Franco impressing everyone with his play at Reading

Third baseman Maikel Franco is dominating at Reading as he did at Clearwater.
Third baseman Maikel Franco is dominating at Reading as he did at Clearwater. (RALPH TROUT / Fightin Phils)
Posted: August 12, 2013

HARRISBURG - Reading third baseman Maikel Franco understands the excitement and expectations his play has generated in a Phillies minor-league system that could definitely use an impact player.

After dominating at high-A Clearwater earlier this year, Franco is doing the same since he was called up to double-A Reading.

Yet when asked about appearing with the Phillies, possibly as early as next season, Franco smiled broadly.

"Everybody wants to play in the big leagues, but it is not my decision," he said before a game last week against the Harrisburg Senators, the double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. "My job is to play the game, and I don't get into the rest of that."

If that's the case, he has done a remarkable job. In 65 games with Clearwater, he hit .299 with 23 doubles, 16 home runs, and 52 RBIs.

Since moving up to Reading he was hitting .333 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 174 at-bats entering the weekend.

Instead of beginning next season in double A, The Inquirer's No. 1-ranked Phillies prospect appears to have earned a promotion to triple-A Lehigh Valley. Director of player development Joe Jordan, however, said it was too early to say.

"You have a lot of baseball to play before now and then," Jordan said. "Finishing this season, winter ball, anything is possible."

Still, the Phillies can't hide their enthusiasm over Franco's development.

"We are very happy with how he has done and I think he has everybody excited," Jordan said.

Signed for a $100,000 bonus as a 17-year-old undrafted free agent in January 2010 from the Dominican Republic, Franco has shown tremendous progress on and off the field.

When he signed he didn't know a word of English. Now he is able to conduct interviews in English and, just as with his play, his mastery of the language is rapidly improving.

"I want to be able to know the language, to communicate with my coaches and my teammates," he said.

Franco's willingness to improve in all areas has impressed the Phillies.

"One really big thing about him is the way he carries himself," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "He is tremendously mature for a 20-year-old, especially a kid from Latin American who came to a new country."

Power is something that frequently comes with age, and Franco, who turns 21 on Aug. 26, is a classic example.

During 2010 in his first season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Franco hit two home runs in 194 at-bats. The next season at Williamsport and Lakewood he combined for three home runs. Last season he hit 14 at Lakewood in 503 at-bats.

Now he has 24 homers at both levels this year.

"I feel each year I am getting more power," the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder said.

He said the adjustment to double A has gone well, as his performance suggests.

"One thing you notice here is the pitchers here don't miss their spots as much," he said.

Franco must learn to be more selective. He has just five walks with Reading. The Phillies have to try to get him to be selective without reducing his aggressiveness.

"I think the walks will come eventually," Wathan said. "His hand-eye coordination is tremendous and he is not scared to hit with two strikes."

Franco is not a five-tool player because he doesn't run well, but everything else is a plus, including his arm at third base. He understands that he now ranks high in the Phillies' minor-league system, but is intent on just doing what has gotten him to this point.

Contact Marc Narducci at Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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