Let's start this piece with a little exercise. The following chart features two players stat lines, extrapolated to a 160-game pace. Can you figure out who they are?
Alright, if you clicked on this story, you are probably aware that one of them is Adrian Beltre and one is Maikel Franco. But can you figure out which is which? Here's a hint: Beltre's number is based on his last 10 seasons combined. Does that help?
Probably not, right? These two lines are virtually identical. One player hits for a bit more average thanks to a lower K percentage, while the other brings a bit more patience and pop. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter which is which; the point is how eerily similar they are.
(For the record, Franco is Player 1, with his 80-game 2015 season extrapolated to 160 games.)
Franco wasn't really on Fantasy radars to open last season, after he underwhelmed in the minors in 2014 before he completely face planted in his 16-game cup of coffee the previous season. Franco opened the season back in Triple-A and at least showed some signs of figuring things out, posting a .355/.384/.539 line, but his mid-May call-up was greeted with little fanfare. Once one of the most highly-regarded prospects in baseball, the hype train had abandoned Franco at the station.
Even after a solid rookie season that saw him post consistently solid numbers despite dealing with a wrist injury that essentially ended his season in August, Franco is seemingly being forgotten. And it isn't necessarily unfair; as good as Franco was -- eighth in Fantasy points per-AB at the position -- he still has an incredible limited track record of success. That disastrous 2014 cameo still accounts for one-sixth of his major-league appearances.
However, I think there is plenty of reason to be bullish on Franco. He didn't show off-the-charts power -- in fact, a 28.5 hard-hit percentage is downright mediocre -- but he does have the advantage of playing in a hitter-friendly park to mitigate some of that. And even if he isn't a 30-homer type of player, Franco does have enough secondary skills to make up for that. He showed solid doubles power in the minors and majors and could settle in as a 40-double, 20-homer guy, with an average in the high-.280's -- and that is where he can really shine.
Players with 25-homer power who also avoid strikeouts are pretty rare. Since 2006, there have been 404 individual player seasons with at least 25 homers, and only 27.0 percent of them have come with a strikeout rate below 16 percent. That group averaged a .297 batting average, with the rest of the 25-homer club sporting a collective .274 average.
Franco's ability to put the bat on the ball consistently while also generating solid power makes him a threat to hit .300 if a few things break right. In today's league, there aren't many players you can say that about, and even fewer who might be able to combine it with 25-plus homers. While some players need a BABIP in the unsustainable .350 range to hit .300, Franco showed last year he won't need that kind of luck to get there -- if he can manage a .325 BABIP, he could get close.
Franco's ceiling isn't as high as Beltre's was at his peak, I don't think. But it also doesn't have to be for him to be a good Draft Day value; Franco is actually being drafted behind Beltre in FantasyPros.com's Average Draft Position, all the way down at 119th overall. He is going off the board as a backup 3B or low-end starting CI in 12-team leagues.
Maybe players are waiting Franco because his youth comes with a risk? However, with his skill set and the success he's already had, I think Franco is much safer than the Beltres or Evan Longorias or Mike Moustakas' of the world. The question for me is, "How high is his upside?"
If this comparison comes to fruition, the answer could be higher than you think.