Franco working on his approach at Lehigh Valley

Maikel Franco, 21, is hitting .215 with five homers and 28 RBIs since his promotion to Lehigh Valley from double-A Reading.
Maikel Franco, 21, is hitting .215 with five homers and 28 RBIs since his promotion to Lehigh Valley from double-A Reading. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 23, 2014

Maikel Franco is trying to stay positive. The top prospect in the Phillies organization, as ranked by The Inquirer, has struggled at the plate this year, but the 21-year-old is in no hurry to make any drastic changes to his approach.

At the beginning of the season, many expected Franco's call-up to the big leagues to be imminent. He thrashed minor-league pitchers last season at both Clearwater and Reading.

After he was called up to double-A Reading in the middle of last season, he hit .339 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs in 69 games. Through 69 games at triple-A Lehigh Valley this season, he is hitting .215 with five home runs and 28 RBIs.

Franco said his problems aren't mechanical.

"Moments of struggle, you have to be ready. You have to have your mind strong because nothing is mechanical," Franco said before a game last week.

It hasn't been all bad for Franco. During a 20-game stretch from May 1 to May 22, Franco saw the type of success many expected. He hit .304 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in that span.

Since then, his results have plummeted. He is hitting .183 in his last 26 games with only one home run.

The lack of consistency prevented the Phillies from calling him up when Cody Asche was placed on the disabled list on May 25.

Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage thinks the key is for Franco to have a better approach at the plate.

"We've talked about it before," Brundage said. "Just talk about his pitch recognition, his patience, understanding what a good pitch for him to hit is. And understanding and being able to recognize that and not feel like he has to do too much."

Franco has shown glimpses of understanding what types of pitches he should hit. On Wednesday night, his first three at-bats were productive. He doubled his first time up, smacking a line drive down the third-base line and reaching third when Charlotte leftfielder Tyler Saladino misplayed the ball. Franco scored when catcher Cameron Rupp grounded out to second.

His second plate appearance may have been even more impressive in terms of pitch recognition and not trying to do too much. He battled at the plate, fouling off two two-strike pitches and working a walk with a full count.

He didn't reach base in his third plate appearance but knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.

"That's what I want to be," Franco said after Wednesday's game. "Just try to see the ball very good like today."

The key for Franco is doing it consistently.


Franco's Ups and Downs

Mikael Franco has had one extended run of success this season for triple-A Lehigh Valley. Here's how his season breaks down:

   Avg.   HR   RBIs   BB   SO   OPS   

Games 1-23   .172   1   7   6   18   .487   

Games 24-43   .304   3   11   11   11   .889   

Games 44-69   .183   1   10   4   17   .509   


mcohen@phillynews.com

@MaxACohen

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