent of his batted balls to the left side of the field or up the middle last season. Stairs wants to see Franco hit the ball the other way more rather than waiting for inside pitches to pull to left field. There have already been some signs in games this spring that Franco is taking to the new approach. He has the potential to improve significantly on his 25 homers and 88 RBI from last season with continued development of his offensive game.
Franco (teeth) returned to the lineup Saturday and went 1-for-3 with an RBI. Franco missed Friday's game after having a root canal. He's shown good power early in camp with three home runs in 13 at-bats.
Franco (teeth) has been scratched for Friday's Grapefruit League game so he can go to the dentist, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Stay tuned for more details on why he needs to make this appointment, but a safe initial guess is that it's something that won't make Franco miss much action.
Franco went 2-for-3 with a conventional home run and an inside-the-park home run in Saturday's spring training game against the Yankees. This will likely be the only inside-the-park homer of Franco's career. Yankees centerfielder Tyler Wade tried to get a stoppage of the play after the ball wen under the padding on the outfield wall, but the umpire allowed the play to continue. Franco will hit cleanup in what should be an improved Phillies' lineup this season, giving him an opportunity to improve on his 88 RBI from last season.
Franco said he spent the offseason focusing on his conditioning, Ryan Lawrence of the Philly Voice reports. "I've lost five to seven pounds right now," Franco said. "I feel better. I feel great. My body is in good shape right now." Every year before spring training there are stories of athletes claiming they are in the best shape of their life. Improved conditioning does not necessarily equate to improved performance on the field, but it is good to see Franco, who is entering his third season, focused on making improvements to try to become a better player. Franco had a solid first half last season, hitting .269 with 18 homers, but he slumped after the All-Star break and finished with an OPS more than 100 points lower than in 2015. The Phillies have added some additional offensive firepower this offseason in Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick, which will help take some pressure off of Franco. He has the talent to reach 30 homers this season if he puts everything together.