Why You Should Be All-In on Maikel Franco in Fantasy Baseball
It's understandable why the Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant was the young third baseman who everyone in baseball talked about last year. After all, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year put up a 6.5 fWAR that was far and away better than any other rookie, in a season in which rookies shined like no season before.
But as you prepare for the 2016 season, there is another National League third baseman entering his second year of big league ball who could be poised for a huge season himself: Philadelphia's Maikel Franco.
Franco hit another two home runs in spring action on Monday, his second multi-homer game of the spring. That gives him six so far on the fake season, two more than any other Major Leaguer so far this spring.
Of course, this is where we insert the obvious caveats that spring training numbers are virtually useless, and anyone who puts too much stock in them deserves to be disappointed. But in Franco's case, it's not just that he's hitting homers in the spring. It's that he was largely doing this last year before his season ended prematurely.
Franco was never going to beat out Bryant for Rookie of the Year in 2015, but up until August 11, when he was hit on the wrist by a pitch in Arizona, effectively ending his season, he was actually better than Bryant in a few key categories.
Franco led all rookies - both leagues - with a .828 OPS and .490 SLG (min. 300 PA) when he broke hand last August. https://t.co/oEG8hrCUFc
— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) March 14, 2016
Slashing .393/.452/1.036 this spring. He might be ready. https://t.co/FHo4vlXfVh
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) March 14, 2016
And here is how Franco and Bryant compared by the end of the season.
Franco was on pace for a 27-homer season, given 650 plate appearances. And while Bryant is a better defender, as reflected in their massive WAR differences, the other offensive numbers are pretty darn close.
In a previous piece, I named Franco as a breakout candidate for 2016 and noted that only seven batters had at least 300 plate among batters, produced an isolated power figure above .200 and a strikeout rate below 16%. Franco was one of them. The other six were guys you've heard of: Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Manny Machado, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, and Anthony Rizzo.
One of the most encouraging aspects of Franco's game is how his plate discipline has progressed. He walked in 7.8% of his plate appearances last year, a higher rate than only one other time in his professional career, in 54 games of Low-A ball back in 2011. He also struck out just 15.5% of the time, down from the 16.6% he had fanned in Triple-A last season.
Franco chased fewer balls out of the zone and, as the season went on, continually worked himself into hitter's counts. That trend has continued this spring, and now, he's experienced enough to do some damage with those mistake pitches.
Franco's ADP is currently 11th among MLB third basemen, and we project him to slash .266/.327/.433 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 576 plate appearances.
Those numbers are low for Franco's upside.
If you're looking for a third baseman who's going to get on base, hit for a decent average, and slug over 30 homers, all while paying a mid-round price, then Maikel Franco is your man.
A big season is coming for the Philadelphia third baseman.